Don’t believe the negative stereotypes you hear about the younger generation of workers.
As the Baby Boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — retire in droves, and Generation X — born between 1965 and the late 1970s — is for the most part solidly entrenched in jobs and careers, it is likely the next employee you hire will be a millennial. Also called Gen Y, this group was born sometime between the early 1980s and 2000.
Not all members of a generation are alike, but understanding the general characteristics that define millennials can help you recruit and retain one of these “special snowflakes,” as the millennials are sometimes called because of what their elders perceive as a pampered upbringing.
No, it’s not impossible to find loyal help among the almost 80 million millennials in the nation. Jason Dorsey, researcher at The Center for Generational Kinetics based in Austin, Texas, says members of Gen Y can become valuable, loyal, high-performing employees.
“What’s most interesting is that these high-value outcomes are not tied to compensation,” Dorsey writes on his all-things-millennials website, jasondorsey.com.
Retention is key
Finding good millennial employees is just the beginning, however. Keeping millennials as employees is the bigger challenge. Millennials are the first generation to enter the workforce with no expectation of being employed their entire working lives by the same company. This attitude shift was caused more by economic changes than lack of desire.
They have seen too many of their parents and older family members “downsized” from companies after decades of loyalty to ever expect a gold watch at age 65 from the company that hired them at 20. A joint survey of human resources professionals by the research and consulting firm Millennials Branding and the job and career website Beyond.com reported that 45 percent of companies experience higher turnover with millennials than with older generations.
If your company is struggling to fill job openings and retain good young employees, here are some tips to help you land quality millennials and strategies for keeping them:
- Provide a clear career path. Millennials are more likely to accept a position and stick with it if they can see room for advancement. Share success stories with them about employees who started at the bottom and moved into management positions. Also show them the big picture of opportunity for success in the industry, perhaps by sharing your own story of how you built your business from the ground up and now own multiple trucks and have a large number of employees.
- Answer their “why” questions with honesty, transparency. In many ways, this generation never outgrew the persistent asking of “why?” that started when they were 3 or 4 years old. They have no problem following rules if there’s a good reason for the rules. “Because we’ve always done it this way,” is not an acceptable reason for anything to a typical millennial. They also appreciate financial transparency, accepting limits on expenditures when presented with facts about profit margins.
- Tear down walls and rework the organizational chart. Millennials want fewer layers of management and fewer walls between management and nonmanagement. A “we’re all in this together” team attitude is more attractive.
- Make mentorship a two-way street. Realize younger workers have knowledge to share with older workers, especially when it comes to technology.
- Beef up your brand. Millennials grew up eating Happy Meals and wearing branded clothing from head to toe. They can be extremely brand loyal and will be impressed with a potential employer who does branding right.
- Have a strong digital presence and up-to-date technology. A job candidate will Google your company before even scheduling an interview, and if all they find is an amateurish and aging website, they will definitely be turned off. Seeing that a company uses up-to-date technology and is active on social media platforms is attractive to young employees. Someone who is skilled in using the latest accounting software will not want to work for someone who still fills out ledgers by hand and uses an adding machine.
- Appreciate them. Maybe it’s because they didn’t keep score and everyone got participation trophies in their youth soccer days, but many in this generation seem to need frequent validation. Appreciating an employee who goes above and beyond will enhance company loyalty.
- Stress safety. Members of this generation were strapped into booster seats until they were practically driving age and wore bike helmets as a matter of course. Safety is second nature to them. They were fussed over as kids and expect high levels of protection on the job as adults too. Seeing your workers in questionable safety situations or flagrantly breaking safety rules will be a real turn-off for this generation.
- Brag about community involvement and environmental awareness. This generation wants to contribute to society. Many were required to perform community service in middle or high school and the lesson stuck. They value volunteerism and charitable giving, and want to be a part of a company that does too. This generation is also environmentally aware. They’ve been sorting recyclables their whole lives. Tout the role the portable sanitation industry plays globally in saving water and protecting the environment.
- Be more flexible. Millennials place a high value on a flexible work schedule. This might mean allowing office workers to work from home occasionally or scheduling jobs in slower times so workers can put in four 10-hour days and enjoy a three-day weekend. Maybe it means allowing a young dad time off during the day to volunteer at his daughter’s preschool and make up the time later in the week. In general, millennials think about work differently, but work just as hard as anyone if they feel respected.
Get to work
Millennials are now the majority generation in the U.S. workforce. If you are from a slightly older generation and want the company you built to endure, you’re probably going to have to adapt to their way of working. You may just find your company is better and stronger because of the changes they inspire. And if you are a hardworking millennial, there should be plenty of opportunity out there for you if you can be a little patient with those that came before you. And don’t forget to wear your helmet.