How electrical distributors can develop a corporate culture that keeps millennial and post-millennial employees happy, productive, and in a world where 44% of younger workers are constantly on the prowl for new opportunities.
The cat’s out of the bag and everyone knows that millennial employees have different expectations, capabilities, and goals than any other generation that preceded them. Turning 37 this year, millennials make up the largest generation (35%) in the U.S. labor force, according to Pew Research Center, and are a definite force to be reckoned with.
As of 2017 – the most recent year for which data is available – 56 million millennials were working or looking for work. Some of those employees probably already have jobs that they’re disenchanted with, or that they got into knowing that they’d be searching for greener pastures within a few years (or less). According to Deloitte, 44 percent of millennials have “one foot out the door,” and—given the choice, would quit his or her current employer to join a new organization or to do something different within two years.
No End in Sight
By the end of 2020, Deloitte says two of every three respondents hope to have moved on, while only 16 percent of millennials see themselves with their current employers a decade from now. “This remarkable absence of loyalty represents a serious challenge to any business employing a large number of millennials,” Deloitte reports, “especially those in markets—like the United States—where millennials now represent the largest segment of the workforce.”
And even if your distributorship has somehow figured out the formula for finding and keeping millennial workers, it can’t rest on its laurels just yet. The post-millennial generation (Generation Z) is already making its initial foray into the job market, which means the task isn’t going to get any easier (according to Pew Research Center, anyone born from 1997 onward will be part of a new generation).
For example, compared to millennials, Gen Z is more competitive, with a do-it-yourself mentality, with 69% of them preferring to have their private workspace instead of sharing it with someone else. They’re also more entrepreneurial, less money-driven, and value employers that are honest (and that take them seriously). “Gen Zs plan to stay at the same company for a long time,” Workopolis reports, “so if you hire one, know that they will work with passion. In case they don’t stick around, it’s just not their thing.”
One Foot Out the Door
If you don’t think your millennial workers will pick up and leave on a moment’s notice, consider this sobering statistic: Globally, 44 percent of millennials have “one foot out the door,” according to Deloitte. And while millennials are likely to leave their employers for many of the same reasons as older generations, Deloitte found that many have a “fear of being overlooked.” While millennials may be the most tech-driven generation to date, there’s likely no substitute for human connection as a talent retention tool.
The Evolution of Work 2.0: The Me vs. We Mindset report from ADP sheds some light on why millennials have earned the “job hopper” label. While they may still value freedom and flexibility in job hours and location more than older generations, ADP reports, millennials are most likely to leave jobs due to poor direct manager relationships, and a lack of opportunity for career development and advancement (and if it’s any consolation, both Gen X and baby boomers relate on those last two points).
“The first thing to understand about millennials is that they are probably far more entrepreneurial than the previous generation,” says Faisal Hoque, founder of Shadoka, which develops accelerators and technology solutions for sustainable growth, and author of Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation, and Sustainability.
“And it’s not just about making money; it’s about doing things differently—from thinking to developing goals to meeting objectives,” says Hoque. Millennials are also very socially conscious and motivated by the need to preserve the environment and do good. That combination of entrepreneurial spirit and socially-conscious behavior makes millennials a unique challenge for companies across all industries.
“In order to motivate these employees,” says Hoque, “your company processes must abide by those two principles.” Overlook these principles and it won’t be long before your younger, up-and-coming workers are scouring Glassdoor and Indeed for new opportunities.
Keeping them Happy… and In Place
Both millennials and post-millennials are about setting their own rules and abiding by those rules. They’re tech-savvy, always-connected, and are really into social networking as a way of keeping in touch with one another. “A lot of their social interaction is digital, and not face-to-face or even via phone,” says Hoque, who tells distributors to factor this reality into their corporate cultures, or risk alienating younger workers who like doing things a certain way.
“This all has to come into consideration when you’re creating (or, remaking) your work environment and its accompany culture,” says Hoque. To make that happen, try throwing out the “traditional office environment” playbook for a while and using more digital and social tools for communication.
“This generation grew up with the gradual introduction of instant messaging, texting, email, and other forms of written communication,” Forbes’ Larry Alton writes. “Because they’re just as instantaneous, but provide you the ability to think over your words, they’re more comfortable and precise communication forms.” And while phone calls require a kind of “interruption to someone’s day,” he continues, “text messages and emails can be opened and read at the recipient’s leisure.”
It’s Time to Come Up with a Plan
Keeping millennials happy isn’t about throwing out age-old playbooks, pulling the plug on landlines, and supporting worthy causes; it’s about creating a new set of guidelines and cultural norms that will guide your distributorship through multiple generations.
“You can’t just go from one extreme to the other because then you’ll have anarchy on your hands,” Hoque warns. “You’ll also have no accountability and no way of measuring success or getting things done.” To avoid these traps, he tells distributors to set guidelines in advance and then bake those parameters right into the company’s corporate culture.
If they haven’t already done so, Hoque says electrical distributors will need to shake off some of their age-old objectives and missions in order to accommodate the next two generations of workers (and beyond). He points to government agencies—where everyone is still expected to wear a suit-and-tie to work every day—as one example of a stringent corporate culture that may not necessarily entice millennial or post-millennial workers.
And even if those agencies do manage to attract younger workers, those employees will probably adopt a “foot out the door” mindset within a short period of time. “These types of organizations are suffering from old ways of thinking that are tied to, ‘Well, back when I was going to school in the 1980s, this is what I did,’” Hoque says. “They want to stick with those rules, and that doesn’t necessarily work.”
In the second installment of this 3-part article series, we’ll look at how distributors can hire and cultivate risk takers who can bring their businesses to the next level.
In the final segment of this 3-part article series, we’ll look at how electrical distributors can cultivate and support their existing workforces in a way that not only keeps them onboard, but that also helps veteran managers and supervisors attract and retain more millennial employees.Tagged with culture, millennials, retention