5 valuable tips for managing 3 employee generations in 1 veterinary practice

2 min read

The “Millennial dilemma” is a pretty big issue for employers; big enough that Jesi Tassava recently dedicated an entire post to helping veterinary practice managers handle common complaints about this hard-to-please generation. However, while Millennials (1981-1997) do represent the largest share of the American workforce, the employee generations of Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and Gen Xers (1965-1980) still play a massive role in the labor market and are therefore just as deserving of special attention.

So, what kind of special attention do veterinary practice employees require?

[bctt tweet=”While individual personalities certainly come into play, there are assumptions you can make about your employees’ needs based purely on the generation they fall into.”] In general, Millennials, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have different approaches and expectations when it comes to communication, career paths, feedback, rewards, and work-life balance. This chart does a great job of highlighting the differences between the employee generations.


Baby Boomers

Gen Xers






Work Ethic

Workaholic, Driven

Balance, Work Smarter

What’s next? Multitasking


Buy now, pay later


Earn to spend


Imbalanced-afraid to take time off

Cleaner balance between work/family

Flex time, sabbaticals and consistent balance

View of Authority

Time equals authority

Will test authority

Will test, but often seeks out for guidance


Touch-tone phone, call anytime

Cell phone, call me only at work

Text, picture phones, email

Work is…

An exciting adventure

A difficult challenge

A means to an end

Source: http://www.wmfc.org/uploads/GenerationalDifferencesChart.pdf

The reality of these differences became blatantly apparent during a conversation I recently witnessed between two DVM partners. One of the partners was a Gen Xer; the other, a Baby Boomer. The two of them were in deep discussion about how many hours employees work per week and whether or not they should be expected to come in on their days off, as and when needed. I interjected and used the term work-life balance, which was immediately dismissed by the Baby Boomer, who went on to say, “I sacrificed everything for my career. Why shouldn’t I expect the same from my partner, associates and staff?”

Should we be adapting to these differing values? I say yes.

As a Millennial myself, I find it hard not to agree with the majority of what is said in regard to managing my generation. In life – and in the workforce – one needs to adapt to change. If practice managers don’t adapt to generational demands, we’ll eventually find ourselves with skyrocketing attrition rates as Millennials continue to grow their share in the workforce.

[bctt tweet=”To satisfy and maintain the loyalty of the employee generations we manage, we need to better understand the differences between them, and tailor the way we operate to create a culture that works for everyone.”] For instance, Baby Boomers aren’t concerned about work-life balance but Gen Xers and Millennials are. Does this mean we shouldn’t push for better balance? Definitely not. Case in point, the Baby Boomer I mentioned above – the one who ‘sacrificed everything’ for his career – recently started taking a day off during the week. And guess what? He’s loving it! He no longer scoffs at the term ‘work-life balance’ and he now has a clear understanding of why it’s so important to his staff.

5 things you can do to create a working culture that embraces all three employee generations.

  1. Take time to understand your staff and what’s important to them:

    Conduct a confidential work-place satisfaction survey to see what you might be missing. Invite your staff to offer suggestions on how you can better accommodate what matters to them.

  2. Evaluate your benefits and policies:

    Does your vacation/sick/PTO policy encourage work-life balance? Do you let your staff roll-over their time indefinitely, to the point that those who don’t believe in balance rack up time until they finally burn out, while others accumulate hours like nobody’s business and eventually ask for two years off? OK, I exaggerate, but I think you get my drift.

  3. Lead by example:

    How is your own work-life balance? Do you have the mindset of “do as I say, not as I do?” I had a DVM once tell me that even though he’s never been told to do so, he works through lunches and comes in on days he’s supposed to be off because that’s what the owner does. He simply feels pressured to follow suit.

  4. Tailor incentives to generations:

    Use the work-place satisfaction survey (see the first item on this list) to find out what motivates your staff and create individualized incentives. While a Gen Xer or Millennial may appreciate being rewarded with a day off, a Baby Boomer may prefer to receive a gift certificate or some other form of reward. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.

  5. Encourage cross-generational teams/mentorship:

    Your staff may comprise three employee generations, but don’t make the mistake of putting all your Millennials on one team, all your Gen Xers on another, and all your Baby Boomers on yet another. Rather, mix things up and encourage staff members to mentor one another. Regardless of who’s in charge of the team – be it a Baby Boomer, Gen Xer or Millennial, we can all learn from one another.


Forward-Booking Staff Meeting in a Box Speaking of teams, the VetSuccess Forward-Booking Staff Meeting in a Box is a great tool that encourages staff to work together with a common goal: lowering your lapsed patient rates. The toolkit actually includes a bingo-like staff engagement game that, dare I say, is actually fun! So go ahead. Give the above suggestions a try and bridge the gap between the generations in your workforce. By creating a culture that works for all, you’ll have a happier, more productive and more successful practice.
Hess, Brandon

Hess, Brandon

Brandon Hess CVPM, CCFP is an associate consultant with VetSupport and a founding member of the Southwestern Ohio Veterinary Management Association. He can be reached at [email protected]

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