Millennials: Who Do We Think We Are? Part 4 – Millennials as Employees

Millennials:  Who Do We Think We Are?   Part 4 – Millennials as Employees

Continuing our 5-part series about Millennials, Part 4 focuses on Millennials as Employees.

My goal with this series is to share first-hand information from the Millennial generation that will help restaurateurs and business owners who serve and employ them.  By interviewing a group of Millennials, I came away with expert-worthy commentary and a newfound appreciation for at least some of the quirks that make Millennials a generation unto themselves.

As with most generations before them, hospitality roles are often a Millennial’s first job.  With a significant portion of our country’s overall economy dependent on Millennial employees, your competition needs Millennials as much as you do.

We posed an interesting question to our subject group of Millennials:  “What are some of the challenges to attracting and retaining Millennials as workers?” 

As a business owner, it should come as  no surprise that the person who interviews, hires, trains and manages your employees is critically important to the success — perhaps even the survival — of your company.  When your team includes Millennials, the person who serves as your hiring ambassador is HUGE!

As workers, Millennials proudly profess that they are “very entitled and don’t want to settle for anything less than we can get”.  Whether it’s a higher hourly wage, a signing bonus, or flexible hours/flexible schedule, Millennials readily speak up for what they want/need in order for the job opportunity you have to fit into their lives.  It would seem that once a job offer has been extended and accepted, work life as we all know it would simply pick up and continue on.  But not so fast…

Paradigms & Assumptions

Not surprisingly, the Millennial attitude accompanies them into the work place.  “Whatever is better, we will go after it.”  If you are not a Millennial, that sentence would likely translate as ’more money, more time off, not always getting stuck as the closer’, etc.  The Millennial feedback we received, however, is quite a bit different and offers a glimpse into the ever-changing employment landscape.  “If we have a crappy boss, we leave.  There are so many places to choose from and they all pay pretty much the same rate.  $12 per hour with a great boss vs $12 per hour with a crappy boss makes our decision a no-brainer….we’ll just leave and go somewhere else.”

Another hot button with Millennial employees is when the scope of work that they are asked to do does not mirror the title they hold.  “If the duties of our hired role don’t fit our liking, we leave.”  I asked for an example.  “Well, if we work at a retail store and are given the role of Sales Lead, we should be selling merchandise and giving good customer service – not cleaning light fixtures or mopping floors!  We may be at the bottom of the bottom but we’re above cleaning floors.”

Return on Investment

Our conversation moved on to talk about the issues that are important to Millennial employees.  Financial compensation is obviously important yet Millennials say they want to be shown their value through money which translates as being adequately compensated for what they are being asked to do.  “If I’m going to be running a store, I should be paid to run a store, not $11 an hour.  We are given keys to the store, alarm codes, etc. and we have the responsibility to get the store open on time, run it throughout the day so the owner doesn’t have to be there, and handle customers, employees, no-shows, money, merchandising, etc.  That is not an $11/hour job.”

To Know & Be Known

On the more personal side of employment, Millennials say they want to have a relationship (or be known by) the owner of the company.  Said one Millennial, “I worked for Target for a couple of years and was not known by the Store Manager or the District Manager.”  Millennials inherently know that they are an important part of running a business.  Unfortunately, when the owners of the business or the people running the company don’t even know their name, they don’t feel valued.

“We have ideas about how to make things better for customers, more profitable for the company, or more efficient for the employees.  But when we don’t know, have never met, or don’t have the chance to talk to the owners (or the ‘real’ people in charge vs. just another hourly employee who probably doesn’t care anyway), we can’t help.”

To feel known is one of the most basic human needs.  While time is definitely one of every business owner’s most valuable commodities, it can be a very valuable currency in the eyes of Millennials who often won’t admit that they would like to find a mentor but will often gravitate toward a natural leader who takes a personal and professional interest in them.

With necessity being the mother of invention, business owners are always on the lookout for inexpensive and cost-effective ways to improve their companies.  While not ‘free’, taking time to get to know the people who keep the doors open and the cash registers ringing could offer huge ROI for any business owner.

Millennials:  Changing The Workplace (for the better!)

We wrapped up our conversation talking about how Millennials are changing the workplace.  “We stick up for ourselves,” was mentioned by one and affirmed by others in the group.  “We are showing companies how to treat their employees – because we leave so easily if we are not treated well.”  Said another, “We are raising the bar about how bottom-of-the-totem-pole employees should be treated.  We decide what we will allow.”  Millennials know that jobs are pretty easy to find these days and if one job doesn’t work out, they have options at several other places.

We mentioned earlier about the competition among business owners to attract and retain Millennial employees.  Millennials know this.  “We are challenging employers to come up with things that will make us want to stay,” citing tuition reimbursement as an appealing incentive.  While hourly jobs are allowing Millennials to ‘get by’ today, few see themselves job hopping from hourly job to hourly job over the long haul.  By offering tuition reimbursement, Millennials appreciate the hand up and feel a sense of loyalty to the employer who is helping them today and into the future as well.

As a business owner, there is definitely a fine line when it comes to employing Millennials.  Every policy, rule or decision can be second guessed to keep the tail from wagging the dog.  Millennials are making their way in the employment world as best they can – which is pretty impactful, you have to admit.  While it can easily feel like the ball is completely in their court, the “employees first” expectation that they are redefining has the ability to create a new, better norm for all sides:  employer, employee, and customers.

Food For Thought:  Common ground can almost always be found at the bottom of a coffee cup or maybe over a beer on the other end of a game of beanbag toss.