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5 Ways to Keep Your Millennial Employees Happy at Work

By Bridget McCrea

With millennials on track to comprise 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, electrical distributors need to step up their recruiting, initiation, and retention strategies for the under-36 employee pool.

By 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Born between 1980 and 2000 – and currently age 16 to 36 – this generation is 75-million strong, tech-savvy, and ready to take on the workforce. That means it’s time for the electrical distribution industry to start looking more closely at how to most effectively attract, recruit, and retain these younger workers – most of whom are not following in their parents’ footsteps on factors like company loyalty, job choice and roles, and preferred communication methods. These factors can all play an important part in a distributor’s ability to find the right millennial employees, train and nurture them properly, and keep them onboard for the long haul.

The Same, But Different
There’s no shortage of media attention being given to the millennial generation and how it differs from its predecessors – particularly when it comes to work and careers. “millennials are idealistic, they are demanding, they will insist that their employers are good corporate citizens, environmentally green and ethical,” said generational consultant Chuck Underwood in The Millennials: Who They Are, And Why They Are A Force to be Reckoned With. “In many ways, they are exactly like the Baby Boomers and that’s not an accident. Most have Boomers for parents and they absorbed their parents’ values.”

Millennials, in general, express little loyalty to their current employers and many are planning near-term exits, according to a recent millennial Survey from Deloitte. “This remarkable absence of allegiance represents a serious challenge to any business employing a large number of millennials, especially those in markets like the U.S., where millennials now represent the largest segment of the workforce. However, because most young professionals choose organizations that share their personal values, it’s not too late for employers to overcome this ‘loyalty challenge.'”

Five Strategies to Start Using Right Now
Here are five ways electrical distributors can improve their chances at overcoming the “loyalty challenge” and do a better job of finding, recruiting, and retaining millennial workers for the long haul:

  1. Get them involved in things that really matter. This is not a generation that wants to punch a clock and take home a paycheck. Millennial employees want to be able to fulfill some task that they are uniquely qualified for, according to The Training Industry’s How to Engage Millennials in the Workplace.“They aim for positions where they feel that their skills will be put to use so they can best help the company. Managers can keep their millennials motivated by providing career training opportunities and stressing opportunities for advancement.” Electrical distributors can leverage this need by getting younger workers involved in decision making, innovation, expansion plans, and other activities that truly contribute to the company’s wellbeing and bottom line.
  2. Tap into their innovative thinking skills. The millennial generation enjoys contributing to corporate innovation, creative initiatives, and other activities that stroke their innovative thinking skills. By simply setting up an internal website that staff can use to contribute ideas, offer up suggestions, and point out untapped opportunities, distributors can take advantage of these skills – and maybe even learn something new in the process.
  3. Let them be tech-savvy. Unlike previous generations, millennials can’t even comprehend what the world would be like without desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, and the Internet. Rather than trying to fight their natural inclination to use technology for everything, distributors should embrace this fact and see it as a sign to “get up with the times” on the technology front. And if veteran employees balk at the idea of using text to communicate – or, creating a Vine video to show off a new product application at a customer site – pair them up with younger workers in a mentor-mentee relationship. They’ll learn from one another while helping to infuse more technology usage into the workplace.
  4. Create an “intrapreneurship” program. The majority of millennials say they want the opportunity to learn new skills and freedom from their managers,” writes Money’s Farnoosh Torabi in 4 Ways to Make Millennials Happier at Work.“They want to own their projects from start to finish. To that end, an ‘intrapreneurship’ program—where you encourage workers to develop ideas for new products and services in an in-house incubator—can go a long way in keeping millennials happy.” Torabi points to LinkedIn, Google and Lockheed Martin as examples of companies that have their own versions of this kind of program. Here’s how it works: Employees come up with a business plan and pitch it to executives. For millennials, such projects offer the best of both worlds—they get to experiment freely like entrepreneurs but within the comforting structure of a 9 to 5 job.
  5. Strive to create balance. Your millennial employees want a healthy work-life balance – a goal that can be difficult to attain in the busy electrical distribution industry. Close to 80 percent of millennials surveyed are part of dual-income couples in which both work full time, and surveys continually reveal that these younger workers want flexibility in where, when, and how they work. In fact, Ernst & Young’s most recent Global Generations Report found that most millennials would take a pay cut, forgo a promotion or be willing to move to manage work-life demands better.

“Wanting flexibility or work-life balance is the number one reason why people are looking for a new job, by far,” said TorchLight’s Heidi Parsont, in Millennials want a work-life balance.“But companies still see it as making an exception. It’s still not the norm.” This presents a great opportunity for the distribution firm that’s willing to “break the mold” and test out new work arrangements that cater to the millennials’ ongoing goal of achieving work-life balance (e.g., comp days, flex time, gym memberships, on-site child care, crisis support, etc.).

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.


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