Proper Care and Handling of "Millennials"

November 6, 2016

I'm sure you have heard the term "Millennials". I'm also fairly positive that you may have already developed an opinion of what they are all about and who they are. I will make an attempt to clarify this group and hopefully share some insight into how to best lead them to create a win-win situation. Whenever I mention the term "Millennials" in a group of contractors, I here people start moaning about how these people don't want to work, spoiled brats, don't know anything and expect everything, etc, etc.

Although there is plenty of debate about how this group developed, why they have a distinctive personality and work ethic uniquely different than all previous age groups. Especially when it comes to the workplace. To understand who they are and how they were created, we need to understand the circumstances that created this group of people called "Millennials". Generally, they are those who were born from about 1985 to sometime before 2000. It may vary one to 10 years depending upon geography and social background.

The "Baby-Boomers", which happens to be the group I am in, were defined as the group who brought sex drugs and rock and roll into our society. Although they did party and included the "Viet Nam Era" of youths. They eventually developed a strong work ethic and drive to show everyone, including themselves, what they will be able to accomplish and were fairly successful at doing well financially. We wanted the boat on the lake, had great friends, have fun and enjoy sporting events. The "Generation X" group were those born from between 1965 and 1985. Gen Xers were defined during a period of broken homes, turmoil and parents who typically were more concerned about self-interests, personal pleasure and basically themselves, probably a bit more, rather than focus in on the specific needs and wants of their own children and classic family situation. They were the group who had parents that would use television as a babysitter, probably used drugs at one time or another and also had social circles of similar other parents that were within their own class or financial circles.

This group of "Generation X" people who eventually became parents and wanted to make sure their children received plenty of attention that they may have not received as children. Eventually this resulted with the development of a group of young adults who were constantly fed positive feedback, no matter how well or poorly they behaved or functioned. They were rewarded for just being there and struggled do differentiate between working hard and having good feedback and not doing anything and getting the same result. Eventually causing confusion as to what was expected of them in the real world. The Gen X parents made it a point to make every attempt possible to make sure their children did not have to experience or get exposed to negativism, criticism or violence. Eventually even many our school systems decided that no one would get a failing grade and that any negative behavior demonstrated by a child was not the child, but it must have been something in their personal environment, or medical disorder that needed treatment, that was causing the problem. Parents did whatever they could to minimize any negativity or potential failure of these children, including creating various disorders that resulted in the medicating of millions of students. This developed into a group of young people who, on the average, do not have the ability to adequately perform in a typical work environment that was originally designed for the "Baby boomers" generation.

Now that we have an understanding of how this group became who they are, let's discuss how to best adapt our business methods to be able to operate with millennials in our places of work.

First, it is important to understand that millennials do not like to be micro-managed, being told what to say, how to act, what to wear and have to deal with huge bureaucracy when they have an opinion or idea. They have limited experience receiving that type of feedback or even being told what to do. The idea of giving tasks to this employee and just expecting them to do something without an idea of what the final outcome or goal is, does not work.

Keep in mind this group of team members, Yes, I said team members, are expecting to have a defined role in an overall mission that is heading towards an established goal that rewards everyone on the team. In other words, they want to be part of what the business is really trying to do and understand how it will involve and reward them when they contribute. It is what they have learned in their childhood.

They care about the future. Millennials want to know what the next logical step is for their career. So make it a point to show them a possible career growth chart and help them make one for themselves. They also need to know what they have to do, within this team to get to the next steps.

They love technology. If you are still filling out invoices on paper and dispatching by telephone, these people will not stay long if they see no changes being made to keep up with the rest of the world. These folks make it a point to immediately buy a new I-phone within a week of its introduction, even if the device does nothing much different than what they currently have. They will sure not want to start using a pencil or pen. If you are in the process of transitioning to a paperless workplace, get the millennials in your place involved. Believe me, they know what is going on, much more than you do.

Change is good for them. Doing the same thing over and over again is boring to them, they need to be exposed to different things often to keep their attention. Don't be afraid to let them try installing new products, looking at reviewing new technologies and meeting with distributors.

Be a company that is impressive. They look at their career as something to brag about to their social group. If you are Joe Blow Mechanical Company and have no advertising, no real market presence and have virtually no impact in the community, most likely they will be looking for a new job as soon as they believe in their mind, and their friends believe that you are company that really has no presence in the market and doesn't seem to be changing things to improve that..

Social and personal lives are more important to them. Allowing them the opportunity to adjust their work hours to be able to accommodate their personal and family life will strengthen your odds of hiring better people and keeping them. This doesn't mean you let people come and go as they please. It just means that it is important to consider their needs, much more than you ever had before to allow personal time. I ran a service group with over 75 field service technicians and had some starting at 6:30AM in half hour increments to some even starting at noon. The starting time for each employee was determined through a review of the history of what our customers demanded and requested, plus the personal needs and wants of my team members. I was not going to force an employee, who prefers to work all afternoon and doesn't like to get up before 10AM, to start at 6:30AM when I had a segment of my customer population who created more than enough work to keep him more than busy every evening of the week. It turned into a win-win-win situation for everyone.

They want you to listen. Creating and establishing a consistent method for feedback that you actually respond to is critical. Since they are part of the team, they want some say as to how things are done. This doesn't mean you have to sit and have a meeting every time they think of something. Perhaps just an email or text would be suitable, acknowledge and respond every time. Some of the best ideas that were implemented when I was a manager at GE and RCA came from employees, they usually will be able to give you better insight as to what is really going on.

In 2015, Amazon overtook Wal-Mart as the biggest US retailer. Amazon is a unique employer who goes out of their way to draw millennial employees. Originally they were not very "employee-friendly". Employees were driven to perform at their highest pace possible. Run like last century's workplaces, the employees didn't last long. Unlike "Google" or "Quicken" who are highly desirable to millennials, Amazon falls short of providing all of the expectations that millennials are looking for in an employer. Yet they still employee more millennials per capita than most every other employer in the US.

As we've seen, Millennials need constant affirmation: Amazon supplies this with ongoing evaluations, reviews, and status-updates. They also expect ideas and recommendations from everyone. If an employee has an idea that will improve productivity, they are expected and recognized for bringing it up. The warning of a high turnover rate (only 15% of the company has been there more than 5 years) is a good fit for a generation of workers who average two years per employer. The fact that their starting pay is higher than most every other employer in the area. (Starting pay at Amazon may start at fourteen dollars an hour up to twenty-one dollars an hour, plus full benefits, even for part time workers), is also attractive. During holidays, workers are expected to work sixty or more hours per week.

Lazy people do not last at Amazon. The trial-by-fire approach Amazon employs will speak to Millennials' desire for constant improvement and the acquisition of new skills-a generation raised on video games is always looking for the next way to "level up."

Sure, Amazon's corporate culture leaves a lot to be desired, but the company is not in danger of a Millennial employee exodus. The constant evaluations, evolving workplace, and ethos of constant improvement all appeal to a generation in need of regular feedback, short-term, career-focused positions, and achievement-driven employment.

Although Amazon may be getting the softer side of corporate culture wrong, it is serving the needs of career-focused Millennials. Forbes Magazine listed Amazon as number 10 in the top 25 in a 2016 Millennial Career Survey Preferred Companies to work for.

The good thing about hiring a millennial who worked at least a few years at Amazon, they learned how to work hard, but do expect a great deal of feedback on a regular basis.

The NSHSS (National Society of High School Scholars) surveyed 13,000 students, ages 15 to 32. Over half, (55%) expressed entrepreneurial interests and would want to start their own business. To me, this means that you may have a better chance of promoting or getting a millennial to have more interest in business and management than other age groups.

The most important factors in choosing an employer to millennials are as follows:
Treat employees fairly - 73.1%
Flexible work hours/schedule - 70%
Benefits - 60.1%
Corporate social responsibility - 46.6%
Base salary - 45.9%
Brand image of the company - 39.5%
Prestige - 30.5%
Performance bonus/rewards - 19%

What does this mean to you, the contractor and business owner?
First and foremost, on top of the millennial list we have "treat employees fairly" and "flexible work hours".

Keep in mind, these people have been exposed a mindset that many corporations and businesses are only out to take advantage of their workers and are only concerned with making money. So naturally they are very concerned about being in an environment where they are treated poorly. Make sure that a new millennial is exposed to and engages with your most enthusiastic and positive team members. This will get them past the fear of just being a spoke in a wheel.

In regard to flexible work hours and schedule. It is a 24 hour a day world today. I see no problem making a schedule whereby an employee may work a 10 or 12-hour day and get additional day or days off. In fact, studies have shown that an employee is more productive working 4 - 10 hour days rather then 5 - 8 hour days!

Obviously benefits are important simply because we have a law that requires that everyone has health insurance. This is no doubt going to be on the top of the mind of any employee.

Corporate social responsibility. Once again, we have a group of people that have been given the idea that big business doesn't care about people and is only concerned about profits. It should be a regular practice of any business to be socially responsible and involved in local events. It is not only a good thing to do but helping out your local community reaps plenty of rewards for your business in various ways.

Salary is on everyone's mind, but the next one, "Brand image of the company" is unique to millennials. The number one company that millennials wanted to work is "Google" in 2015. It is a well-known brand that they see all day long simply because they are spending a large part of their day connected to the internet and social media. A millennial wants to be able to share and be proud of the brand they are working for. If your company is not on social media, and has a nice website with a great presence, you may be missing out, not only for potential employees but to your new upcoming customer base of millennials.

Prestige and bonuses for performance should always be part of your culture. Using great metrics that are in line with organizational objectives, and a reward system that recognizes performance improvement, will always encourage gains in profitability if implemented correctly.

Millennials are much more socially connected than any other group ever in society. They know about everything that is happening, not only within their group of friends but also every event that happens to occur moment by moment. They expect to get feedback regularly not once a month, but every day and perhaps every hour if possible. They live in the right now. They expect results and information immediately and often. Should you have a situation within the business that may cause an effect on them, they feel like they need to be involved. Millennials also like to be able to share their ideas and concerns openly with management. This means there needs to be a method of connecting with management and allowing open communications. Amazon for example encourages and expects feedback from every employee in regard to problems and recommendations.

Millennials also expect a learning environment are very willing to learn new things if they recognize the benefits of why they are doing what they are doing. If you happen to get a millennial asking for a job who looks professional, shows up early, willing to work long hours and then pummels you with questions about what you have to offer and the expected long term benefits. . . Hire that person! You have yourself a winner who will actually work. They have the right attitude. You can teach them everything else!

Please recognize that this group has been insulated from a lot of reality, steered in a direction of looking for utopia and requires a period of transition into the reality of a career in the contracting business.

So now what? The biggest challenge facing our business is finding employees. I encourage you to take the time to visit middle schools, high schools and even colleges to share your knowledge and information on what is becoming the best career opportunity in this country. The potential for success and the highest need for employees is in the skilled trade industries.

You may not realize it but people who know and do what you do are becoming rare. When a commodity becomes difficult to find, the value increases and the price increases. Raise your price, set aside some funds to hire motivated people and teach them what they need to do. The days of the same group of guys who have limited ambition and are jumping from one contractor to another for a few extra nickels will soon be over.

Now is the best time to move forward, creating new objectives and considering different ways to get there. If you need my help to do it, or would like me to speak at an event. I can be reached at frankpresents@gmail.com.





 

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