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Cold Stone MBA: Don’t fear the Y-Gen

May 1, 2012

I have listened to experts in generational studies talk about what we can expect from the Gen-Y’s or Millennials.  I have heard that:

  • They are bold and empowered and expect to be heard (and listened to)
  • They are comfortable walking into “the corner office” to share how the company can be improved
  • They are not confined by the structure of “what is”; it’s merely a starting point for change
  • Inspired, they are creative, hard working and fun

Of course, all of these have flip sides:

  • They can be difficult to manage (they may not “do as they are told”)
  • If you’re the boss, you had better be confident and “open” to their ideas
  • They do not conform to conventional wisdom; they get bored quickly and enjoy change
  • They work to live, not the opposite

So it is what it is, but is it good?

The more I deal with this group of young folks, the more I think I love them!  As an example of what this looks like in action, my newest employee, Amie, a bright 18-year-old, had been working with us for about two weeks.  I noticed that all of the porch furniture had been rearranged (it had been the way it was for two years, as long as we’d owned the store, and it was just fine).  “Who moved the furniture?”  I asked.  “Me,” said Amie, “do you like it?”

I did like it better, and I told her so.  But I was blown away that she felt that she was empowered to do it – without asking anyone – because it was a better idea.

She is not the only free thinker in the store.  I can’t tell you how many ice cream recipes we’ve canned or added because “the crew” of my 15 to 20 year olds thought it was time for a change.  And they were right!

Bailey, one of our shift leads, implemented an operational change over the winter that saved us just about 100 percent of our waste costs.  She didn’t ask permission; she just changed the way we prepared and stored our mixins.

One of the keys to attracting this group, and keeping them happy (and showing up for work) is our flexible scheduling program that allows them to pick the hours they want to work.  That way they have plenty of time for all of their academic and extracurricular activities – they work to live; they don’t live to work.  But I ask you:  would you really want an employee who doesn’t care about academics or doesn’t do anything but work?

I am really excited about what this generation will accomplish.  I am hopeful that they can undo all of the broken systems and organizations that they are inheriting.  Don’t fear this group – welcome them into your organization – we can use them!

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