Turnover is a reality in services industries, and the revolving door has never churned faster than with millennials pushing into the market. Job-hopping is a way of life.
If given a choice, 44 percent of millennials would leave their current employer in the next two years, according to a Deloitte survey. And within four years, 66 percent expect to change jobs.
For pest control operators, the noncommittal behavior can feel like “here today, gone tomorrow.” But millennials see it differently. A Harvard Business Review article calls it “Tours of Duty,” a concept hatched in the book, The Start-Up of You by tech entrepreneurs Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. The new workforce is about a mutually beneficial relationship between employers and employees, they say.
According to Hoffman and Casnocha: The employee says, “If you help me grow and flourish, I’ll help the company grow and flourish.” Employees invest in the company’s adaptability; the company invests in employees’ employability.”
Basically, millennials want to know: What are you going to do for me?
Providing employment is not enough. And even a decent paycheck isn’t exactly what this generation is seeking. “They come into the workforce thinking, ‘What can you do to build my brand?’” says Jean Seawright of Seawright & Associates Management Consultants in Winter Park, Fla.
So, employers that move away from traditional career pathing and focus on building employees’ competencies are attracting millennials, who see an opportunity to grow their skills and make themselves more marketable.
Yes, it’s about them. Not you. Well, it’s kind of about you (the employer), as long as you keep feeding them opportunities. The reality is, a conservative top-down business structure is not a dream workplace for millennials.
“You can’t take a big bureaucracy and expect a talented, smart millennial to come on board and just rise up in the ranks, slowly but surely,” says Sean Stevens, human resource manager, Braman Termite & Pest Elimination in Agawam, Mass. “That reality is very frustrating for large companies.”
It’s vexing because the business structure and recruiting methods that have worked for ages — literally for generations — are now on the verge of being defunct. Why? Because millennials say so. They’re just not going to play in a stiff environment that doesn’t show them the rewards.
And that’s another thing: Employers that can concretely provide value in terms of building an employee’s “brand” and offering attractive benefits like time off and flexibility (it’s all about time) will appeal to millennial job applicants. They want to see statements like “paid time off” and “flexible work schedule” in job advertisements.
“Their preferences as employees in the labor market need to be catered to — and that’s no different than a customer in the marketplace,” Stevens points out. “Millennial (workers) are the ones who are shopping; not the other way around.”
So, what does this mean for recruiting and retaining millennial workers? Here are eight realities to keep in mind in the quest to effectively recruit and retain “Generation Next.”
SHOW THEM THE VALUE. Introducing the pest control industry to millennials, or any generation for that matter, requires painting a picture of what the job is actually like — why it matters. “This career is not on most millennials’ radars,” Stevens points out. “They don’t know what to think about pest control, and their assumptions are probably very incorrect.”
During the recruiting process, Braman Termite & Pest invests time in educating potential workers about what the industry does for humanity. “We are going to spend months training people, so it’s worth it for us to make sure that the process of bringing them onboard is long,” Stevens says.
But Scott Steckel says the three-interview process at Varment Guard in Columbus, Ohio, was too long for millennials. “It’s driving them crazy,” he says. “In fact, some of them thought they didn’t get hired because, ‘Why did it take so long?’”
A thorough hiring process is essential, though. What Stevens and other PCOs notice is that millennials have already done their homework before they call. So that “story” about the industry, and one’s company, needs to be clearly communicated online via social media and websites.
Braman recruits via Facebook and Craig’s List, as well as job fairs and traditional career sites. “Facebook is very impactful because there is a lot of imagery,” Stevens says. “They can explore what the career is immediately.”
So far this year, Stevens has hired a few employees who found the company on Facebook. “That is our highest retention rate recruiting tool so far,” he says. Those millennials (as of press time) were still at the company.
Writing a compelling advertisement is also critical. Provide online forms on your website that allow interested prospects to download applications or request information. Let them apply for jobs online.
WELCOME THEM ONBOARD. Cook’s Pest Control has implemented some first-day-of-work traditions that make new employees feel special. “We make them feel part of the team from the very beginning,” Harris says.
New team members are welcomed upon arrival, and they get to park in a special space. Colleagues take the new hire out to lunch, and check in frequently to make sure everything’s going well. There’s a tour and lots of introductions.
GIVE THEM A TEAM. While millennials appreciate independence and enjoy flexibility, their desire to play on a team trumps all, Seawright says. “Flatter organizations are more appealing to millennials,” she adds. Not only do they prefer teams, they want everyone to be (fairly) equal.
Creating a team environment requires a concerted effort because technicians generally work solo. “The work is autonomous and can be very independent, so we really have to look at how we are communicating with folks,” Stevens says.
Braman uses mass text messages to create a feeling of team while technicians are out in the field. The company holds meetings more frequently to bring together employees. Senior leadership has more direct contact with technicians, which means more feedback (read on for that) and closer ties.
Still, providing some autonomy in scheduling, for example, can win over millennials (and other generations, for that matter).
PROVIDE LOTS OF FEEDBACK. Managing millennials requires a more intense effort, Seawright says. The old “no news is good news” way that previous generations are used to in terms of reviews makes millennials feel alienated. They constantly want to know: How am I doing?Don’t confuse that with watching their every move. “Millennials don’t want to be micromanaged,” Seawright says.
“Companies need to build in time for managers to grow a rapport with millennials,” Seawright says, referring to mentoring and collaboration. This is a tough adjustment considering so many companies are strapped for resources and running lean.
“They’re used to getting a lot of information right now, and that’s what they expect (from employers),” Stevens says.
FORGET SELLING MILLENNIALS. Forget the sales job that’s totally commission-based. “Millennials don’t want to sell,” Seawright says. The lack of stable income is uncomfortable for them. A higher base pay is attractive for millennials vs. a mostly commission fee structure that might have spelled opportunity for previous generations.
GREATEST BENEFIT: TIME OFF. Paid-time off (PTO) is music to millennials’ ears. They value their time away from work — they certainly do not live to work. Employers are wisely responding to this overall preference in the workplace by structuring time off differently than in the past. Rather than allotting for “sick days” and “personal days,” companies are moving toward PTO policies, Seawright says.
What’s also attractive is giving millennials days “off” to do good. Volunteer days that give them opportunities to work with community organizations either via company-organized events or independently appeal to this generation’s desire for a break from the daily grind and meaningful “work.”
An emerging trend of dedicating “me days” for employees to pursue “whatever” is cropping up in corporate cultures and appealing to millennials. According to a Wall Street Journal article titled, “Forget Mental Health Days: ‘Me Time’ Comes to the Office,” companies are basically branding some days “off” so workers can own the right to blow that day off. REI, an outdoor outfitter, gives employees “yay days” to spend time away from work in nature that they then document on social media. Waterford Research Institute calls two of its allotted PTO days “Ferris Bueller Days.”
The point is, millennials want to know a workplace supports their outside interests, and they feel time off is a healthy essential in an overstressed world. (This comes from a generation that won’t miss a thing, with Pew Research showing about 60 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds sleep next to their cell phones so they can check for missed texts or status updates.)
USE A FILTER. All millennials are not built the same. Their work ethics range from serial entrepreneur to, well, just not showing up to work. There is a divide in the millennial generation, which surely is frustrating for those hard-working individuals who are paving successful career paths — and even owning their own pest control firms. (Remember, we’re talking about the next generation of leaders here.)
Scott Monds, general manager at National Exterminating in Virginia Beach, Va., has found that because the jobs his company needs to fill require a real dedication and frankly, some grit, that recruiting firms can help him filter out the winners.
“A good hiring agency can help with the weeding out process,” he says.
This comes at a cost. Monds pays between 10 to 20 percent of a new hire’s first year’s salary to the recruiter as a finder’s fee. “But that $4,000 to $5,000 is important because once you get someone sitting in a seat, you can’t easily get rid of them because of poor job performance or work ethic.”
Hiring mistakes are hard to “fix.”
TAP THEIR TALENTS. Erica Brister, president and CEO, U.S. Pest Protection in Hendersonville, Tenn., talks about hiring the “whole person” and finding a way for employees to make an impact that goes beyond the job description.
“I’m not hiring to fill slots,” Brister says. She’s a millennial, a business owner and a woman in the pest control industry. She says young employees are “all different,” and that these preferences in the workplace are not so much an “age thing,” but a cultural shift that’s happening throughout the country.
Her employees are invested in helping build the company because management calls on workers to give. “They have an emotional investment with the company and maybe that’s what keeps them here and keeps them interested,” she says.
Show employees career opportunities, Brister emphasizes. “If you have a creative background, we’ll problem solve with it; if you have a technical background, we’ll apply that to the company,” she says.
“We have people who may start out in one position when they are hired and if they are not happy, we’ll find another position here for them that they are good at so they feel successful (and) like they are contributing to the team, which is a very big deal and important for all employees — but in particular millennials,” Brister says.
The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.