Making the most of millennials

Franchises ignore the millennial generation at their peril, warns Annabel Jones, HR director at ADP UK

Making the most of millennials

The millennial generation, known to some as Gen Y, has been centre stage over recent years. And marketers, recruiters and employers are struggling to understand this new and powerful demographic group.

Roughly defined as those born between the years 1980 and 2000, millennials make up a large and diverse collection of around 17 million people across the UK, some of whom are well into their working lives and others who are yet to start their careers. But that diversity hasn’t stopped market researchers and pop psychologists categorising and generalising millennials, attributing them various characteristics based on their year of birth.

Described as selfish, entitled, narcissistic and lazy – to name but a few – you would be forgiven for wanting to give this generation a wide berth. But, with other studies arguing that young people today are in fact fairly similar to how they have always been, it is just the rest of us that are getting older. So it’s fair to say that many of these sweeping generalisations should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Either way, it is undeniable that millennials are the future, with research showing they make up almost a quarter of the workforce. This is no less the case in the franchise industry, which has grown by 20% in the last five years. To ensure this growth is sustainable and is accompanied by continued innovation, successfully engaging and attracting millennials is essential.

Without a doubt, recruitment is the single biggest challenge facing franchisors, with research from the British Franchise Association (bfa) showing it takes on average 250 leads and 25 interviews to sign up each new franchisee.

This is partly because recruiting for franchisees is a complicated business, with franchise owners looking for the right skillset, an understanding of the business and commitment, not to mention the right personality fit with the franchise owners. Identifying new recruits can be time-consuming and expensive, so getting it right is crucial. New franchisees will be the face and guardians of the brand so franchisors must be confident that they can be trusted for the long-term.

In a bid to simplify the process, it can be easy for franchisors to recruit in their own image or based on an idea of what makes a successful franchisee. This, however, could mean younger candidates are overlooked. Rather than safeguarding the future of the franchise, this approach could be endangering it through stifling the new ideas, innovation and energy that comes with recruiting younger people into the business.

The figures back up this trend: in 2013, only 7% of franchisees were under the age of 30, down from 10% in 2005. Meanwhile, the largest group is still the over-50 bracket, with over a third of franchisees falling within this age group.

So what can millennials bring to the franchise industry? While there are some negative claims about the work ethic and attitude of millennial employees, a number of studies highlight various positive traits prevalent among members of the younger generation, making them the perfect candidates for franchising.


Research of millennials has shown that they are more likely to dream of being their own boss than climbing the corporate ladder. Joining or starting a franchise business is a perfect way for them to do this.


The majority of millennials have grown up with technology, making it second nature for them to use the latest gadgets, apps and systems to help grow their franchise. They may well think of solutions that older franchisees miss or simply don’t know about.


First and foremost, millennials are driven by their principles, with more than 50% saying they would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values. This could be a valuable attribute for franchisors if they can engage millennials in the wider mission and purpose of their business.


Millennials have a positive attitude towards innovation, viewing it as a science that can be learned and that is repeatable rather than random and spontaneous. This bodes well for those franchisors looking to build and develop their business in the future.

Hungry to learn

Millennials truly value continuous learning opportunities, meaning they will be receptive to expanding their knowledge of the business. Training and development is crucial when getting franchisees up and running so with millennials the information shouldn’t fall on deaf ears.


Despite millennials being painted as disloyal job-hoppers, research has shown this could be exaggerated, with eight in ten millennial employees thinking they will work for just four employers throughout their careers.

Annabel Jones
Annabel Jones