Strategies to Set Millennial Workers Up for Success

Excerpt from “The Millennial Whisperer: The Practical, Profit-Focused Playbook for Working With and Motivating the World’s Largest Generation” by Chris Tuff (Morgan James Publishing).

Are Millennials really the lost generation when it comes to business and productivity? Are they really entitled, needy, and lazy? Or do we have them all wrong? 

Millennials made a poor first impression. But if we as leaders make an effort to understand them better, they can be our most resourceful and productive employees. Once we understand what makes them tick, we can make small adjustments to how we recruit, reward, and train Millennials in the workplace to achieve next-level productivity. 

Here are two strategies from my book, “The Millennial Whisperer: The Practical, Profit-Focused Playbook for Working With and Motivating the World’s Largest Generation” that any company can use to boost the productivity levels of Millennials to set up your best Millennial workers for success.

Next-Level Productivity for Millennials

Taking some simple actions that might appear to result in your employees having fewer hours clocked can actually make them far more productive. Encouraging team bonding has resulted in some huge wins at my advertising agency, 22squared, and my colleagues in other industries have reported similar outcomes when they’ve tried such activities. Workplace relationships (platonic ones, of course) generally increase employee engagement. Gallup Management Journalsurveyed 1,003 employees nationwide. Respondents were questioned about their relationships at work. The research showed that engaged employees are much more likely than others to say their organization encourages close friendships at work. Fifty-one percent of employees who strongly agree that their organization encourages close friendships at work also report being “extremely satisfied” with their place of employment.

I’ve talked about mindfulness training. It’s no secret that mindful employees are healthier and more focused. General Mills, Ford, Google, Target, Adobe, Goldman Sachs, Davos…all of these mega-productive companies incorporate mindfulness exercises into their workday. One company, Aetna, estimates that since instituting its mindfulness program, it has saved about $2,000 per employee in health-care costs and gained about $3,000 per employee in productivity. Seeing stats like that inspired me to bring a mindfulness instructor into our department each month, and I can vouch that the positive effects have been worth the minimal cost.

Answering “Let’s” with “By When?”

Years ago, I was at Facebook headquarters with my buddy, Geoff Clawson (who now runs the apparel company Birdwell Beach Britches). We were talking about all of the changes happening in the digital landscape and I told him, “Let’s move some of our budgets around and really push hard with Facebook.” I looked over at him as I was overcome with excitement (passion disorder taking over), and he answered me with “By when?” I then answered with a date.

Geoff instantly made me accountable to an idea or action with one simple question. This technique was one of the influences and pieces of training that Sheryl Sandberg brought to the company as COO, and the results were incredibly impactful. All of us, no matter the generation or how highly aspirational we are, often fail to follow through with ideas, meetings, and commitments. By training our Millennial workforce to answer their “Let’s” with a “By when?” we bring instant accountability. 

“We should grab lunch or coffee soon . . .” 

“By when?” 

See, it works.

Feast of Fools?

If there’s any industry that—pardon the pun—caters to stereotypes about Millennials, it’s the restaurant industry. Take it from Robby Kukler, a founding partner of the Fifth Group Restaurants, which has more than 900 employees in Atlanta and generates nearly $50 million in annual revenue. Among this generation of instant gratification and constant distractions, a scene might play out like this: 

“I can’t come in to work at El Taco today because I have tickets to Jason Mraz.” 

(Pause) “Well, if you don’t show up today, you know you won’t have a job.” 

(Minor pause) “Okay.” 

Or like this: “I’m on my way to Chicago and won’t be coming back.” Millennials might be challenged by long commutes into the city, or parking, or caring for elderly parents. Why work in the fickle restaurant market when they could drive Über or, say, do freelance design?

Why indeed? Kukler’s ingredients for attracting and retaining Millennials—a culture that is equal parts people, community, and environment—create a job that is more than just a place to work, which is a recipe for success.

Kukler calls his restaurants “the ultimate team sport.” If you’re a server, then you’re the left guard, and don’t worry about the quarterback (cook). If we all do our job well, the whole team wins. We all make a team. Also, at the beginning of every school year, every hourly employee receives a backpack filled with supplies for each of their children in grades K through 12—names inscribed and all. Fifth Group restaurants compost and recycle religiously, have banned straws, and serve 90 percent of beer and water in cans or from the tap to reduce their environmental footprint. Restaurant managers also exercise empathy by often taking care of parking or meals for workers who commute and are let off early if business is slow.

Team training and onboarding at Fifth Group revolves around the company’s purpose and values, which drives home that it is a family taking care of one another to, therefore, better take care of its guests.

Fifth Group also exercises a key point in retaining Millennials: promote from within. Employees have risen from support servers to managers, chefs, and beyond, learning all aspects of the business from the moment they first clock in. Future restaurateur? Yes, please! It’s a learning organization, and people want to work at a Fifth Group restaurant—instead of avoiding showing up when any opportunity for distraction arises—because of this strong ethos.

Notes Kukler, “Miserable people don’t create good delicious food or go out of their way to exceed their guests expectations.”

Excerpt from “The Millennial Whisperer: The Practical, Profit-Focused Playbook for Working With and Motivating the World’s Largest Generation” by Chris Tuff. Reprinted with permission from Morgan James Publishing. Available wherever books are sold.

As one of the first marketers to work with startups such as Facebook in 2005, Chris Tuff has built his career surrounded by Millennials while becoming a sought-out leader in the digital marketing space. He’s a partner at advertising agency 22squared in Atlanta, GA, where he attracts, motivates, and whispers to Millennials every day. He is also the author of the USA Today and Los Angeles Times bestselling book “The Millennial Whisperer: The Practical, Profit-Focused Playbook for Working With and Motivating the World’s Largest Generation.” For more, visit:


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