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10 tips to manage ‘generation why’


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Much has been written about what it takes to attract and retain millennial customers, but what does it mean for operators who have employees ranging in age from 14 to 34?

There’s no denying they’re extremely important to the restaurant industry, but effectively managing them calls for some extra finesse.

Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) are the largest generation, representing more than 28 percent of the U.S. population compared to baby boomers, who represent less than 24 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2014. By 2020, millennials will account for one-third of the population.

As a group, millennials are generally optimistic. They’re busy, with a lot of interests and a lot of friends (most of whom are interconnected on social media).

They’re team-oriented.

They’re also much more diverse than previous generations. In 1963, Census Bureau data show 16 percent of people aged 18 to 32 were non-white. In 2013, 44 percent of people in that age range were non-white. In addition, they’re more educated and, by virtue of the media, more globally aware.

The Corporate Executive Board’s 2014 Global Labor Market Survey showed millennials have higher positive self-esteem than previous generations – the product of an upbringing that taught them everyone can do what they set out to do. Moreover, they think they’re above-average in leadership ability, drive and intelligence, which goes hand-in-hand with higher expectations about their educations and careers. In fact, millennials expect to be paid more and promoted faster.

These traits help explain the other nickname given to millennials: the Why Generation. When assigned a task, they want to understand why it’s important and what impact it will have on them personally or professionally.

In her book “Generation Me,” author Jean Twenge shows that work is less important in the eyes of millennials than earlier generations. In 1976, 74 percent of high school seniors expected work to be a “central part “of their lives. In 2012, only 66 percent of seniors felt that way. About one-third of millennials think work is just for making a living; it enables them to do the fun things and have the experiences they want in life.

A survey by MTV Insights shows millennials’ top five priorities, in this order: Being happy. Having a family. Having a job they love. Owning a home. Being debt-free. “Making a lot of money” came in sixth.

Moreover, a majority – 81 percent – think they should be allowed to set their own work schedules. How can business owners manage or handle these behaviors?

  • Clearly communicate expectations – the earlier the better.
  • Be real. Provide accurate and ongoing feedback on their performance and their potential.
  • Demonstrate realistic career paths so they understand what’s possible.
  • Provide transparent information on pay practices. Share data to prove your points.
  • Explain why an individual role is important. If possible, tie the job or skill to an employee’s long-term career goals.
  • Offer flexible hours, if possible.
  • Focus on results rather than face time.
  • Treat millennials like adults despite generational differences.
  • Ask their opinions and respect their contributions. They can bring new ideas to the business so be open to learning from them as well.
  • Remember what it’s like to be young.

Kimberly Savilonis is senior vice president of franchise research for GE Capital, Franchise Finance, lender for the U.S. franchise finance market. Reach her at kimberly.savilonis@ge.com.

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