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Take 5: How to Attract and Retain the Next Generation of Workers

by Nick Bayer

A 2015 Gallup Poll found that by 2020, millennials will make up half of the global workforce. Each year, more and more employers are trying to discover new ways to interact, attract and retain young team members. Saxbys Coffee founder and CEO, Nick Bayer, has built a 400-person business with a millennial-aged team and even has a café at Drexel University exclusively run by students. Bayer offers some advice on the best ways to communicate and sustain relationships with the next generation of workers.

Be honest about your business. Transparency is highly valued among the millennial workforce. Today, students and young professionals can and often do publicly engage with brands/businesses on social media. That's why it’s so important to remain conversational and open about who you are, what you do and why you do it. Don’t overthink it. While always respectful and professional, we’re extremely candid in providing positive and constructive feedback, which is communicated during the interview process and practiced daily throughout the business. Be forward with your team and with your audiences. It’s not always beneficial to take yourself so seriously but be extremely consistent of your openness. Keep an open mind with your communication. It will instill confidence, build trust and create loyalty.

Develop from within as often as you can. It’s a common cliché that millennials will join a company only to leave two years later. And while this may be exaggerated, there is some truth to what we'll call generational ennui. One of the best ways to counteract this is by investing in your young team. Coach them. Set up mentorships. Create meetings with your newer team members and your senior-level team members and do career pathing. Team members want to know management is listening to them and managers want to put their people in a position to succeed and to grow. Knowledge sharing and growth are often overlooked.

Welcome idiosyncrasies. One of our core values at Saxbys is, “Embrace Being O.D.D. (Outgoing, Detail Oriented and Disciplined).” In other words, be yourself. We want people who are comfortable in their own skin and encourage them to express themselves through our mission and core values accordingly. Corporate culture doesn’t have to be stagnant, conservative or bland. There are limits, sure, but don’t feel that you need to stamp out eccentricity. It will enliven your workplace, boost team morale and drive your company’s culture.

Be socially active. Young people today have more access and plenty of know-how to pursue their passions outside the workplace. Meet them where they already are. Support them in their endeavors as often as possible. Partnering with nonprofits provides great team-building opportunities that your millennial workers will appreciate. If your company can create a social impact on your city and/or your community, your team will feel better about what they’re doing.

Create and maintain a thriving company culture. None of these suggestions will work if you don’t have a positive company culture. A few years ago, Saxbys took a step back to find and establish our culture and it’s only helped us grow. Your culture defines who you are, what you believe in and why your team should care. Millennials are very engaged with their work. Collaborate with your team to define your culture. You'll peel the curtain back on how the business operates and discover it together. We all want to feel good going to work in the morning. Millennials are no different.

Saxbys CEO Nick Bayer created Saxbys Coffee in 2005 because he wanted to build a lasting, welcoming company that bettered people's lives. Saxbys has focused on hospitality and exceptional service as its continued to grow, expanding to 30 cafés. Bayer is currently the Entrepreneur in Residence at Cornell University and a faculty member at Drexel University, where he teaches a course in entrepreneurial franchising. He also serves on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters Southeastern Pennsylvania and has been a Big Brother for seven years.

Published (and copyrighted) in Philly Biz, Volume 1, Issue 11 (November, 2016).
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