By Bridget McCrea
Nearly half of your millennial workforce would leave within two years, given the opportunity. How will you keep them from jumping ship?
Given the choice, 44 percent of millennials would leave their current employer in the next two years. Move that timeline four years out and the percentage of younger workers (between 20 and 36 years old this year) that has its eye on the “next best thing” rises to a whopping 66 percent, according to a new Deloitte survey. “While pay is important, it’s clear that millennials won’t stay with companies for money alone,” said David Cruickshank, Deloitte’s global chairman, in Why Millennials Have no Problem Quitting Their Jobs.
According to job website Indeed, millennials make up the largest percentage of working people who look at other job opportunities. In fact, the younger and more educated workers are, the more likely they are actively exploring new opportunities. This presents key challenges for electrical distributors who put time, money, and energy into training workers on the fine points of how to market, sell, and support a fairly wide range of technical products.
But all is not lost. According to Billie Blair, Ph.D., president and CEO at Change Strategists, Inc., in Los Angeles and author of Value Plus: Employees as Valuers, says there are some specific strategies that distributors can use to keep their millennial employees onboard for more than just two to four years. The tips are particularly relevant for electrical distributors that need more than just 12 to 24 months to get new millennial employees trained and up to speed on their jobs, products, services, and customers.
Six Ways to Keep Them Onboard
Here are six strategies that Blair says companies should use when recruiting, training, and/or retaining millennial workers:
- Accept the fact that technical skills may be lacking. Millennials know about technology and many of them are very highly educated and ready for the work world, but they may not necessarily have the technical skills needed to do a good job in the electrical distribution field. “As a whole, younger recruits will have fewer skills than their older counterparts,” says Blair. “They may know technology, but unless they’re getting a job in Silicon Valley, they’re going to need quite a bit of technical training.”
- Don’t overlook the soft skills. In addition to technical skills, your younger recruits are going to need help polishing their soft skills—which include problem solving, communication, conflict resolution, critical observation, and other things that they don’t necessarily teach in school. “Employment experts agree that tech skills may get you an interview, but these soft skills will get you the job—and help you keep it,” according to Monster, which point out that like any skill, soft skills can be learned by taking courses (i.e., in verbal communications), pairing up new recruits with mentors, and by having millennials participate in volunteer opportunities (e.g., with a nonprofit organization).
- Understand that Millennials may need more care and feeding. Through no fault of its own, the millennial generation was a bit pampered. Ferried from school to soccer practice by parents—and equipped with state of the art technology from a young age—this generation may need a bit more hand-holding during its first few years on the job. “This is a generation that got trophies for participation while in school, and that expects the same treatment in the work world,” says Blair. Rather than seeing this as a burden, she says distributors can use recognition, training, and even mentoring arrangements to make younger employees feel engaged, wanted, and valued. And try to make the training process fun, interesting, and engaging, says Blair. “Be patient and be willing to put the time into training and cultivating them. It will pay off.”
- Don’t bore them to death. “Millennials tend to get bored and give up easily,” says Blair. “Don’t take it personally. It’s nothing personal and not a specific response to their bosses or company owners. It’s just a trait of the generation.” You can circumvent this issue by tapping into the millennial employee’s desire for challenge, change, and interaction. “They seek ever-changing tasks within their work. What’s happening next is their mantra,” writes Susan M. Heathfield in 7 More Tips for Managing Millennials,“so don’t bore them, ignore them, or trivialize their contributions.”
- Open the lines of communication. Don’t expect your millennial employees to jump into their new roles and do a great job. A collaborative, communicative bunch, these folks enjoy talking, chatting, using social networking, and the like. They also love feedback, according to Billie, who advises “old school” managers and supervisors to work on developing better, two-way communications with their millennial workers. “Talk to them about what they know and what they don’t know and help them fill in the gaps,” says Blair. “Otherwise, they literally won’t have a clue about how they are doing.” Hint: Positive feedback is of course always welcomed, but Blair cautions distributors to temper negative feedback during evaluations and other reviews. “Talk about the good things and the negative things (by, for example, bringing up ‘areas of potential improvement’), without focusing too much on the latter,” she says.
- Don’t use money as the only retention tool. Everyone likes to be compensated fairly for their work, but millennials need more. They want to feel appreciated and know that—at least to some degree—their ideas and input are being valued. “For younger workers, money is not the ‘be all end all’ that it may have been for the rest of us,” says Blair. “They’re more enticed by achievement.” Because of this, training becomes that much more important for millennials. Blair advises distributors to plan out that training time and to try to customize it (as much as possible) to the specific worker and role. Decide how long the training will last (six weeks, three months, etc.) and break larger topics down into smaller, digestible chunks. “Look at it like lesson planning and teaching,” says Blair. “If you can get good at this, it will catapult your distributorship well beyond your competitors—most of which don’t do this at all.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.
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