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Finding, Hiring, and Retaining Young Employees, Part III: Retaining Younger Workers

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 workers and in the second article we showed you how to train and coach these individuals. In this final piece we’ll show you how to retain those younger employees and keep them happy and productive at your distributorship.

Retaining Younger Workers

By Bridget McCrea

Not known for having the same job loyalty as their parents and grandparents, the nation’s younger generations can be notoriously slippery when it comes to employment retention. According to Dan Schawbel, founder of generational research firm Millennial Branding, the average job tenure for Millennial employees is just two years compared to five years for Generation X and seven years for Baby Boomers.

Credit the fact that Millennials have seen firsthand the negative impacts that can come from relying on a single job and promised pension – or, how quickly a long-term job can turn into a pink slip in a sliding economy – with making them a bit more skeptical than their predecessors. “The once-revered concept of company loyalty sure has taken a beating in recent years,” notes onTarget Jobs, Inc., in Retention Strategies that Resonate With Younger Employees.

“Today, the idea of spending a lifelong career in the service of a single company seems hopelessly outdated to most workers. In fact, according to recent labor market statistics, the typical employee will change jobs anywhere from five to 10 times over the course of his or her career.”

These trends put pressure on electrical distributors who would like to know that the time and energy put into training, coaching, and mentoring new recruits will be worth it. One way to improve the chances of that happening is by allowing Millennials to explore their new job roles and take on new responsibilities in a familiar manner. “Instead of standing over their shoulders and telling them what to do,” says Lori Kleiman, managing director at Chicago-based HR consultancy HR Topics, “let them be the experts at what they’re doing. Respect them and treat them like members of the team right off the bat.”

Kleiman says old-school philosophies like, “It’s my way or the highway,” don’t sit well with younger workers who want to feel as if they are in control of their destinies – at least to a degree. “Remember that the typical Millennial’s idea of staying at a job is limited to a couple of years,” Kleiman points out. “If you don’t embrace and accept that – and work with Millennials on their own terms – you’ll be out there finding a replacement in no time.”

What is Long-Term Employment, Really?
When assessing their employee retention strategies, electrical distributors should kick off the exercise by updating their definitions of “long term” employment. “The days of having a worker on your roster for 35 years or more are long gone,” says Kleiman, who sees clear pathways to advancement as a viable second step for companies looking to keep their younger workers engaged and satisfied with their careers. “It doesn’t even have to be a promotion. It can be as simple as showing them the role that they play in selling a particular product or solving a customer’s problem.”

Don’t forget to add work-life balance to your retention toolkit, says Kleiman, who sees this as a vital bridge between short-term and long-term employment for Millennials. “These folks know that they’re not going to get rich on 3 percent annual salary increases so you have to make it compelling for them to stay onboard and stay engaged,” says Kleiman. “They’re all about work-life balance and they know that work is just one piece of their overall personas.”

Understanding the Core Values
Regardless of age or generational status, all employees want their employers to understand the former’s core values and career goals – and then accommodate those two elements to the fullest possible extent. When that doesn’t happen, says Chuck Underwood, founder and president of Miamisburg, Oh.-based generational consulting firm, The Generational Imperative, Inc., employees of any age will quickly begin scouring craigslist and Monster for new opportunities.

To make sure this doesn’t happen, Underwood says distributors should attempt to immerse their younger workers in their respective positions “as quickly as possible.” Let them know how the company is operated, introduce them to senior personnel, and offer training that goes beyond the basics. Play up any community involvements, social responsibility, or environmentally conscious activities that the company is involved in, says Underwood, as these activities are all important to Millennials. (If your company isn’t involved in such events, now is the time to kick off a few.)

Finally, Marian Thier, founder and partner at Boulder, Col.-based HR consulting firm Listening Impact, LLC., says companies can’t ignore the restless and sometimes unrealistic expectations associated with younger generations. “Retention is an issue for a generation that has been told that it can ‘do anything,'” says Thier. “The more a Millennial (or anyone for that matter) is brought into the workings of an organization, the more likely he or she is to stay onboard.”

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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