If you’ve read my bio, and I am not flattering myself by assuming you have, you would notice that I am not an HR manager, nor am I a staffing company. I’m actually part of a web design and online marketing firm. And if you’ve read the title of this article (which I can’t imagine how you haven’t if you’re reading this at all), I bet you’re wondering what in the world I know about Millennials that could possibly help you bring them in as new employees in your businesses. Well, hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised….
Many of my clients are commercial construction companies — they don’t have a hard time finding work, and they have rich past experience and a solid reputation in the industry that precedes them. So every time I speak with business people in the construction industry and ask about their challenges as a business, they almost unanimously state their biggest challenge is finding the right people to hire for the right seats on the bus.
B2B companies like these (business-to-business: companies that sell their services to cities and other businesses) haven’t been forced through the same marketing and communications revolution faced by most B2C companies (business-to-consumer: companies that sell their services to the individual consumer) brought on by the Millennials’ “coming of age.”
Today, the American workforce is populated by four generations for the first time in history, 50% of which are Millennials, and B2B companies are now faced with hiring the very same Millennials that toothpaste and auto manufacturers have been marketing to for the past two decades. In other words, the hiring challenges faced by B2B companies very closely resemble the marketing woes of the B2C companies — how to reach the unreachable Millennial — I advocate the solutions are the same as well.
Before I go all expert on ways I feel you can pave the way to a more comfortable and successful hiring process for Millennials, consider first your attitude towards Millennials. Let’s be real: this is the generation managers love to hate. I know what you’re thinking, “I offer them a job and they’re already asking for more and pushing for change, yet they can’t even show up for work on time.”
You might be a Boomer (born 1946-1964) or Generation X (born 1965-1980) manager who has literally raised Millennials both in your home and through the ranks of the workforce. Admittedly, you were raised in a different time and have more life experience, which makes it hard to communicate and bridge the Millennial gap. It’s not easy to walk in another’s shoes, but give it a try! The discerning Millennial will quickly know if you secretly hate their guts — but by looking at them from a distance, you can observe instead of judge.
Millennials were born between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s, making the average Millennial age 30. They have a strong emphasis on work life balance — they’re less conforming — they’re more casual and picky about their workplace standards. This generation values control over their own destiny. And when they come into your workplace, you’re going to hear, “I’ve got a really great idea to fix this,” and, “When can I move up?” or, “What’s in it for me?” At the core though, we’re actually not that different. We just intake our information differently.
Not convinced yet?
This often-called “selfie generation” was mostly raised by Boomers. Older Boomers, born 1946-1964, are the people who lived through the Civil Rights Movement and later helped push women’s rights in the 60s and 70s. They’re independent thinkers and therefore made it a point to raise their children to think for themselves and tried to give them more than they had when they were raised. They wanted their children receive attention and time. They wanted them to feel loved, to build their self-esteem. While these are great goals of many parents of Millennials, Boomers went a bit overboard and operated less like role models and more like “helicopter parents” by overwatching their children and building their self esteem through trophies and continual validation. In some cases, this treatment has led to a fear of failure and dependence, while, in other cases, members of this generation came into adulthood feeling they could change the world.
I really think if Boomers and Millennials would have been 18 at the same time, they would have been the bestest of friends and would have all gone to Woodstock together…But as it is, that’s not how it worked out….
Older generations lament over the younger ones and think, Oh my goodness, would you get through this already? Well, that’s actually the good news: every generation eventually grows up. And as people mature, they keep with up some of their original traits and cast aside those that don’t suit them in their new lives. As Millennials have turned their focus toward raising a family and preparing for their future, the same generation that cut their teeth on social media is not so surprisingly different than their parents.
10.8 million Millennial households have children. Before kids, these Millennials stated their favorite brands were H&M, Apple, Macy’s and Sephora — they focused on image, technology and brand names. Post kids, the brands they seek couldn’t be more different: Dollar General, Kohl’s, Walmart and Target.
Interestingly, I just read a study that breaks Millennial parents into five groups, which was actually a huge relief to discover. Finally, someone who understands that not everyone born in a 15-year time frame is a cookie cut-out of each other.
Barkley, a branding company, partnered with Boston Consulting Group to pioneer this study (which happens to be the largest study of Millennials) and wrote three books on the topic. These companies work with Applebees, Dairy Queen and Cargill, I’m sure you’ve never heard of them…no big deal.
Anyway, only one of those segments, “Image First,” matches the traditional bias of the Millennial generation-to-be: super diverse, all about their image first, all about me, all on social media and stuck to a mobile device. But that’s only a 7% segment of Millennials. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.
Another segment is “Family First” — at 26%, it’s one of the largest segments. These people look like the America we used to know — predominantly white and educated. Surprisingly, out of the Millennials canvassed for the study, 56% have one parent that stays at home with their preschool-aged children.
When it comes to career goals, Millennials, Generation X, and Boomers are amazingly similar. Across each generation, everyone wants to:
So how do we fix this? How do we get in front of the Millennials that we need to help build and fuel businesses in the construction industry?
Ask yourself, is it easy, is it convenient? If not, hiring prospects will go somewhere it is. Your hiring process is a reflection of who you are as a company. Treat it with respect.
For some of my clients, the only way anyone can apply for a job at their company is by driving out and filling out an application in person. That’s not easy, it’s not convenient, and it’s a thing of the past.
I’m not saying you should avoid meeting potential hires face-to-face, but do consider this: who has time to come out during your business hours and complete that application? Someone who doesn’t have a job. And a person employed in construction or even with the state can’t just take two hours off in the middle of the day to drive out to the middle of nowhere to complete a job application. By enforcing outdated processes, you close a door of opportunity to allow a qualified applicant to apply for a job with your company.
Ultimately, you want more than just unemployed individuals to apply for your open positions. You want the people who already know how to work and have good values and work habits in place.
People don’t just have computers sitting around their houses anymore. I run an advertising agency. I work on a computer all day, every day, and I do not have a desktop computer or a printer at my house.
It’s so easy to think all potential job applicants would have one, or that would they would even have a laptop? Many of them don’t — what they do have is a smartphone. According to Pew Research Center, 6 in 10 US adults use their phones as their primary source of news, and 96% get news online. Additionally:
From 2016 to 2017, website visits from desktop computers declined from 43% to 37%. What’s crazy about that statistic is it doesn’t mean less people visited websites from desktop computers — thanks to my managing and tracking of hundreds of Google Analytics, I can assure you desktop visitors are remaining consistent. Traffic overall is increasing, and that increase is from mobile visitors. I include all of this data to emphasize even more the importance of allowing people to easily apply for open positions using their mobile phones.
Stop forcing applicants to download a PDF and try filling in the blanks. If you’ve ever tried to do that on a mobile phone, you know how incredibly painful it is. And after all that torture in completing it, good luck saving it and emailing it back. And as for printing and hand-delivering them? That’s a bit of a postal service approach I could have sworn was only reserved for Amazon packages and certified letters… I digress.
Make your application into an email form allowing applicants to fill in the blanks. Then, when they submit the form, the submission can be emailed straight to the correct person in HR. If you can’t do this on your website, or if you intake too many applications for this, consider using a third-party service to collect and manage resumes and applications.
Don’t make things harder for HR. You need them for processing more applications, right? So do everything you can to make their lives easier and more streamlined. This starts with collecting legible applications and providing a way to keep them organized. Utilizing an email form or another online route makes the application easy to read and allows the information to be saved in a database. Then, when it’s time to recruit, you can sort applicant contact information and qualifications to market future positions.
Get out there and find the organizations in your community whose members might be interested in what you do, and start talking to them about it. Start young: boy scout troops, FFA chapters, Ag Mec classes. Visit clubs at local colleges and tech schools. Sponsor their events and fundraisers. Give an informational talk or lead an activity.
Yes, those organizations’ members are young; that’s the magic — it’s easier to show how awesome and innovative the construction industry is and to get their buy-in now before they form another opinion. There’s a reason why the army recruits 18-year-olds instead of 30-year-olds. I think a lot of companies can learn from that model.
By taking this approach, you can make an impact for more than just your business. This is not a problem that’s unique to just you, it’s an industry-wide challenge every business is facing. If each company took a small piece of responsibility to educate young adults with the potential to be dependable employees in the construction industry now, they won’t have this problem moving into the future.
They don’t know all of the cool technology you have. They haven’t seen the modern equipment and innovative solutions you provide. They are unaware there is an opportunity for them to move up through the ranks and become leaders in your companies. They don’t know how much you care about a job well done and how fulfilling a day of work under that belief can be. Because we haven’t told them. They think the industry is filled with back-breaking labor and clock-punchers.
So it’s not just one company that needs to stand up and take the responsibility. Everyone does.
When speaking about your company and available job opportunities, speak in words everyone understands. Be clear about the job responsibilities. No one likes to be spoken down to, and Millennials are no exception.
Chart a clear career path for applicants and let them know about the ample opportunities to progress through the ranks of your company, and take responsibility and ownership over the jobs they will do.
Good businesses aren’t just in business to make money, and a good employee doesn’t just come to work for the paycheck.
To solve this, speak openly and passionately about what makes your company great — share your values. That’s hard for people in construction. When I ask people in interviews, “What makes your company great?” Everyone says, “We do good work at a good price.” While that answer is fine for government work, it does little to build credibility with job applicants. Share the journey that makes your company what it is today. Show how you value your employees and their input. Tell people you do business the right way because it’s what you believe in and it’s the right thing to do.
If your applicants don’t like the things you have to say about your core values, then you don’t want them working for you anyway. It’s that type of transparency that allows applicants to see your company as a living breathing thing and not just a money-dispensing machine.
45% of Millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay — that is almost half — and 89% prefer to choose when and where they work versus being placed in a nine-to-five job. That’s a great statistic, but let’s face it: not every business is suited for that level of flexibility.
Imagine managing a construction project where all employees are allowed to come and go at will or select the tasks and locations of where they want to work each day. You can’t just have employees working from coffee shops or park benches, they have to be on site. So from the start, the construction industry can’t meet that Millennial expectation. That doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Approach that objection with your eyes open and understand it may be an issue.
Ask yourself: How can I provide flexibility in different ways for my employees?
These things create the feeling of flexibility but still give you some level of predictability for your job and workforce.
The volunteering, fundraising, workforce initiatives, safety trainings, sustainability practices — you do them, don’t sweep them under the rug. Those are your opportunities for the all-important humble brag. Inform the public about your corporate social responsibility. So much of the way businesses promote themselves online and in print is centered around the services they offer. I challenge you to examine why you perform those services and tell people about the awesome stuff you do on a project-by-project basis. Praise your employees for the good work they do. Explain your initiatives. And do all those things where applicants can see it – on your website and on social media.
Here’s some good news: people searching for a construction job in your area are likely using many of the same search terms to find your website as potential customers. So if your site displays well in Google, you’re covered — they’ll get to the site. Here’s the bad news: the information they care about is different — they read between the lines. The person hunting for a service is looking for a bulleted list of credentials, service areas, possibly past projects like the one they’re planning to build. While the web visitor looking for a job is trying to imagine what it would be like to work for your company. They’re concerned with how you take care of your employees and community, judging your photos to see if you look like a cool place to work and reviewing your projects to see if they’re exciting, different or a job they’d be proud of.
Make sure the path to employment with your company is not riddled with roadblocks: make it easy, take it online, and speak in plain English. Go public and promote the industry to people who are aligned with what you do, both by getting involved with your community and by sharing your story on social media and your website.
Don’t forget transparency is key. Millennials have been exposed to mass media since birth — they naturally filter out inauthentic messages. Be passionate about your work and show them how fulfilling this industry is to work for. Then you open the door to meet the Millennial workforce.
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