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In my last post I introduced the idea that actually Millennials really aren’t that different to the rest of ‘us’ and the whole of society is changing, the younger generations are just at the forefront of this change. Plus having a negative take on an entire generation’s work ethic is just wrong on so many levels. These young people make up a significant part of our work force currently and they are the future of it so it is our responsibility to improve the situation for all our people. Don’t leave the future up to chance and expect the increase in new vet production to fill the holes.

Now we need to start looking for solutions and here are some ideas – some are mine, most are not original. As a package they create an exciting future.

  • We need to have clear vision and goals for our teams – people work for why. Is your practice vision clear to all and re-affirmed on a regular basis or is it just a poster on the wall?
  • We need to employ people who fit in with our why, our beliefs and our causes – otherwise the disconnect will just make both sides unhappy. And making money for the unseen boss is not an acceptable cause.
  • We need to foster cultures of leadership, with coaching to support confidence, not micromanaging and no overt shows of power that disengage people.
  • We need to support everyone with mentors and championing personal and professional growth not just clinical growth. This is vital at all levels of experience, after all we never stop learning and changing to meet new needs professionally and personally.
  • We need to teach patience rather than expecting immediate results – it is apparent that some see the summit but not the mountain, the journey or hard work that gets them there. Problem-solving rather than being helped over the obstacles, allowing them to fail safely to build these skills.
  • Create a just culture where individuals feel comfortable to admit mistakes, fears and misgivings. Talking about your mistakes and failures helps everyone to understand the realities of the journey that is their life and career. Introduce no-blame significant event reviews showing everyone that these are learning opportunities.
  • People desire positive feedback, so give recognition when it is due and teach people how to handle negative feedback. More importantly teach your leaders how to give effective and empathetic feedback.
  • Learn to listen to what your employees are saying and not automatically discount their feelings or ideas. Younger people are more open with their feelings rather than the ‘stiff upper lip’ of previous generations – if they are saying something is wrong then we need to look at it. Like the expectation of long working hours.
  • Offer flexibility in working patterns – recognising that all people have a life outside work and differing priorities to a business owner. If you are not willing to accept that people have different priorities they will resent their work, they will turn up but they won’t be engaged or giving their best. Work needs to work with our lives; it is work-life harmony not work-life balance. Thank you Dr Dave Nicol.
  • Provide opportunities to contribute to society – younger people are more altruistic than previous generations and vets are strongly altruistic anyway. According to a 2014 paper published but the Brookings Institution, 63% millennials believe it is important for companies to have a positive social impact; they have a heightened desire that money and capitalism is used for good. Provide time for employees to volunteer or opportunities to raise money for charity and show your millennial clients what you are doing; they’ll love it too!
  • Develop a culture that fosters collaboration, not just ‘team work’. Society has come to rely on others for help such as parents or an app on a phone rather than problem solving so have internet access at all computers. Collaboration can be outside your business. Veterinary work can be lonely even in a building of several tens of people; collaborative work will help negate this. Teach people to evaluate the information they access and how to apply it and not to be taken in with ‘false news’ and ‘alternative facts’.
  • Career progression. Encourage responsibilities and goals to aim for. What are the opportunities you offer to grow professionally? Funded certificates, residencies, partnerships?
  • Offer a fair and competitive salary and let it be known from the start of the recruitment process. In the book ‘What Millennials Want From Work’ by Jennifer Deal, she found that “millennials are most likely to discuss their compensation with their parents (71%) or their friends (47%). In comparison, older staff are substantially less likely to discuss their compensation with friends (24%) or parents (31%).” As the younger generations make a larger proportion of the work force over the coming years, and we are looking out for new ways to attract them, shouldn’t listing salary ranges in your job ads be standard?

This article should really be re-titled: Leading our employees to a better future. It’s not about millennials; it is about all our people.