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Courting and Keeping Younger Employees: Climbing the Success Ladder

In this series of articles, tED Magazine explores a problem that continues to plague this industry – finding young people to hire, train and equip to lead this industry. To obtain valuable insights on the topic, tED spoke with our 30 Under 35 honorees, both past and present. Our interviewees have some great advice on how to find new employees, how they were kept engaged by their current employers, and what the industry has to offer Millennials. Here are their stories.

By Bridget McCrea

Michael Parmenter was just 18 years old when he started working in the electrical distribution industry. Fresh out of vocational school (with an electrical concentration), he initially worked for a contractor whose business slowed down to the point where Parmenter was forced to look for alternate employment. “I was offered a job working at the counter for Hampden Zimmerman Electric Supply Co. – a distributor that we were dealing with,” says Parmenter, branch manager for Needham Electric Supply’s Greenfield, Mass., location. “I’ve been on the distribution side of the industry ever since.”

For his six years with Hampden Zimmerman, Parmenter accumulated both inside and outside sales experience. He joined Needham Electric with the intention of leveraging both of those skillsets while also training to become a branch manager. When it came time to open a new location in Greenfield, Parmenter was moved into the role of assistant branch manager. “I had basically proven myself both with inside and outside sales, so they knew that I could handle the responsibility,” says Parmenter, who took over as manager in April 2013.

Parmenter says one thing that’s kept him interested and engaged in the electrical distribution industry are the 12 hours of training that are required by Needham Electric on an annual basis. He’s taken courses through NAED, IMark Group, and Associated Industries of Massachusetts and says the training has helped him stay on the forefront of the ever-changing electrical distribution industry. “We can pick the courses ourselves; if you find something that you feel will really benefit the company, then they’re all for it,” says Parmenter. “That’s one of the best things about this firm.”

The Young Kid on the Block
Being a 28-year-old branch manager isn’t always easy. In fact, Parmenter often finds himself handing down directions and orders to much older employees who aren’t always receptive to his ideas and plans. “I have employees who are twice my age and who have been in this industry as long as I’ve been alive,” Parmenter explains, noting that the time spent working on both inside and outside sales helped him establish himself as a competent, reliable manager. “Because I transitioned from being a salesman, people could see that I knew what I was doing and that I could indeed be the ‘boss.’ That’s made things a little easier.”

Parmenter, who has so far hired three new individuals to fill the ranks at his branch, says one of the best moves he’s made was to join the board at his local vocational school, Franklin Tech. In that role, he’s able to work directly with potential job candidates who, for example, work on solar and LED projects as seniors. “We work together with the students on all of their senior projects,” Parmenter explains. “Right now, for instance, we’re trying to find a happy medium between the people who run the airport and the school that wants to install lighting on its football field (which is next door to the airport).”

Through those interactions, Parmenter gets the chance to create ties with up-and-coming electricians in the community. Some are hired by local electricians (who, in turn, buy goods and services from Needham Electric) while others intern and/or job shadow with some of the distributor’s contractor-customers. “It’s a win-win situation either way,” says Parmenter, who sees vocational school as good training ground for future, young distribution employees. “When someone already has an interest in the industry, it makes it easier to get them involved and engaged at a younger age.”

Get to the Point
When reaching out to recruit younger workers, Parmenter says distributors should focus not only on the interview process but also on exactly what those candidates have to offer – something that’s not always readily obvious during the first or second contact. Social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and even Twitter can help paint a clearer picture of the candidate and his or her experience and aptitudes, for example.

In certain cases, Parmenter says he’s run into job candidates who weren’t 100 percent candid with their responses and input. “A lot of people are going to try to make themselves sound as good as they can via the interview process,” says Parmenter, “but it’s up to you to weed out what’s real and what’s not.”

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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