Generational Shift: Tips on managing Millennials and Post-Millennials

Cinemas Features

Call me old-school, but as a Millennial finding myself managing Millennials and Post-Millennials, I often find these two generations intriguing amidst the work environment. From questions such as “How often does your company have happy hours?” during a job interview to proposals such as “Can we have a group reading and discussion session each morning to enhance employee productivity and happiness?” I’ve had my fair share of curveballs when dealing with my own generation as a business professional.

If you’re an exhibitor, you know that research shows that now 40% of the workforce consists of Millennials and Post-Millennials. I’m sure you realize that this is a generation you not only have to better understand to boost ticket sales but one you need to comprehend in order to run a successful business operation.

Running tech companies for the past seven years, I’ve noticed that Millennials and Post-Millennials are fascinated by the supposedly laid-back Silicon Valley startup culture. More often than not, I find myself the bearer of bad news, splashing a dose of reality on our new workforce, reminding them that most startups are not what the media makes them out to be

Luckily, throughout the years I’ve had good mentors in the exhibition space who have helped me navigate through such challenges. But to enhance my understanding as well as help shed light on how to run a more successful theatre, I reached out to a few cinema industry leaders who were willing to help with tips and tricks on how to become a better theatre manager: Bobbie Bagby, executive VP at B&B Theatres; Lucie Mann, founder and CEO of Park Plaza Theatre on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and an anonymous executive from a top-ten theatre chain.

What is the biggest difference between Millennials/Post-Millennials and other generations?

Bagby: Millennials/Post-Millennials saw their families go through a recession, so they are always looking ahead. They are definitely looking ahead more than people give them credit for. At a younger age compared to other generations, they are looking [more] at a long-term payoff than previous generations that were focused more on a stuck and predictable career path. To be successful, you need to show them that the movie industry is thriving and that there is a future in the industry.

Executive X: The work culture is changing, and in some ways Millennials/Post-Millennials see the workplace as an extension of their social lives. It almost seems like today’s companies need to have a social construct to make the work environment more inviting. If that is the case, it begs the question of whether we need NDAs to prepare for possible repercussions. We would like to bring in employees and share their talents, but when social media is involved we understand that there needs to be a mechanism in place to not tarnish our brands or theirs.

Mann: Kids don’t pay for college like they used to anymore. Oftentimes, employees join my company because they are bored or their parents told them to. I’ve noticed through my experience that when you have a kid who needs to save money for college tuition, they are usually very good. They tend to be more well-rounded and take their jobs seriously.

What are the best tips on working with Millennials/Post-Millennials?

Bagby: Keeping them engaged is very important. You have to think long-term but also short-term. Thinking small really helps and there’s no need to put pressure on doing something really big. Oftentimes we will run internal contests to keep them engaged. For example, we will buy everyone pizza or give out candy if we hit a certain per-cap number on concessions. We will also give out swag items or give out different color badges for employees who have been performing well for a longer period of time. It also helps to constantly remind Millennials/Post-Millennials of the opportunity to grow long-term since they are looking for long-term success, more so than previous generations.

Executive X: From my perspective, I believe Millennials/Post-Millennials think that all companies have a campus like Google or Facebook. It is strange, because a lot of companies are not like that. So, a suite of amenities and perks on top of the salary has become the expectation. The unemployment rate is extremely low and we are currently in a prosperous economy. Remember that working in the industry, you have an advantage. You have the ability to provide perks such as free movies and merchandise. At our company, we provide free movie tickets and that helps to keep employees happy.

Mann: I like to build a personal relationship. When I was 23, someone was willing to take me under her wing. I like to tell my employees, “This is the most important job you will ever have because we care about you.” We provide a family environment and we know we are not corporate. I’ve noticed when I hire someone from a corporate background, it doesn’t always work. It’s sometimes a bad fit. Also, sometimes it is hard to provide a family environment and keep things professional, but it has worked for me. I also like to compliment even the smallest of achievements such as rooms being clean or after a successful day, I like to have employees clap for one another and congratulate each other. It is important to be attentive and continuously show the small gestures. Millennials/Post-Millennials like that attention.

What are some tips on providing constructive criticism to Millennials/Post-Millennials?

Bagby: Empower them with information. Always explain the why. For example, when introducing a policy, start with “Here’s why we have this policy.” Millennials/Post-Millennials do not take direct direction seriously. They need to be thoroughly explained to. You can’t use your authority.

Executive X: Millennials/Post-Millennials are generally bad with criticism. We let the media raise our kids and they come into the work environment with an idea of how the world should be. We have to change our tactics. When explaining to an employee, always think what is mutually equitable. Apply some feedback to help them grow and show them how it helps them. Think about it from their perspective and what questions you would ask such as “If I have a great job, how can I continue to grow?”

Mann: It has been a journey for me. I am a fun person and at times it is difficult separating personal and professional space. You might disagree on some things, but you have to remember at the end of the day you are on the same team and you need to hash it out together. It is a continuous work-in-progress for me.

Any tips on hiring?

Bagby: Take care of your managers. If you take care of the managers, then the effect trickles down and they will take care of the rest of the staff.

Executive X: Right now, the unemployment rate is very low and the economy is strong. Remember that you are working in the movie industry and you can offer perks, merchandise and movie tickets that can’t be offered in other firms. This is very luring to Millennials/Post-Millennials that are very social.

Mann: I like to throw curveball questions. For example, I always know it is a good sign if a candidate needs to pay for college. They are much more likely to take the job seriously. I also like to ask what they like to do during the weekends. If they have an active social life and enjoy spending time with friends, my experience has taught me they are more likely to call in sick or ask for free days. Millennials/Post-Millennials are very social and I found out certain key questions can help me sniff out good candidates.

Kevin Hong is chief of business development at Sinemia and the author of The Outlier Approach.