BY ANDI GRAYDilemma: We’ve hired several young, entry-level staff members, and we’re hoping to maximize our opportunity with them. How do we tap into their potential without burning them out—or making our older staff worry that they’re being replaced?
Thoughts of the Day: There are many benefits to hiring and retaining an entry-level workforce. Be sure to consider the young workforce’s needs when it comes to retention, but don’t forget to deal with the basic needs of every employee, regardless of age or experience. Add layers of supervision, mentoring, and coaching to make everyone feel invested and important.
Baby Boomers, age 54 to 72, are and will be retiring at an average of 11,000/day over the next 10 years. That’s a lot of experienced workers who’ll need to be replaced. Today’s low-unemployment economy is forcing small businesses to compete for increasingly scarce and more costly employees. The lowest-cost workers are often entry- and near-entry-level employees like Millennials and Gen Zers who are looking for a place to belong.
The Millennial generation is more than 10 percent larger than the Baby Boomers: As of 2015, they’re the largest generational workforce in the U.S. economy. Gen Z, generally accepted as being born between 1999 and 2015, is just now entering the workforce and, at 73 million, is almost as large as the Baby Boom generation they’ll be replacing. Because these generations have witnessed the downfall of employment through the 2008 recession firsthand or through a parent’s job loss, they tend to be more discriminating about both the employment offers and careers they pursue.
Human beings are naturally motivated by factors that smart employers can tap into. Younger workers tend to want to be part of a community, get recognized for who they are and what they do, learn things, improve the world they occupy, and secure their basic needs for food and shelter—not necessarily always in that order.
Figure out how to supply those needs, and you’ll be well on your way to making your business an attractive employment option for any generation. So how do you do that?
Evaluate how your wages stack up to the competition, the market, and comparable jobs. As low unemployment becomes the norm, it’s common for wages to increase. Find out what’s happening with job openings, qualified candidates, and overall compensation compared to the rest of the industry. Address any internal shortcomings to improve both your image and your competitiveness.
Know your company’s culture, and advertise for—and to—people who are looking for that kind of culture. If you provide perks like the option to work from home, an animal-friendly workplace, socially aware philosophies, or a competitive PTO or benefits package, make sure you give them a prime space in your appeal to younger workers (it might appeal to your established workforce, too). Ask your employees what they value about your company and fly that flag high. Ask customers what distinguishing strengths they observe about your employees and celebrate that, too. Boost the good traits and fix the weaknesses.
Offer opportunities for advancement: You can win your hardworking younger workforce’s loyalty with the promise of upward movement, which can keep them from fleeing in droves when they reach their position’s salary cap. Encourage employees to get more training. Give them time to study things that are within the scope of their work. If you can afford it, provide financial assistance for certifications, if employees are willing to guarantee their longevity. These generations tend to be more transient and less loyal to a company that doesn’t represent their values and recognize their contributions.
Put people on a mission to improve the world by tying together the work of your company and volunteerism. Pick a not-for-profit initiative or organization that could benefit from your company’s help. Encourage your staff’s participation by appealing to their social conscience. Satisfy their increasing need for work/life balance by matching financial and time contributions. Share experiences by putting pictures on a bulletin board, publishing stories in the company newsletter, and posting to the company’s social media pages.
One of the most important factors is making sure employees have good examples to follow. Assign managers to assume the role of a mentor or coach. Encourage meetings over lunch and coffee to discuss how careers developed, what different jobs are like and how people built their qualifications over time.
You can benefit from an influx of young, pliable talent by establishing good work habits right from the start, which will shape them to be true assets to and ambassadors for your company. But you have to be clear about expectations: New entrants to the working world rarely have the intuition that more mature, experienced employees do—and it’s easy to take that for granted. Carefully supervise your entry-level workers while providing guidance on how to work productively. [CD0518]
Andi Gray is the founder of the Business Consulting Firm Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.