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Finding, Hiring, and Retaining Young Employees, Part I: The Hunt for Younger Employees

With the great recession slowly fading in the rear view mirror, corporate growth on the near horizon, and new business challenges lurking around the next corner, electrical distributors are thinking about staffing up and building their benches to accommodate these and other changes. One thing on their minds will be the recruitment, training, and retention of younger employees – an ongoing challenge that will continue to test NAED members in 2014.

In this 3-part series tED magazine will explore those hurdles one by one and confer with a pool of experts who will share their top advice on how to find, train, and keep Millennial workers onboard. In this first article we’ll give you the best strategies for finding and courting younger staff members and sales representatives.

The Hunt for Younger Employees

By Bridget McCrea

There’s nothing quite like an age-diverse employee base to help electrical distributors effectively brainstorm business strategies, analyze a wide variety of personal perspectives, and tackle corporate challenges that surface on a daily basis. “Intergenerational dynamics offer organizations a competitive advantage,” says Aaron Kaplan, founder and director of Houston-based human resources consulting firm The Kaplan Project, LLC.

“Management can use different perspectives, strengths, and unique values to positively influence the bottom line in key areas,” Kaplan continues, “including corporate culture, recruitment, employee engagement, retention, and customer service.”

Younger workers are also plentiful. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, Generation X’ers (those born between 1965-1980) account for roughly 34 percent of the workforce and Millennials (those born between 1981-2000) comprise 14 percent of the workforce. “Those numbers are steadily rising,” Kaplan says.

Currently aged 49 and younger, these two groups bring their own sets of strengths to the workplace. “Gen-X’ers bring independence, adaptability, creativity, technology literacy, and the willingness to change the status quo,” says Kaplan, “while Millennials bring attributes such as optimism, ability to multi-task, tenacity, technological savvy, the desire to learn and grow, a team-oriented mind-set, and a sense of social responsibility.”

Ripe for the Picking
The numbers of younger workers that are out there – ripe for the picking – may be plentiful, but just what does it take to recruit these individuals to work for an electrical distributorship? It starts with an internal team that knows the value that these individuals bring to the table and how to bring out the best in them. “If organizations want to thrive in this competitive environment of global talent management,” Kaplan points out, “they will need employees and managers who are aware of, and skilled in dealing with Gen X’ers and Millennials that are making up more and more of the workplace.”

To tap into this growing pool – and given that both Gen X and Millennials are tech savvy – start by establishing a presence and engage in recruiting practices through social media outlets such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and/or Twitter. The nation’s younger generations – many of whom have never even read a classified job ad – visit such sites frequently to peruse job openings, post resumes, and communicate with potential employers. “It will also be beneficial for organizations to establish a strong YouTube presence,” notes Kaplan. The latter can serve as a platform for distributors to share videos about the workplace, events, and environment as yet another way to entice workers to apply.

Get on the Radar
Distributors looking to build bench strength and stay ahead of customer demands should also explore sites like craigslist and Monster, both of which provide an online platform on which to post job ads, company information, and related content. On craigslist, for example, you can drill down to a specific geographical region and job type, then post applicable job openings. Other good places to find the under-50 set include college employment centers (many of which work directly with businesses in the community to share openings with students) and college alumni associations (for recent grads).

“One of the best approaches is to find the ‘shortest’ route to your target labor pool,” says Marian Thier, founder and partner at Boulder, Col.-based HR consulting firm Listening Impact, LLC. “In many instances, friends, current co-workers, and small, face-to-face networking events work best for getting in front of younger recruits and talking to them about the opportunities at your company.” Methods to avoid, says Thier, include job fairs and third-party recruiters who “don’t know anything about your industry or your company.”

Equally as ineffective are those “old school” methods of putting ads in the newspaper, posting the opportunities on bulletin boards, or using online job boards that are too broad in nature. For best results, Diane Gayeski, Ph.D., dean at Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communications, says distributors should focus on relationship building early in the recruitment game. Instead of throwing a large number of darts at a broad target, for example, select a few key potential recruits and develop bonds with them.

“The younger generations are extremely ‘connected’ through channels like social networking and other venues,” says Gayeski. Test out a few of those channels (such as Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube) and hone your recruitment strategy in way that appeals to younger generations that wouldn’t otherwise consider a career in an industrial field like electrical distribution.

“Younger Americans are looking for employment opportunities and want to work for organizations that are tech-savvy, ethical, and socially responsible,” says Gayeski. “They’re looking at company reputations before they even apply, so be sure your firm is ‘on the radar’ – both online and offline.”

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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