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5 Ways Franchisees Can Empower a Millennial and Gen Z Workforce Here are five practical ways to empower millennial and Gen Z team members to do their personal best for your business.

By Jamie Mills Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The impact of millennials and Gen Zs on the workforce is significant. Millennials make up approximately a third of the workforce now, while Generation Z is just beginning to enter the workforce and is surpassing millennials as the most populous generation in the world.

In the restaurant industry, and specifically at quick service restaurants (QSRs) like Del Taco, these two generations make up the majority of our workforce. While each of these generations is nuanced and has its own differences, the evolution of values is the greatest difference I've noticed, as a Gen-Xer raising three members of Generation Z and managing the millennial generation over the past decade.

My own children and their companions prioritize travel and freedom above big houses and nice cars in comparison to my own companions in youth. Further, stakes are more important to them than ever, and with information at their fingertips, these digital natives demand the best flexibility, pay, benefits and atmosphere, or, as the Great Resignation has proven, they will go looking for it elsewhere.

Like all generations, these team members seek joy in their work and empowerment through effective leadership. In The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, author Patrick Lencioni declares that irrelevance, immeasurability and anonymity are the three common elements that bring employees misery. Here are five practical ways to effectively avoid those pitfalls and empower millennial and Gen Z team members to do their personal best for your business:

Related: How Franchises Can (and Should) Attract Millennial and Gen Z Franchisees

1. Encourage in-real-life (IRL) communications

Reinforcing and celebrating face-to-face communications and the concept of "showing up" can seem against the grain these days, but it is very beneficial to any team member's professional development. While there's a time and place for emails and even emojis and short-hand text abbreviations, much of business, especially in the restaurant and retail industry, happens in-person and with professionalism.

When my teenage daughter got a coveted job at Trader Joe's, it's highly likely that handing her application and resume in the flesh to the hiring manager, with an aura of intention and initiative, helped seal the deal on her employment.

Conversely, employees want to feel known and seen, and they may struggle for fulfillment without their authority figures taking the time to get to know them better. Creating outside-of-work social opportunities among employees, honoring milestones in group settings and making an effort for face-to-face check-ins are just a few examples of how managers can help foster this type of environment. Avoiding the "lost in translation" element of newer mediums takes modeling, reminding and rewarding these "old-school" forms of communication.

2. Make incentives fun and personalized

Employees need to know that their work makes a difference to someone else. Without that connection and feeling that their work matters, finding joy and fulfillment may prove difficult. Plus, while younger generations crave adventure over stability, this doesn't mean they don't want abundance and wealth. Monetary incentives or gift cards for what they love can go a long way.

When I owned my meal assembly business, a $50 bill to whoever cleaned the mystery spot that I had secretly identified was a fun game for the employees and always resulted in the cleanest store, which made everyone feel good. A Starbucks card to that latte lover for going above and beyond goes a long way towards employee loyalty, just like knowing how you can support them in maintaining their work/life balance and what's important to them when they go home for the day — be it kids, pets, hobbies or beyond.

Related: Millennials: A Generation Seeking More

3. Foster strengths through listening

Building a strong relationship with your team isn't just about what questions you ask, but how you ask them and that you're actively listening. Oftentimes, even just small changes can make a huge impact on a person's job.

You can still keep your boundaries as a leader while strategically shifting the delegation of tasks to other team members. But to get there, you need to hear consistent and honest feedback on what they enjoy doing, excel at, and need more support on — and you need to make balanced shifts that can accommodate that feedback accordingly. Taking the time to make these small changes to foster their growth ensures longer job satisfaction and employee loyalty.

4. Make their growth path clear

Everyone desires advancement in their position, but without an ability to gauge progress, measure success and ensure they're contributing to the company's goals, motivation can wane. It's critical to show your team that if they come with you, they could be a part of something bigger. Employees are more satisfied when they know they are all working toward a common goal. That road map should be clear, with attainable ways to advance in that direction.

5. Balance flexibility with defined boundaries

With the rise of hybrid and remote work, laying down your expectations and ensuring your team understands them is critical. Put them in writing, reinforce them in person and perpetuate an "open door" culture where your team feels okay to ask questions when they're unsure.

Related: How to Attract and Retain Top Gen Z Talent

By leading with a "people first" mindset at my company, I've seen countless young people grow into impressive, mature professionals, and I am confident that with attentive methods catered to these generations, any organization can play a role in cultivating the next generation of successful, effective and compassionate leaders.

Jamie Mills

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Franchise Development Manager

Jamie Mills brings over 15 years of franchising experience, including owning her own successful franchise business and is responsible for Del Taco’s franchise recruitment, marketing & sales. She works with marketing and PR partners, guiding franchisees through the sales process into new markets.

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