If you don’t take millennials seriously as a consumer and employee group, your business will only get harder to keep in the black, much less grow.
Call us what you want, but we are drastically reshaping your cultural and consumption patterns and are quickly becoming the most influential generation today. Born between 1982 and the mid-2000s, we millennials will make up at least half of the workforce by 2020, and if we’re not already a customer, well… soon, we will be.
At 27, I am a millennial myself. I own a cleaning service, Student Maid, which almost exclusively employs millennials. I started the business in 2009 when I was a student at the University of Florida, and last year, we employed more than 500 students in two Florida locations.
From what I’ve seen in my own company and from the consulting work I do with other organizations that employ millennials, we are hard to understand. But it’s critical that all cleaning businesses start bridging the gap. I believe there are three key differences in my generation that are going to completely change the way businesses attract us both as employees and as customers.

We define success differently than you. 

Success is unique to each of us. We aren’t necessarily looking for advancement or the biggest paycheck—at least not right away. Success to us is more about loving the work that we do and loving whom we do that work with.
What are you doing to make sure your employees love the work that they do? Do you talk to them about their jobs? What they like, what they don’t like? Are you actively trying to make their work more enjoyable? Do they feel as if you really care about the feedback they give you?
What are you doing to create a family feel in your business? At Student Maid, we have a full kitchen in our office where we cook together and eat meals as a team. When we cook, we talk and catch up. It feels like being at home!

If you are trying to attract millennial customers, what is your buying experience like?  A “successful” transaction is when a millennial feels as if they were purchasing from family or friends, not a business.

We want to know how our work matters. 

Millennials are known for high turnover in the workplace and hardly ever stay at a job longer than a couple of years. But it makes sense: We’re rarely shown how we impact the bigger picture.

We don’t quit because we’re afraid of hard work. We take multiple unpaid internships knowing we might not even get a job offer. We move on because most companies don’t understand that we care about the work we do and the impact it makes.
You have to show us how our everyday work matters. It’s your job as the owner or manager to give that to us. If you don’t, we will leave to find someone who will. 
How are you showing your millennials that their work matters? Are you providing them with results? Once-a-year performance reviews will not cut it. Try to find ways to give meaningful, instant feedback. If you are trying to attract us as customers, how will our purchase make an impact?
TOMS Shoes, for example, is a brand that’s been hugely popular with millennials in the last decade. Their business model is “One for One”: Every time you buy a pair of shoes, another pair is donated to a child in need. That model resonates with millennials because it allows them to see the direct impact of their actions.

We thrive on flexibility and autonomy.  

Instead of handing down a list of instructions or a script to follow every day, give us a project outline or some jumping-off points and let us fill in the blanks. Taking the lead on our own projects or day-to-day tasks without a manager checking up on us every step of the way gives us a sense of ownership. Sure, it’s a little scary to do that. But if you can create a culture where failure and mistakes are OK, you will see your millennials unleash their full potential.
Flexibility is an important part of ownership. One of the biggest perks for Student Maiders is that we create their work schedules around their classes and extracurricular schedules. They appreciate the flexibility we provide, and in turn, they’re more flexible with us.
The same can be said about millennials as customers. How are you giving us ownership and flexibility in our experience? Can we customize our service or product? Can we choose our own color or scent? These things, while easy for a business to provide, greatly influence our buying decisions.

Millennials are changing the game, but we aren’t throwing away the playbook: We want to learn from you, and we understand we’ve got a long way to go. We just want to pave our own way.

Join me Tuesday, October 20th at the ARCSI-CBT Workforce Innovation Summit in Las Vegas, where I’ll be talking about all of this in more depth.

Kristen Hadeed started Student Maid™ in 2009 while a junior at the University of Florida. Today she serves residential and commercial clients in Gainesville and Pensacola. 

Workforce Innovation Summit