This blog is part of our case study blog series featuring our portfolio companies. We asked Weichun Liu, co-founder of KKDay, a leading travel e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia, to share her insights on how KKDay harnesses the power of its millennial workforce to drive growth.

Millennials are often stereotyped as either lazy and self-absorbed or industrious and entrepreneurial. Research confirms that they fall into the latter camp, but no matter how they’re categorized, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that by 2020, their demographic will make up 35 percent of the global workforce.

So how can companies attract, hire and retain this newest legion of global workers? First, it’s important to understand that millennials are happiest in the workplace when they care about the people they work with—in short, they want their co-workers to feel like their second family. Rather than separate work from their personal lives, they desire a workplace that fosters relationships and meaningful connections. 

Our company, KKDay— a leading travel e-commerce platform that connects travellers and local tour providers—strives to do just that. From the second our new hires set foot in one of our new offices, they are mentored by veterans on our team. More importantly, no matter how early they are in their careers, our hires are treated as assets capable of making valuable contributions to our company. We treat our young employees like family, trusting them to develop products that speak to their values and ultimately influence the spending of other millennials. 

Hire more millennials

Soon after KKDay was founded in 2014, we received a note via LinkedIn from a 20-year-old customer saying that she wanted to work for us. KKDay develops exciting travel experiences that range from bus tours and trips to theme parks to spa packages and Muay Thai classes, and it was clear from our customer’s note that she was smart, motivated, filled to the brim with great ideas and, more importantly, wasn’t just looking for a job, but was also very passionate about our company. 

Unlike some of our competitors who simply sell tickets, KKDay strives to offer truly great experiences by working with a select number of the best tour operators. Although we could have hired more experienced employees, our young customer’s enthusiasm for our unique products was contagious. We took a gamble on her, trained her at our Taiwan office and after six months, sent her to Hong Kong, where she built up an entire team. Today, Hong Kong is our second largest market. This shows that if you give young people a chance, they can outshine more seasoned and experienced employees.

In the old days of hiring, companies visited college campuses or job fairs to attract younger workers. KKDay also does this, but in addition to traditional recruitment processes, we also scour LinkedIn posts, solicit referrals from our existing young employees and regularly attend and give talks at incubator or accelerator events, which often attract a lot of innovative young talent.

Develop products aligned with millennial values

Although about half of KKDay’’s employees are experienced industry veterans, our founder also had the foresight to hire a fresh batch of graduates. This young blood has worked very hard for us, but more importantly, just like the woman we hired to build a team in Hong Kong, they are also a large segment of our company’s overall audience. Therefore, it makes sense that we use them to help us to develop new products.

After a big brainstorming session, members of our young team came back with a proposed product called ID Photo Service. The product was simple: Customers could purchase professional ID photo services that included hair, makeup and photo editing, ensuring that passport and other travel photos were portrait-perfect. The non-millennials on our team thought the idea was a little wacky—who on earth would pay money for professional passport photos, we wondered—but our young team was emphatic it would take off, and so we injected money into product development. 

Despite our apprehensions, the product took off. Today, it’s one of our hottest-selling products. As it turned out, our millennial talents knew a lot more about the millennial market than the older members on our team. 

Allowing millennials the freedom to develop products hits two birds with one stone. Not only does it lead to new, innovative products, but it also helps retain employees. In the United States, 90 percent of millennials want to advance their careers with their employers, and 86 percent of them say that they’ll stay with companies that offer them career training and development. Meanwhile, millennials in Southeast Asia seek opportunities that increase their tech skills in order to get jobs and outperform their parents. 

In my industry, this matters a lot—80 percent of the current workforce in many Asian travel companies is comprised of millennials, and 49 percent of these millennials chose their current job based on opportunities for career progression. I’ve found that delegating responsibility to my young employees is a great way to keep them engaged and learning as well as loyal to KKDay.

Using micro-influencers to drive engagement with potential customers

Although millennials are often criticized for their obsession with technology and eco-centricity, my company applauds these traits. After all, our employees with these attributes help drive sales in our company.

Generally, when we think of influencers, it’s primarily celebrities and social gurus with millions of followers who come to mind. Yet micro-influencers—who have, depending on who you ask, a couple thousand to 500,000 followers on social media—are highly effective at driving engagement with potential customers. As a matter of fact, marketing campaigns run by micro-influencers are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than campaigns led by celebrity macro-influencers.

Many of our young employees, for example, are micro-influencers, complete with b-blogs (business blogs) and social media accounts. When we are thinking of partnering with new tour providers and destinations, we first ask our millennial micro-influencer employees to post photos to their social media accounts. Then, we wait to see what sort of reaction those posts receive. If many followers like posts and ask questions such as, “where is this?” or write things like, “I want to go there!”, then we know we have a hit product on our hands. 

In the face of a new millennial workforce, it’s not enough to just hire millennials as minions. Forward-thinking companies must also trust them to develop ideas and products, as well as provide them with plenty of opportunities for their own career growth. In other words, we must treat millennials not just as grunts or as entry-level employees, but as industrious, integral stakeholders. KKDay takes this one step further by treating our millennial workforce like family. This is the catalyst that helps them feel the sort of excitement necessary to broadcast the products and ideas they helped to create to others in their generation—or our customers.