I’ve got a problem with the millennial mentality.

You’ve heard that before, but this time is different. My problem is not millennials themselves, it’s the mentality about them that bothers me.

I love to learn and am constantly utilizing the number of resources available to help the veterinary professional grow. Lately, however, I have noticed a trend – every magazine, social media page and conference seems to have a suggestion for “dealing with” millennials. Why are we focused on “dealing with millennials” instead of learning to hire and coach for our culture? Yes, they grew up in the same time and may have similarities, but just as every Libra does not have the exact qualities as the other, all millennials are not the same! It is time to stop focusing on generational labels and start hiring the individuals who fit your team, no matter their age.

Recently, I was excited to be at a reimagined veterinary conference. (Dare I say it was reimagined to attract millennials?) This conference impressed me with several changes including a new lecture format that actively included attendees. As usual, I brought home several practice pearls, but months later, two pieces from the conference stick with me:

As a profession, we are far from fully open-minded and supportive.

One particular management lecture had several great discussions going, working through common problems involving workplace culture – a favorite topic of mine. The group was varied and broad and, I assumed, forward thinking. (After all, the lecturer was Dr. Nicol, a cheeky Scot who donates to charity when he curses.) This group surprised me though – a “millennial” manager and a “baby boomer” owner quickly and loudly made blanket statements deprecating their opposing generations instead of focusing on specific practice challenges. Dr. Nicol quickly and skillfully turned the conversation, but not before it angered me how much the room had rallied to take sides. Here in a lecture geared towards positivity was a group of veterinary professionals jumping on board to bash entire generations! What happened to supporting solution-based and positive open-minded environments? The attitude continued through the weekend. In the exhibit hall and classrooms, I heard again and again, “Millennials are lazy, they want me to be their mother, how can I find someone who wants to work?”

Why don’t I feel this way about millennials? Well, that’s the second piece of the conference that stayed with me.

My millennials are amazing!

You heard me right. The only thing is that I don’t ever think of them as “millennials.” I know them as my teammates. With me that weekend was my newly appointed lead client care specialist and my manager, both born millennials. This was the first conference for the CCS, and my manager had only attended one other, Uncharted Veterinary Conference, so the bar was high. These two blew me away. My CCS found an undiscovered passion for fighting compassion fatigue and my manager had us sit down and plan for the future right there in a conference hallway. They introduced themselves to leaders, asked questions, and shined. Exhausted, they still spent the 6-hour return trip planning, brainstorming and sharing what they had learned.

Conferences inspire – the real test is if you apply what you have learned and my “millennials” sure did. Within a week they had created standardized behavioral habits for our team and developed an ongoing wellness program. Their dedication and leadership are continually evident and expanding in new ways. These two inspire their teammates to take better care of themselves, create solutions, support and grow.

Do my millennial teammates sound like problem employees who don’t want to work? Not to me!

My team is diverse. I imagine yours is too. My team is made of millennials, baby boomers and gen Xers. Instead of classifying them by their generation, I know them as talented individuals who come together to form a team that provides excellent pet and client care. Do you view any of your employees as “millennial,” or do you treasure their character traits that allow them to uphold your practice values?

Stop focusing on the generation. Focus on the person, your team, your values. When you hire someone, whether they have silver or rainbow locks, hire them for who they are and how they fit into your culture. Close your eyes to their generation. It does not define them. You may just be surprised – that baby boomer is still in practice for a reason and has plenty to contribute, the gen Xer could be full of passion, and that millennial may have the strongest work ethic you’ve ever seen.

Be the veterinary professional (and human) we all should be: supportive and open-minded. Your reward will surely be an impressive team!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.

Dr. Sands owns a start-up practice, Healing Paws Veterinary Care -an all-inclusive veterinary clinic and pet resort in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She loves senior patients, gross dentals, all things cats, bonding with clients, and, most importantly, seeing her team’s personal growth. A mother and hobby sheep farmer, she is a “nerd” who enjoys spending her extra time listening to podcasts and learning about leadership and veterinary medicine.