“Damn Kids! Get Off My Lawn!”; The Latest on Millennials

We’ve been focusing lately on management issues, onboarding, staff development, retention and engagement and managing millennials.  My colleague wrote a great post about millennials and I’m going to add my behavioral health perspective to the “millennial gift”.


Millennials.  We all seem to enjoy talking smack about them.  We sit on the front porch drinking tea, swinging on the swing, air gun rifle in our laps, yelling at them to get off our lawn!!!


Living their life online.



Creators of brief videos, brief posts and general lack of attention span.

Living with their parents way too long (“I was out on my own at 17 years old” my husband says to me often…)


5 Key Drivers of Millennial Engagement

As we look at millennials in the workforce (and dominating the workforce in a few years, can’t ignore them folks, they are here to stay and will make up the majority soon enough), there are some things to consider about motivation.

According to hr.com, millennials are motivated by 5 drivers at work:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Social Connectivity
  3. Growth opportunities
  4. Lifestyle conveniences
  5. Purposeful work

What does this mean to behavioral health providers? Not just BH providers, really all of us in the helping profession (nursing, direct support, medical, social services, you name it, we are people helping people).  Despite all the negative stereotypes and commentary on the general attitude and work ethic of the millennial, there is one important characteristic in the list above: “purposeful work”.


Purposeful Work

I’ll be honest with you, we have cornered the market on purposeful work.  Despite how bad your day was, (challenges at work, documentation, frustrating people, the list goes on) you lie in bed at night knowing you make a difference every day.  Some days your work is literally about life and death. I remember working at a hospital with adults with severe mental illness and having the occasional day where I would think to myself “there are people all over the place having regular work days, sitting in an office, wearing suits and no one is having the type of day I’m having right now”.  People would ask me what I do for a living at parties or when sitting next to a stranger on an airplane and when I described what I did, I’d get a reaction.  People were impressed, people didn’t know how I did it, wow, they would look at me, their face would say “you’re amazing”.  When you’re making minimum wage or struggling to make ends meet, when cleaning up puke or observing someone do a urine drug test is part of your day, it matters to have that satisfying feeling of making a difference, of having a job that matters and that not everyone can just walk into and do well.

Family members thanking you for making a difference in the lives of their loved ones.  That type of reward is better than any parking spot or employee of the month certificate.


We in the helping profession have an ace in the hole, we have the most meaningful work there is and we have a huge group of workers, a growing group, who seek out jobs that let them make a difference.  It motivates them, it drives them, it makes them feel good about their job.

What did the Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers give us in the 80s and 90s?  do you remember the 80s? Did you see the Big Short or have you heard about the dot com bust?

No offense to the baby boomers or Gen X-ers, but the majority of today’s younger workforce would not be caught dead delivering the famous “greed is good” speech or espouse how “greed works”.


So next time you are interviewing a 20-something or sighing deeply as you think you’ve found an example that reinforces the millennial stereotypes, think again.  (And by the way, you can always find a piece of “evidence” to reinforce a stereotype if you’re looking hard enough).  It’s harder to see the glass as both half full and half empty.  See the good in there and what you can harness and motivate.

There is a whole generation of workers out there who could be a great fit and a total asset to your organization.

…If you just look at them in the right way.

Kristi McClure

Strategic Marketing Manager BH/CYF and CH, Relias

Kristi has more than 20 years of experience in the health and human service industry, the majority of that time working as a direct practitioner with children, adolescents and adults in both outpatient and residential/inpatient settings. She has worked with Relias for over 10 years, initially working with customers on getting the most out of Relias products, then managing the content products for HHS, and now as the Strategic Marketing Manager for Health and Human Services.

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