Managing millennials - Veterinary Practice
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Managing millennials

How can management styles be adapted to keep millennials satisfied at work and so boost staff retention?

The millennial generation (defined here as people born between 1984 and 2000) has developed an unwanted, and probably unfair, reputation as being tough to manage with a much greater focus on work–life balance than previous generations.

At the Vet Festival in Surrey on 7 and 8 June 2019, Lucy Montague, Clinical Nursing Lead at Fitzpatrick Referrals, spoke about how management and leadership strategies can be adapted to get the most out of the millennial generation and encourage them to stay at a practice for longer.

A study conducted last year found that 40 percent of millennials only expected to stay in their current roles for a maximum of two years, Lucy said. In a profession where recruitment is an ongoing challenge and millennials comprise the majority of the workforce, we need to consider what we can do to retain these younger staff.

Though not often reported on, this generation has unique strengths, and we can draw on these to improve how we engage them and keep them happy in the workplace. It has been reported that millennials typically:

  • Are very accepting
  • Have a heightened desire for money to be used for good (and are drawn to companies that use their finances and resources to help others)
  • Have a desire to make an impact
  • Are willing to challenge the status quo
  • Are digitally engagedρLike to work in team

There are also challenges that might need addressing in practice; for example, millennials may:

  • Have low self-esteem
  • Have no coping mechanisms for stress, and so increased levels of depression and anxiety
  • Be impatient, expecting instant gratification at work

So how do you lead a team that is comprised primarily of people with these traits and characteristics? Lucy suggested some strategies that can be implemented in practice to address the challenges and ensure that staff members are supported and feel valued at work.

Leadership is the overarching theme here and it will typically fall to the leaders in the practice to drive these changes in policy and culture.

Mobile phones

Have a clear policy on mobile phones. It is very difficult to remove them from practice entirely, but how will you reprimand individuals who are found using social media on their phones on the practice floor? Why not take advantage of the millennials’ technological skills to improve your website and social media offering?

Development and feedback

It is important to millennials to receive feedback, so have regular appraisals and a clear review process in place. Specific, short-term goals should be set and opportunities to progress made clear. Help to build the confidence and self-esteem of these individuals.

Work-life balance

Think about how your practice could be flexible, but make sure you are realistic. Could you have longer shifts and a shorter week? Consider holiday allowance and overtime – are these extra hours paid in money or in time off? Often time off is deemed more valuable.


It is a good habit to publicly recognise when somebody in your team has done great work. When somebody passes an exam, publicise this internally. Encourage team members to write publications for journals and blog posts for the website. Embrace events such as Vet Nurse Awareness Month and make sure good work by all members of the team (and the team as a whole) is celebrated and valued.


It is important to have a strong, positive culture in the workplace. This provides a supportive environment in which people are comfortable admitting mistakes. Actively work to remove any kind of a blame culture in the practice and ensure that leaders are open about failure, too.


Millennials tend to shy away from responsibility, so delegating them tasks can help them develop their skills and kick-start their career progression. It also encourages trust in you as a leader.

This generation in particular needs to know that they have a supportive leader that they can trust, Lucy said. There must be clear rules, a well-defined disciplinary procedure and a development and feedback plan. See where you can be more flexible and recognise the good work of team members. If you can create a positive environment and culture in which staff are supported through mistakes, you will develop a happy and healthy workplace that will help millennials, and indeed all staff and the practice, to thrive.

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