“Millennials present the greatest competitive advantage in our business,” says Kathleen Wood, founder of Suzy’s Swirl frozen desserts and Kathleen Wood Partners. Millennials, those born after 1980, represent a significant portion of the restaurant workforce. In an era of high-tech transactions and strong demand for customer service and convenience, millennials can help older peers navigate the new business landscape.
Wood, who recently spoke at the NRA’s Human Resources Executive Study Group, suggests leaders use her LIKE model – Listen, Include, get to Know, and Engage – to harness millennials’ best traits and leap ahead of competitors. They’re incredibly loyal to the companies they love, so you use these tips to tap their potential.
Listen. Learn their language, Wood says. “Millennials are the most socially connected people we’ve ever met.” They’re interested in social media and technology, and they love to share. “As we move forward, the language of business will be social connectivity. This is what they speak. We’ve got to take this opportunity as leaders of this amazing workforce and really leverage them as our competitive advantage to keep ourselves, our businesses, and our future way ahead of the game.”
Include millennials in business discussions. That allows them to see the big picture through the eyes of executives and leaders. Senior leaders need to be more involved, too. Employees of all ages should learn how to better connect with one another.
Get to know employees by learning more about millennials. They think globally and crave authenticity and transparency. If you understand what they want and expect, the whole team can benefit. “Schedule time to connect on a non-crisis manner,” she suggests. “Reach out, recognize, and acknowledge.”
Engage millennials in everything from problem solving, to product development, to customer service. “When you start to look at your new age resources, you really can start to look at your business in a profound way.”
Consider looking at business through the mobile lens millennials use. “How we train, how we connect, how we engage through the mobile lens -- it really does make you think.”
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. “There are going to be times we have to be uncomfortable with not always knowing the answer … It opens you to possibilities.”
Embrace the power millennials bring to the workplace with social connectivity. Stop listening to the possible disasters of Facebook and Twitter, take social media for what it is, and unleash it for its possibilities.
“As leaders, we have so much to give, but we also have so much to get when we learn how to use all our powers together. We also have an inherent responsibility to teach, coach and lead the next generation of leaders, just as the generation before us did. Potentially, our greatest legacy is to pave that path.”