What Can We Learn From Millenial Staff Members?

29 Aug What Can We Learn From Millenial Staff Members?

By Terra Shastri, Manager of Business Development – Ontario Veterinary Medical Association

The characteristics of each generation are a result of their upbringing and environment. Some have experienced wars, been parented by a single mother working two jobs, subjected to a parent losing a job due to an economic crisis, etc. All of these experiences shape an individual and can become a consistent group of characteristics for a generation. While no one wants to be painted with a broad brush, it is true that different periods in time give rise to people with different characteristics.

Often, gen X-ers and baby boomer workers complain about millennials, the fastest growing segment in the workforce)1 but with some understanding and observation, there are some lessons the older age groups can learn to help them manage better.

  1. Embrace change –This tech savvy generation is accustomed to the rapid changes in technology where old devices are consistently replaced with new devices and features. Millennials are the first adopters of these new technologies. They are always looking for innovative tools and new ways of doing things better. They question processes or systems that do not make sense and show older generations how it can be done more efficiently. In their quest to welcome change, it pushes the boomers and gen X-ers to do the same to keep up with the pace of change.
  2. Collect experiences, not things – With most boomers and gen X-ers the thinking has always been to work to live to afford things or luxury items. The 20 to 33 year olds care more about experiences over owning things like a fancy car or a house. The older population has a tough time understanding this simpler approach but scientists have proven how people feel more rewarded when they travel to a new country, attend a dance class or go to a concert instead of buying something new.2
  3. Establish a work life balance – Millennials realize how important it is to have a work-life balance. They look to work smarter, not harder. This could be their motivation to look at processes and how they could be done easier. Preferring more autonomy in the workplace, the younger generation likes to have more control over their time and more flexibility with their hours. They value the time they have away from work and know it contributes to their overall happiness.
  4. Continue learning – As an age cohort, the millennials continue to invest in themselves to get ahead in the workforce. By using YouTube videos and online tutorials as resources, they continue to learn new skills without it costing a cent. They have leveraged what is available to them on the internet, something the older population can participate in. Millennials are open to learning new things and continually improving themselves.
  5. Be recognized – Recognition is valued by many age groups but especially millennials. They want to be recognized for their achievements and may need feedback periodically. The feedback allows them to learn their strengths and areas where they need to improve. Their desire for open communication is something that all ages can benefit from.
  6. Social responsibility – After living through a major recession, millennials are often eager to help those in need. They have also witnessed the impact of extreme weather events, understand climate change and how their behaviors can impact the environment. They are conscious of their choices and motivated to reduce their carbon footprint.

While all of these may be great lessons for gen X-ers and boomers to apply in their own lives, what is the best way to manage millennials? Carve out time to provide ongoing feedback on a regular basis. They’re not looking for an in-depth performance review, just a quick check-in that says you notice they exist.  Embrace their sociable nature and their need to interact and bond with their colleagues by providing a few social staff outings each year. Accept that they value a work-life balance, which means sticking around beyond their scheduled shift is a big deal and should not happen often. Home, family and spending time with friends are priorities, so you have to accept it or risk losing them. They have a hunger for instant gratification and tangible outcomes, which means they are outcome driven. They want to know what you want them to do, and they want you to get out of their way so they can get the job done.


  1. Meister Jeanne C. Karie Willyerd. (2010). Mentoring Millennials, Harvard Business Review, 88 (5), 68-72.
  2. Howell, Ryan T. & Paulina Pchelin. (2012). The preference for experiences over possessions: Measurement and construct validation of the Experiential Buying Tendency Scale