In the first article in this 2-part series, we looked at the sheer size and prowess of the millennial workforce (and the up-and-coming post-millennial generation) and what it wants from its employers. We also heard from Eric Borden, president of Pathfinder Consultants, Inc., who tells distributors to “look outside of themselves” and think about the good of the industry as a whole when developing strategies and making adaptations that appeal to younger generations.
“These are the people who are not only going to help you grow your company, but also the industry as a whole,” says Borden, who estimates that millennials who are happy with their jobs will stick with the same employer for 5-10 years—a fairly substantial timeframe in today’s job market. To distributors that want to recruit and retain these folks, Borden says the first step is to “open up” their thought processes and get more creative about finding, training, mentoring, and retaining them.
In return, Borden says distributors can expect to get longer-term employees who can eventually be cultivated into managers and leaders. “As these employees mature, their philosophies might change,” he says. Right now, for example, the 20-something employee may be unmarried and living a “single” lifestyle. But as that worker progresses into his or her 30s, the need for more job security, benefits packages, and career advancements will become bigger priorities.
“I’m a child of the 60s and I don’t do things the way I did them when I was in my 20s,” says Borden. “This progression happens over a period of time, so the distributor that continues to invest in these workers—and in their personal growth and career development—will be more apt to become their ‘employer of choice.’”
The NExT Program
A millennial himself, Max Gabin knows that attracting younger workers to the electrical distribution field isn’t easy in today’s job market. As branch manager for Rexel in San Diego, he says one of his company’s best retention tools is the “NExT Program,” which is Rexel USA’s developmental training program for early career professionals that demonstrate an interest and motivation for both personal and career growth with the company.
The two-year program is designed to help employees from all Rexel divisions in the early stages of their careers become exceptional individual contributors and leaders by providing them with the tools, training, and resources needed to succeed within the business. “We want to go after millennials and young talent both internally and externally,” says Gabin, “whether that means going out to colleges and recruiting, or working with existing employees who want to move up within the company.”
Historically focused on working with universities to help develop future talent, Rexel has expanded its vision to include more community college students and others who might be apt to take a counter job and then work their way up through the company. Culture also counts, says Gabin, whose team strives to maintain a good, friendly atmosphere where employees aren’t just “chained to their desks and doing things a certain way.”
This approach tends to appeal to millennial employees, most of whom are not interested in sitting at a desk typing on a keyboard or answering the phone all day. And that’s just fine with Gabin, whose management style centers on giving workers projects and goals, and then allowing them to complete those tasks in a very creative, productive manner.
“We enjoy a team-focused atmosphere, where you don’t feel like someone is always looking over your shoulder and second-guessing you,” says Gabin. “It’s part of the reason why I’ve been here for six years. And while some of the goals put in front of me are pretty challenging, I always feel like I’m able to do things my way.”
Making a Difference
If there’s one thing that every electrical distributor can start doing right now to attract and retain more millennials, it’s to make them feel valued in their place of work. “They want to feel like they’re making a contribution,” says Danielle Radin, a reporter at NBC in San Diego, author of Become a Networking Ninja, and a millennial. When posting a job ad, for example, don’t be afraid to include a blurb about how the position helps the overall company, as opposed to just listing out specific job requirements and/or functions.
And for the distributor that can’t let employees work from home on a full-time basis, or operate on compressed schedules (e.g., 10 hours a day for four days a week, with three days off), Radin says there are other ways to create a flexible work environment. For example, you might offer one “Work from Home Wednesday” to a select number of workers each month, as long as they are getting their work done.
“It’s about getting employees to want to be at work, since that’s where they’ll be most productive. This is the secret that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and a lot of other high-tech companies have already figured out,” Radin says. “When you give people choices and make them feel like they’re contributing to the overall good of the company, they’ll be more productive and engaged.”
Make it Irresistible for Them
To electrical distributors that know it’s time to step up their millennial-hiring game, Borden says the first step is to find an internal champion who can head up the initiative. Then, have that person evaluate the company’s current culture, identify any gaps that exist, and figure out how to fill those voids by making new rules and/or adopting new mindsets. Cultural changes are never easy, he points out, but they’re extremely necessary in today’s business world, where the 56 million millennial workers have a unique set of expectations, goals, and demands.
“Try looking internally first, to find someone who can lead the charge,” says Borden. “If you can’t find an internal source to champion the initiative, then find an outside source that can help you change and improve your culture in a way that will be irresistible to younger generations of employees.”Tagged with best practices, hiring, millennials, recruiting