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A New Approach to Managing Millennials in the Workforce: Podcast #39

Today, I’m excited to share with you a conversation with Geoff Goodman, President of Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt. Having held other executive positions for Bruster’s Ice Cream and Cici’s Pizza, Geoff has a whole new stance on how to manage and lead the next generation. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.

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Tim Elmore: With Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt being on college campuses and in communities, certainly you want to generate profits and grow the organization; but I love the fact that you have a heart for the next generation. You’re a dad, and you care about the young people that are working at Orange Leaf. How does that play out in your leadership?

Geoff Goodman: I believe businesses that focus on making a difference, make dollars in the long run. One of my particular passions is being a leader to young people to help them get a start in their career path. I was fortunate to have great mentors who gave great advice—some solicited and some not. I have developed a real passion towards investing in young people. Should they so choose to engage with us, it allows them to gain value beyond simply working for a paycheck.

Tim: Absolutely, that’s one of the things I like about you, Geoff. You understand that in today’s corporate world there are new challenges. I’m hearing from managers and executives who are mourning over the turnover rates—these kids don’t stay any place very long. Set the stage for your theories and the innovative ways you are approaching these young employees.

Geoff: So many companies focus on preventing turnover. It’s talked about in such a negative light. I flipped the equation in the way that I looked at it. We are now trying to increase turnover at our stores. I have embraced the fact that our workforce is transitory. We know that our young employees aren’t going to work for us for more than three years. We’ve chosen to see their time with us as an opportunity to become known as “America’s best first job.”

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Tim: I love that you are striving be “America’s best first job.” In this approach, what are some of the practical ways you invest in these first job team members?

Geoff: We endeavor to build relationships with them, which opens up our ability to influence them during the course of their work experience. We also offer course material to them where they learn: how to dress for success, how to interview, how to write a resume, how to create a LinkedIn profile, how to read a PNL statement, etc. What we are trying to do is make them more employable—through mentorship, or some form of coaching.

Tim: Absolutely. What you’ve just described creates a contagious culture. So I have one last question. What advice would you give to a Baby Boomer or Gen X manager who leads young people about how to lead them well?

Geoff: We didn’t grow up the way this generation did. Trying to change their mentality just isn't going work, but we can attempt to understand them. For example: many managers try taking the phones out of the young people’s hands. Compared to when we grew up, that’s like taking our wallet when we got to work. So, since it’s really not an option to take away their phone, give them a productive way to use it. We are developing an app where young people can access the course work we offer. That's just one example that shows the difference between changing and embracing Millennials.

Tim: The thought that went across my mind as you were saying this is, these young people are learning just in time, not just in case. They often sit in a classroom and think they will hardly ever use what they learn. Learning and experiencing are very different. I love that you have a laboratory for showing, not instructing, and that you let them try it out for themselves.

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A New Approach to Managing Millennials in the Workforce: Podcast #39