Managing Millennials

A quick "101" in generational understanding

By Jennifer Kushell

If you are one of the countless franchisors struggling to make the most of your relationships with Millennial employees, here is a quick guide to turning those born after 1980 into some of your biggest fans--and assets.

  • Communicating. They do it differently than you do. Let's start there. Veterans like face-to-face meetings, Boomers like phone calls, Gen Xers prefer email, and Millennials do most of their communicating by cell phone, text messages, and social media. Their interpersonal skills and presentation skills often need work, so be prepared to explain what is important to you and what is expected in your line of work. But also be open to letting them develop relationships through the channels they're most comfortable with. Their informality often can lead to more frequent contact and much faster relationship-building.
  • Recruiting. When you set out to hire younger workers, consider your employer brand. What does your company stand for? What are your values? Young people want to work with people they like and for companies they believe in. Lead with that to make a strong impact and find better candidates. Also know that anything they find out--from LinkedIn, your website, to customer reviews on Yelp--will shape their opinions and interest about your company.
  • Inspiring. Don't assume that the job itself, let alone a paycheck, is enough to keep them working at their full potential. You have to motivate them to want to give you their all. This concept bothers a lot of business owners, but this generation has a different work ethic: they have to be inspired. Show concern for their happiness and well-being, and that attention will go a long way.
  • Training. Turnover rates are higher with younger workers, so consider breaking programs into segments that you deliver over different intervals. Have those programs correspond to increased responsibilities and compensation or benefits--so you both see the ROI from the investment. Also integrate as much experiential learning as possible, for example going to meetings or conferences together and talking about what worked and what needs to be worked on.
  • Rewarding. Money is important to Millennials, but it is not what drives them. Before you start writing checks, find out what motivates them. Maybe it's offering a 401(k) program, a membership, flex time, a chance to or the opportunity for advancement. Ask the right questions and you even may find creative ways to cut the costs of keeping your staff inspired.
  • Mentoring. This generation has been coached more than any other before it. Be aware that they require attention and frequent communication. Focus instructions on what you need done and suggest how, but give them the freedom to try new ways of achieving your goals. Review and judge the results, more than the methods, and you'll probably end up learning from one another.
  • Parents. Millennials are extremely close with their parents. What is appropriate for them to be involved in (interviews, discipline, contract negotiations, etc.) is a very gray and fuzzy area these days. It's up to you to set boundaries, but making "helicopter parents" your allies can pay off too.
  • Retaining. Don't expect Millennials to be "lifers." They typically change jobs every 1 to 3 years. But there are exceptions. Show them possible career paths, milestones to different levels in your company, and how staying with you will build their career. Give them big goals to achieve, then big rewards if they deliver.

Jennifer Kushell is the founder of Young & Successful Media,, and is author of the New York Times best-seller, "Secrets of the Young & Successful." A globally recognized thought leader on the next generation workforce, she speaks around the world and helps organizations and governments inspire and leverage young talent. Contact her at or 310-822-0261.

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