Nurturing millennial employees key to future success

Contrary to conventional wisdom, millennial workers, those ages 19 to 36, can stick with their employers, according to the Pew Research Center and recently released government data. They also are better educated and more likely to hold a college degree than previous generations. College-educated millennials, in fact, have longer track records with employers than Generation X workers did in 2000 when they were the same age as today’s 20-30 somethings.

In the current environment, how do we keep this new breed of worker happy and how do we attract them in the first place? Workforce development is the No. 1 issue facing nearly every organization in the region, regardless of size. At Velvet Ice Cream, we wrestle with this same issue.

Assess all skills

The key to a quality workforce is creating a culture of multi-generational employees where millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers work side by side. While workers from diverse eras may experience some ideological gaps, at Velvet, we all attempt to understand and celebrate our differences.

Part of that strategy includes encouraging managers to get to know employees on a personal basis. As a result, our company has reaped rewards beyond our primary goal of employee recruitment and retention.

For example, Olivia Toth, front desk manager, is an under-40 employee. Her creativity made her an invaluable team member, but we discovered she puts that same creativity to work as a chalkboard artist and in a side business making stationary. Thus, we tapped those talents to redesign the menu chalkboards in our restaurant at Ye Olde Mill, which our guests have noticed and love. She also designed stationary for Velvet. Olivia feels additional validation and we benefit from homegrown talent.

Freedom to succeed

In addition to knowing the skills workers possess, empower them to suggest and make process and other improvements. Another under-40 team member, Procurement Specialist Whittney Barrett, helped identify and implement new technology to streamline our procurement process, saving both time and money.

Younger workers Beau Liming, Ryan Bickle and Jordan Link recently joined our production team. They bring a new perspective and energy to the department, helping senior team members see the process of making ice cream with fresh eyes.

That energy is spreading throughout Licking County. With the full support of Velvet, Marketing Manager Nathan Arnold joined other young professionals to lead the creation of Young Leaders of Licking County, fostering leadership development, philanthropy and networking among the region’s best and brightest.


Identify hidden talents and skill sets, especially in newer employees and those under 40, by helping employees get to know one another. Use team-building events and exercises such as a company-wide breakfast, food truck lunch, etc., that let personalities shine and get people talking. And encourage young workers to donate their time and talent outside of your doors. They’ll develop leadership skills that they bring back to the company, benefitting all.

Such efforts bring generations together and build a culture that’s attractive to the next generation of employees whose energy can move your company forward.


Luconda Dager is the president of Velvet Ice Cream. Family-owned and operated since it was founded in 1914, Luconda is the fourth generation to run her family’s company in Utica. In addition to leading the company’s tremendous growth, Luconda is a frequent speaker and author, sharing her experiences and ideas with the region’s and her industry’s business community.