Can you COMPUTE? Managing millennials in veterinary practice

August 29, 2020
Erica Tricarico, Managing Editor

Are you struggling to maintain your younger team members? Here are some practical strategies to help prevent the exodus of millennials from your practice.

Millennials are well known for job hopping but, according to Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ, many don’t really want to leave—they just aren’t inspired to stay. In a nutshell, Dr. Wooten said during a lecture yesterday at the Fetch dvm360 virtual conference, they won’t settle for a job with limited growth or lack of flexibility and creativity.

“It’s possible they actually don’t want to switch jobs, but their companies aren’t giving them compelling reasons to stay,” Dr. Wooten said. “And when individuals of this age group see what appears to be a better opportunity, they will take it.”

Why millennials leave

Unlike older generations, millennials grew up with cell phones, social media, and many other technologies at their fingertips, said Dr. Wooten. Also unlike older workers, millennials aren’t just looking for a job that pays the bills. They want a position in a workplace that inspires them and where they can make a difference.

Dr. Wooten referenced a 2020 Deloitte survey of more than 13,000 millennials and 3000 gen Zers from 42 countries, noting these among the primary reasons why these young team members leave their job:

  • Dissatisfaction with pay
  • Lack of advancement
  • No personal growth
  • Lack of creativity
  • Not enough sick or personal days

Deloitte also reports that 49% of millennials in 2019 and 31% in 2020 said they expect to leave their job in the next 2 years. Additionally, 65% said they would leave their job if it was difficult to take sick or personal days.

“This very interesting me, as a Gen Xer, because during my entire career working in veterinary practices—and I practiced for 16 years—I took only 1 sick day and felt terrible for taking that day off,” said Dr. Wooten.

Attracting and retaining millennials

When it comes to attracting and retaining millennial workers, Dr. Wooten says veterinary practices have to COMPUTE.

C—Community and creativity

Having a solid work community is important to millennials, Dr. Wooten said. This group also values creativity. Here are few ways to implement both at your practice or build on what you already have in place:

  1. Create a collaborative, team-based environment.
  2. Try to “de-silo” the workplace. For example, have team members spend half their day shadowing other departments.
  3. Try to create a more playful environment by, for example, scheduling time after staff meetings for staff to socialize.
  4. Have walking meetings or go off site for your meetings.
  5. Consider expanding your remote work policies.
  6. Reward risk taking and be open to feedback and suggestions.

O—Optimism

“It might be hard to be optimistic during these trying times, but millennials want optimistic leaders,” said Dr. Wooten. Check the pulse of your practice every day, she advised. Consider offering resources such as officevibe.com, which allows employees to provide anonymous feedback to managers. Then discuss the results as a team.

M—Mentorship

Millennials want mentors in their workplace, but “these employees need mentorship and not management,” Dr. Wooten said. For millennials, mentorship means more than teaching the significance of accountability and responsibility; mentors should also share their life experiences with their younger colleagues.

P—Purpose

Many millennials are checked out at their job, said Dr. Wooten. They tend to desire opportunities that allow them to contribute positive changes to society. That’s why it’s important to be clear about what your practice stands for and proactively share your purpose, vision, and mission. Dr. Wooten also advises managers and owners to openly share the impact your practice is making on society at large.

U—Understanding

If you are a gen Xer or baby boomer, you can’t have the mindset that produces the phrase “kids these days… ,” said Dr.Wooten, adding that if you are derogatory toward millennials, you have already cut yourself off from understanding them. Try your best to get to know them, and don’t be so quick to write them off or judge them.

T—Transparency and trust

To promote transparency and trust in the workplace, it’s crucial that you know your practice’s values and are very open about what’s going on with your business. “This age group will call a spade a spade every time,” said Dr. Wooten, “so mean what you say and say what you mean.”

E—Expansion

Finally, if you’re looking to encourage millennials to stick around, you must promote growth and advancement. Millennials want an environment in which they can thrive. They may outgrow your practice eventually, Dr. Wooten warned, but it’s likely not because they want to quit but because they want to move up and there is nowhere to go.

Key takeaways

“If you can find ways to incorporate these [strategies] into your practice, you are going to provide a wonderful space for this age group to grow and flourish,” said Dr. Wooten.

Millennials are forcing us to be better bosses and better business owners, Dr. Wooten concluded. “And even though it can be really painful and awkward, it’s a good thing. How well we adapt our approach to support this generation and all the generations that are coming after is going to determine the success of the veterinary industry.”

For more about understanding and managing millennials in your veterinary practice, click here and here.