How to Attract and Retain Millennial's in the Workforce

employee retention hiring Nov 13, 2018

This May our youngest daughter graduated high school, and like many parents, my wife and I raised our children to believe that anything is possible. We've encouraged them to pursue their dreams, to believe in themselves, help others and to make learning a lifelong habit. We all want to live life on our terms and not how mainstream society says we should, and at every opportunity, we've nurtured that creed within them. Her graduation ceremony was different in that one of the speakers was the School District Superintendent, not unusual, but I went to High School with this person and I feel we have a commonality of values and worldviews. The title of his speech was, "The Struggle is Real" and was humorous in its contrast of today's graduates vs. our graduating class. 4 weeks later my wife and I had the pleasure of attending a 2-day seminar for the parents of incoming Freshman at the university my daughter had selected to attend, this also contrasted her generation with mine. On the drive home I was thinking about the comparisons that had been drawn at these two events and the light bulb went off, the struggle is real!

We have all read the articles about millennials having entitlement issues, or as one website characterized it, millennials being "too flaky to handle". My above-mentioned daughter and her sister are of this generation, I have co-workers of this generation and I couldn't disagree more with this stereotype. By 2020, millennials will form 50% of the global workforce and per the Pew Research Center, Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation's largest living generation. This lazy, entitled, disrespectful, job hopping generation is going to change the world, and I'm excited about it.

 The question is, how do we integrate and manage them into a business culture that we are familiar and comfortable with. Maybe we don't, the world is very different than the one most of us grew up in, maybe it's time to meet them in the middle. We start with a New Hire Orientation. Every 4 or 5 weeks we bring in all the new employees and discuss our history and organizational structure and what got us here, we share our culture and how the new employee fits in, we discuss our involvement in the community and what separates us from our competition. We finish it with a catered lunch and an open conversation on the company and answer any specific questions they may have. I believe this sets the tone for our employer-employee relationship. This shows the employee where they fit into our organization and how their work can be relevant to the community they live in and how we contribute to the wider world.

Many are graduating with higher school debt and into a job market of underemployment, millennials have spent most of their adult lives living in the aftermath of the Great Recession, many have watched their parents' careers come to an abrupt halt and a lifetime of savings disappear. The perception that employers no longer present job security means many millennials feel a profession should at least be fulfilling or it simply isn't worth it. I had the opportunity to discuss employee engagement with a group of small business owners and some of their managers, one of their principal concerns was getting and keeping employees involved in the business. One report asserted disengaged employees cost companies up to $550 billion per year in lost productivity. One of the ideas that came out of that discussion was setting up a community involvement committee. As a group, millennials put an emphasis on social responsibility and will look for employment with a company whose concerns match theirs. In a Deloitte Millennial Survey, six in 10 respondents said a "sense of purpose" is part of the reason they chose their current employer. Instead of sponsoring a charity event chosen by the owner, why not ask for employee volunteers who would be interested in selecting events and charities in the community that the company should be involved with. The committee would determine how to allocate the funds and who would attend the different events. If someone is passionate about something they tell their friends, they post it on their Facebook page, it gets discussed with their coworkers, if they're excited their involved and the people around them become excited and involved, and word spreads through the community. The end result is you've done something that has benefited others, positioned your business in a favorable light and created a rewarding environment for the employees within your company.

There is a shift from the conventional opinion of on the job training in today's world and company training programs need to meet the expectations of a generation who view their time as a resource that needs to be managed, not only in developing the skills necessary to grow professionally but also personally. In the above mentioned Millennial Survey, 75% of respondents believed their employers should place an emphasis on developing future leaders. Mark Stoever, Chief Operating Officer of Monster Worldwide, commented in a post that "Training and development is one of the top three benefits they (millennials) value most from an employer". Creating a program that allows for the development of employees at all stages of their careers would go a long way in attracting and retaining desirable candidates. We have our own Path to Excellence, that lays out each process or skill that is expected from an employee, to go from a General Service role to becoming a Store Manager. Promotion to a Corporate level position are Store Managers who excelled in this program and are given further training, such as project management, leadership and team building or a specific skill set needed for their new duties. Every new employee is given milestones and expectations they need to meet to be considered for advancement. They can travel that Path to Excellence at their speed as far as they want to go.

I overheard a conversation between a couple of industry guys criticizing the younger techs as being too lazy to do handwritten courtesy inspections on paper. The reality was, they're not lazy, they happen to be masters of digital communication and saw the existing inspection process as outdated and ineffective. Once the shop owner made the investment into a digital inspection program, the ARO of the shop increased significantly. Â This also represents another value of what millennials desire in the workplace, the opportunity to teach skills to older coworkers as well as learn from them. Understanding the reason for the "bad behavior" led to a correction that benefited everyone one in the shop in the form of a streamlined process, increased productivity and ultimately profit.

We have all experienced the Technician shortage to some degree and lamented the fact that millennials aren't entering our industry like prior generations, the truth is our business is suffering from an assortment of stereotypes that have been prevalent since I was a kid. Having hot fluids run down your arm, busted knuckles, freezing in the winter and sweltering in the summer is not sexy. Add to this the belief that the auto repair industry is an occupation rather than a profession and you begin to see why they aren't entering our industry, I wouldn't either.

Stereotyping is never a good thing, especially when it comes to recruiting talent with industry-specific experience, enthusiasm, and competence. There has never been a better time for an apprentice program. We met with a local Technical school and arranged to have a small group of students interviewed for open apprentice positions at our company. The school chooses who gets interviewed based on what we call the straight A's;

  • Attendance
  • Attitude
  • Appearance
  • Awesome work ethic

This group is then interviewed by upper Management and our Shop Foremen and a decision is made on who is offered a paid position as an apprentice with the company. The idea is to model their on the job training with the school's curriculum, they get the book learning in a classroom and the real-world experience in our shops. In the end, we get an employee who is accustom to our processes and culture and ready to fill an open Tech position within the company. We accompany this with a retention program that requires 5 years of employment to collect. Throughout their career, with us, they are exposed to and offered training at every available opportunity. This program allows us to fill position needs internally rather than having to go into a hiring scramble outside the company.

These programs allow us to tap into our employee's interests and professional goals while advancing a culture that nurtures new ways of working, mentoring and developing leadership skills. It is my goal that our company becomes known for our career development by providing our employees with strong technical and leadership programs at every level in our organization.

A company's culture starts with how everyone in the organization is treated from the top down in pursuit of the company's vision or mission. If we can ensure that everyone is treated with respect, looked at as an individual and not a generation of individuals, that we value them for their experience, and are considerate of their needs and professional desires then we will be able to attract and develop the talent we need to grow, both today and in the future.

This generation will colonize the moon, walk on Mars and find a cure for cancer. They're changing the world and I'm excited for them. The struggle is real, however, we need to recognize the struggle is a series of frustrating circumstances that began when we raised our children to believe that anything is possible, encouraged them to pursue their dreams, to believe in themselves, to help others, to make learning a lifelong habit and to live life on their terms and not how mainstream society says they should. It seems the kids were listening when we thought they weren't.