They crave information — in status-update portion sizes. They’re educated, hungry for answers and quick to vet a company online. You better deliver. (Now!) Expectations are high. But structure is a drag. Forget your top-down corporate culture.
Millennials. They’ve got a cause. They’re community focused. They want careers that make a difference. They want work-life balance, “me time,” rewards and lots of feedback. They want training. (But not the boring kind.) They’re hackers looking for shortcuts. Get to the point — no B.S.
They don’t care about your tattoos. (They have more.) They’re accepting, appreciating diversity. They’ll stick with you if they feel valued. Otherwise, they’ll find another job. They appreciate independence. But they’d rather be part of a team, one that’s doing good.
Is that too much to ask?
A better question: Does this sound like your employees and customers? If not, it will — soon.
Everyone’s talking about what millennials want, need and “like,” and part of the reason is the sheer size of this 35-and-under population. 2015 Pew Research says that 1 in 3 American workers are millennials. There are 83.1 million of them in the U.S., compared to 75.4 billion baby boomers. (Editor’s note: According to Pew Research, the millennial generation continues to grow beyond the births reported in the chart below as young immigrants expand its ranks.) They far out-number Gen Xers, who are closest to their age. And by 2020, millennials will completely outpace all other generations in the workplace.
You can’t ignore the numbers.
The other reason we care about what millennials want? Because recruiting and retention are perennial challenges in service industries, including pest control. Millennials are today’s young workforce and the next generation of managers/owners.
To thrive in this next generation of business, PCOs need to lean in and take stock of their operations. There’s no escaping the fact that millennials are the future. That future is bright for companies that show how the industry can shine and are willing to polish their business strategies.
“For many years, companies didn’t have to put so much energy and effort into figuring out how to recruit and retain people,” says Jean Seawright, human resources expert and president of Seawright & Associates Management Consultants.
Millennials just aren’t going to cater to your company. “We have to earn their loyalty every day,” says Sean Stevens, human resource manager, Braman Termite & Pest Elimination, Agawam, Mass. “What we do today to keep these employees engaged does not matter tomorrow. We have to live it every day, and to me that is very positive for the company and for employers across the board.”
FOUR GENERATIONS. Companies likely will need to retool the way they recruit, onboard, train and earn the loyalty of employees if they want to reel in (and keep) millennials.“They’re certainly a different group with pretty particular and clearly defined needs,” Stevens says. “That absolutely impacts the way we operate, and certainly not in a negative way. We think this is a positive influence on an organization.”
Interestingly, now there are four generations working alongside each other at the same time, says Cindy Mannes, executive director, Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA). “Each generational group has different preferences about nearly everything in life,” Mannes points out. She says it’s “definitely a challenge for our industry,” but also an opportunity for businesses that play to the change rather than fight it.
Millennials as a whole can bring attractive qualities to a company. “Wanting more diversity and balance — those are noble desires,” says Joey Harris, vice president, Cook’s Pest Control, Decatur, Ala.
The key is to show millennials the opportunity. And, with a career in pest control, they can make the world a better place, find flexibility, embrace innovation, better their communities, feel valued. But firms need to meet millennials on their turf with creative recruiting, improved communication, engaged management and the latest technology.
All this change can make any company feel a bit uncomfortable. And getting generations to cooperate can trigger some problems. Even the little stuff can cause a communication breakdown. “(Some) millennials didn’t learn how to write in cursive, so if you have baby boomers writing service notes to millennial customers, they might not be able to read it,” Mannes says.
Then there’s bigger stuff. “I refer to them as the drive-through generation,” says Scott Monds, general manager at National Exterminating, Virginia Beach, Va. “Some of them want to pull up to the window and get everything right now.”
That goes for promotions and employee reviews. “They are eager to run into your office after 90 days wanting that review,” Monds notices.
Some millennials who have not been exposed to adversity in life and grew up getting participation trophies and lots of praise can struggle with losing out in the workplace. “Not everyone is created equal,” Monds laughs, noting he has had some young employees last a half-day on the job. “We are in the trenches here, crawling under houses every day.”
Stereotypical millennial qualities aren’t all negative, though. The key is to understand their motivations. According to a Marketing Insider report, these themes emerge:
- Traditional workplace values don’t matter.
- They want to be heard and to receive recognition.
- They desire to do good for the world.
- They’re interested in shortcuts.
They’re basically a product of the world they grew up in and of the parents who raised them — as is the case for previous generations. “Gen Xers were the first generation to be home alone because their parents worked all hours, and so they had to take care of themselves,” Seawright says.
Millennials’ parents overcompensated and hovered. Out rolled the bumper stickers: My child is an honor student… “They were told by their mothers and fathers that they are good people, and it doesn’t matter what they do — they’re still good people,” says baby boomer Philip Koehler, professor at the University of Florida. “In a lot of cases, they were protected from a lot of the adversities that most people my age had to grow up with.”
This reality makes arriving on campus a wake-up call for many young students, Koehler says. “We see that in the workplace, too, where people are not used to a lot of competition and there are lots of expectations,” he added.
Is this why millennials leave the job? Loyalty to an employer is a real issue for this generation — one that businesses face head-on as their future hiring pool will be a majority millennial.
“The main difference in my perspective between millennials and other generations is they are very willing to jump from employer to employer,” Stevens says. “They don’t expect a pension. They don’t have a goal to stay with a company for 40 years.”
TAPPING ‘DO GOOD’ VALUES. Of course, not all millennials are the same. (Just ask a millennial.) In fact, the generation seems to be fractured, Mannes points out. There’s the “self-indulgent group” we frequently read about; and a contrasting segment of hard-driving go-getters. There are plenty of millennials who simply don’t fit the picture the media illustrates about their generation.
Scott Steckel notices this about workers. “If you find one of those very high achievers, you remove the obstacles and let them run, because they can be high producers,” says the president of Varment Guard in Columbus, Ohio. “Just take away the hurdles and let them go.”
That’s what most millennials want anyway. Let’s cut to the chase. Let’s do this.
For this reason, Steckel had to retrain “how to train” at his company. “If you don’t give them the opportunity, or if they don’t see the avenue, they’ll leave.”
So for training, Steckel adopted an “inverted process” where he shows technicians the end result, then backs up and explains the steps to get there. He begins by sharing an outcome — gratification! — then shows the steps (pest identification, treatment protocols, etc.) to achieve it. “We do almost a show-and-tell,” he says.
This concept of show-and-tell applies to educating millennials about what the pest control industry actually is, Harris says. “This millennial generation wants to help. They want to do something that makes a difference, and I think (our industry) can do a better job — and we’re trying to do a better job at Cook’s — of explaining what we do that makes a tremendous difference.
“We have to communicate how important our industry is,” Harris continues, “and really let them know that they can work in a pest control business and make a positive impact on society.”
At Cook’s, industry education starts during the recruiting process at job fairs and online. Once hired and during training, “We make sure we are consistently promoting the industry,” Harris says.
Koehler talks to students in his urban pest management courses about what the world looked like before pest control. He draws a clear line between greater human life expectancy and U.S. pest management practices. And, he shares important facts, such as mosquitoes accounting for 750,000 deaths per year.
Basically, millennials working in pest control can make the world a healthier, safer place — and be heroes to residential and commercial customers. They can save the day, and then some. “They need that sense of providing a service that’s valuable and to know that people appreciate what they are doing,” Koehler says.
Embracing this desire to have a positive impact on the community and world can be a real competitive advantage for pest control firms. And capturing millennials’ desire to contribute keeps them engaged and builds loyalty, says Eric Brister, president of U.S. Pest Protection, Hendersonville, Tenn. “I want our employees to bring their ‘whole person’ to work,” she says.
Brister is 35, technically a millennial. She’s a female business owner who took over the family pest control firm and has grown it to Tennessee’s largest privately owned pest and termite company.
“I look at those who are my age and younger and I know they don’t want just a job,” she says.
Continue reading to find out more about what millennials want, what pest control companies need and how these ideals can align to build a stronger pest management industry.
The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.