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Finding, Hiring, and Retaining Young Employees, Part II: Training Your New Recruits

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 the first article we gave you the best strategies for finding and courting younger staff members and sales representatives. Now it’s time to find out which training, coaching, and mentoring processes work best with the under-50 crowd.

Training Your New Recruits

By Bridget McCrea

As the nation’s 78 million Baby Boomers slowly edge their way into retirement, they’ll leave behind a plethora of job openings for America’s younger generations. With the economy improving and companies growing again, the competition for these Generation X and Millennial recruits will be fierce. Once found and hired, these candidates also need to be trained, coached, mentored, and prepped for success. Achieving this goal isn’t always easy, but the end results of a solid training program can pay off handsomely for the firm that puts some elbow grease into the task.

“You can attract employees in one of two ways; you can buy them or build them,” says Ted Konnerth, president and CEO at Egret Consulting Group, a Chicago-based electrical industry recruiting firm. “Building is a Millennial strategy.” One way to begin building a solid training foundation is by working with area colleges and universities to help them develop curriculums around required skill sets. “Reaching out to colleges is not only a good way to attract talent,” says Konnerth, “but it can also give you insights into what your potential recruits are learning in school – and where the gaps are between that knowledge and the actual skill sets required for the job.”

When it comes to training and coaching new recruits, Konnerth says “the more the better” in the electrical distribution field, where product and application knowledge is typically imparted on the job (versus in the classroom). During the training period, Konnerth says it’s critical for Baby Boomer employees that are handling some or all of that training to be sensitive to the fact that younger generations learn differently than they did when they were of the same age.

“There’s a gap between how the Baby Boomers learned and how Millennials are learning,” says Konnerth, who advises distributors to enlist the help of “Cuspers” (those individuals born between the two generations) to help close that gap. “In some cases and to be most effective, you may need to bring in those Cuspers to build out your recruitment and training programs.”

How Cool is Your Company?
According to Aaron Kaplan, founder and director of Houston-based human resources consulting firm The Kaplan Project, LLC, companies that are successful in attracting Millennials are usually those that are creative in their culture, HR policies, programs, and environments. “Millennials like to work for ‘cool companies,'” says Kaplan, who adds that the work environment fit (potential for career growth, decision-making opportunities, autonomy, and job challenges) is also a significant factor in recruiting Millennials. “Organizations that strategically energize their company culture and effectively use the talents and drive of the Millennial generation will have a competitive edge.”

Once onboard, Millennials can appear to be somewhat more “high maintenance” than their older counterparts. And yet, Kaplan says, when companies provide the resources and flexibility to be creative, these younger workers can be highly productive. “They are digital natives who learn quickly, enjoy multitasking, and prefer to work collaboratively with others. They also thrive on immediate feedback and do not like to be micromanaged.”

Millennials do want clear directions and managerial support, Kaplan adds, and they demand freedom and flexibility to work at their own pace and in their own way.  “They want increasing responsibility but need coaching on time management,” he points out. “The key is to build solid relationships by getting to know them, listening and spending time with them.” Other effective training methods for younger workers include cross-training (inside sales, outside sales, warehouse, counter, etc.), temporary work assignments, job sharing, and formal leadership development programs that pave a path for future advancements.

Mom, Dad, What Do You Think?
They probably wouldn’t admit it openly, but younger workers rely heavily on their parents for advice and guidance – more so than any of the other generations that came before them. This can be both a blessing and curse for employers that strive to implement the most effective recruitment and training programs for Millennials. “Younger people are more tied to their parents, who are big influencers when it comes to job decisions,” says Diane Gayeski, Ph.D., dean at Ithaca College’s Roy H. Park School of Communications. Distributors that understand this can leverage it to their advantage by, say, holding “Bring Your Parent to Work Day” type events that help connect parents to the recruitment, hiring, and training experience.

Not overly interested in traditional classroom learning, Millennials enjoy online training and collaborative experiences that help them connect with others in the workforce. In other words, shipping a crop of new recruits off to a 3-day manufacturer-sponsored training event may prove less effective than having a pair of Millennials work directly with a veteran sales rep to learn the ropes. Support that experience with some online lessons, says Gayeski, and give younger workers the chance to solve “real work” problems and work on group projects. “Combined, says Gayeski, “these methods will help your younger workers learn faster and become productive members of your workforce.”

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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