Active flow control of canonical laminar separation bubbles by steady and harmonic vortex generator jets (VGJs) was investigated using direct numerical simulations. Both control strategies were found to be effective in controlling the laminar boundary-layer separation. However, the present results indicate that using the same blowing amplitude, harmonic VGJs were more effective and efficient in reducing the separated region than the steady VGJs considering the fact that the harmonic VGJs use less momentum than the steady case. For steady VGJs, longitudinal structures formed immediately downstream of injection location led to formation of hairpin-type vortices causing an earlier transition to turbulence. Symmetric hairpin vortices were shown to develop downstream of the forcing location for the harmonic VGJs as well. However, the increased control effectiveness for harmonic VGJs flow control strategy is attributed to the fact that shear-layer instability mechanism was exploited. As a result, disturbances introduced by VGJs were strongly amplified leading to development of large-scale coherent structures, which are very effective in increasing the momentum exchange, thus, limiting the separated region.