It is interesting how our memories can deceive us. At this year’s conference, I chaired a fascinating masterminds session on understanding the mindset of Millennials and post-Millennial generations. Compared to those who came before, they fare badly. Apparently, pre-Millennials had the work ethic – willing to put in 12 to 15-hour days, stay late to learn, even to clean. They spent all their money on education.
But those young people who have grown up logged in and online 24/7, who sleep with their phone on their pillow and think nothing of browsing Instagram for hours on end, are believed to be the opposite. Apparently they lack ambition and patience – but wasn’t that what our parents’ generation said about ours? All they want to do is check the box and then get back to their cell-phones. After all, aren’t they the epitome of the new digital age, where constant and instant connectivity is the norm?
There are stark differences between those born before and after the arrival of the internet, but I’m convinced it is more their experience rather than their attitude which differs. I know many incredibly ambitious, hard-working 20-year-olds. If there is a divide, isn’t it up to us to bridge it? If we want to engage this new generation, we need to understand them and the impact technology has had.
Stephen Szabo of Szabo Salons in Pennsylvania rightly quoted US philosopher Wayne Dyer during the session: ‘If you can change the way you look at things, things begin to change.’
Nearly everyone in the session agreed, we need to modernize if we want to inspire and engage this new generation. The old way involved controlling them, with everything centralized in the company, but we can’t do that any more. They have grown up expressing themselves in the public arena. We can’t gag them; instead we must give them their time in the spotlight. Let them promote themselves and their salon.
They can be impatient; they know only a world where there is instant communication and, often, instant gratification. They are constantly being told they have the expertise to move the world forward if only they could rip it from our hands, so they have expectations. But our job as nurturing employers looking to develop the next talent is to manage those expectations by giving them the tools to develop. We need to communicate with them on the channels they use. We need to give them clear parameters and goals so they know exactly what they need to do before they can move on to the next stage. We need to give them the freedom and flexibility to express themselves while on that journey.
At The Charles Penzone Salons, we have introduced a system where team members each have an individual social media profile within the group’s corporate identity, using the group to promote their own profile. We actively encourage them to interact with their clients, because, let’s be honest, they are going to do it anyway and we can’t let our fear of them stealing clients block the ultimate promotional tool we have. And it is an amazing promotional tool. Since we introduced individual Instagram accounts for our team, we have seen a massive shift in referral patterns. Nowadays our biggest source of new clients across all locations is Instagram, which we’ve enabled so potential clients can see a post and then book direct with that stylist.
The opportunity image-based networks offers our industry is huge, and those young people, those digital natives, know exactly how to work it. And those businesses that have moved their mindset from judgemental to welcoming are the ones that will reap the benefits.