Conventional wisdom holds that millennials are entitled, easily distracted, impatient, self-absorbed, lazy, and unlikely to stay in any job for long. Of course, a generalization about an entire demographic will not be accurate for each and every case, but studies point to telling trends in millennial behavior.1 On the positive side, millennials are looking for purpose, feedback, and personal balance in their work.
Overall, experts are telling us that “millennials are different.” But are they, really? And if they are, should we really treat them any differently? Regardless of stereotypes, millennials are now the largest segment in the workforce, making up 35%.1 This is part of why baby boomers and generation Xers are increasingly aware that dismissing millennials is detrimental. Clinical research site leaders should take the time to understand younger workers, because it is inevitable that they will work with them.

Understanding Millennials as a Workforce

Older generations remember the days without cell phones, ubiquitous computing, and a connected world. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t. People may judge them for frequent phone and media use, even though it’s how almost everyone functions now. Instead of condemning millennials for this tech “obsession”, think about ways it could benefit your business.2
In clinical research, sites could benefit from a workforce with ideas and skills in utilizing social media for patient recruitment or developing better websites to market their sites and improve business development. They are likely to be more aware and open to utilizing newer technologies to streamline processes and improve quality and efficiency by accessing tools and programs to help keep the business on the cutting-edge of clinical research.
Gone are the days when employees cared only about the size of a paycheck. Now, young professionals prioritize healthy lifestyles, going on adventures, and making a difference in the world. Unlike previous generations, millennials were not taught to be seen and not heard. “Everyone from their parents to teachers to coaches to college professors asked them to voice their opinions and treated them more like partners than subordinates, and they are bringing that to the workplace. Sometimes they come across as brash and in a way that’s seen as disrespectful or overstepping, but the key is for millennials to be sensitive to how and when they express themselves”.3 These ideas often improve companies and create positive changes in culture for everyone.

Solutions for Managing Millennial Teams

For millennials, meaningful work is everything. Make a commitment to understanding the goals of young employees and then work out development plans to help get them there. Millennials value work-life balance more than all other job characteristics such as job progression, use of technology, and a sense of meaning at work. Nearly half of all American workers would forgo the corner-office job and a high salary to gain more flexibility in their schedules.4 Research sites may find greater success by accepting this employee lifestyle, instead of rebuking it. Consider this if you’re debating allowing more flexible hours or remote work.
In addition to work-life balance, young professionals prioritize ongoing training and feedback as well as opportunities for growth and development. Leaders should spend more time getting to know each staff member and considering what will motivate them. 80% of millennials say they prefer in-the-moment recognition over formal reviews and feel that this is imperative for their growth and understanding of a job. Consistent performance feedback is a must for millennials.5 This generation wants frequent input on what they’re doing well and what they’re doing wrong, along with solutions for improvement.

The truth is, we all want what millennials want:

  • Meaning and purpose in our work
  • Regular feedback from our bosses
  • Career development opportunities in companies that will invest in us
  • Recognition for doing good work
  • Freedom to make our own choices5

Millennials add value through their energy and determination to make a difference through their work. If you’re still struggling to understand them, remember one thing – it’s not easy to be a millennial, either! They’re up against misconceptions and doing their best to prove their worth in today’s workplace.
Oh, and don’t forget, gen Z employees are already making their voices heard as they prepare to be the workforce of tomorrow. Will you be ready?
Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring, 2019 edition of SCRS Insite: The Global Journal for Clinical Research Sites.

  1. Finn, D, Donovan, A. PwC’s NextGen: A global generational study. Evolving talent strategy to match the new workforce reality. University of Southern California. London Business School. Accessed February 2, 2019 from:
  2. Boitnott, J. Don’t Understand Millennials? These 6 Insights Will Help You Work with Them. Inc. Accessed February 2, 2019 from:
  3. Krueger, A. 5 Things Every Boss Should Know About Working With Millennials. Forbes. Accessed February 2, 2019 from:
  4. Pfau, B. What Do Millennials Really Want at Work? The Same Things the Rest of Us Do. Harvard Business Review. Accessed February 2, 2019 from:
  5. Schwantes, M. Research Confirms What We All Suspected. Millennials in the Workplace Are Not That Different From Other Generations. Inc. Accessed February 2, 2019 from:

About the Author
Nicole Mills is a Clinical Research Field Specialist with Medix and currently works in our Scottsdale, Arizona office.