Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

 

November 27, 2018

OlsonBy Katrina Olson

Perhaps the better question is, “Why does it matter what young marketers want?” The answer is that by 2020, Millennials will make up about 50% of the workforce and Generation Z will be about 20%, for a total of 70%. So it just makes sense to try to better understand them. 

“One of our industry’s biggest concerns is the tsunami of retirements that will occur in the next five years,” explains Sean Bernard, Ontario Sales Manager for Standard Products, Inc. of Toronto. “We need to have people in place with management experience and ability who are prepared to take advantage of the huge opportunities on the horizon. Unfortunately, we are not seeing the influx of new people coming into the industry to fill that void.”

Even those without experience in the industry can benefit. “I don’t have an electrical background,” continues Bernard. “I kind of fell into the industry and I thank God every day that I did. This is my twelfth year and it’s been a phenomenal ride. The people that I have been fortunate enough to work with and interact with have taught me so much about this business and the vast array of opportunities that it offers. Through hard work and learning from your peers and mentors, the sky is the limit in your ability to succeed in this industry.”

Understanding Millennials and Generation Z

Hiring and retaining young people, specifically Millennials and Generation Z, starts with understanding their wants and needs. Millennials are those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, and people considered Generation Z were born 1995 or later. 

Here’s a snapshot of each. 

Millennials care about corporate social responsibility, respect the environment, value experiences over material things, and enjoy building communities around shared interests. They care about meaningful work, expressing their creativity, and balancing their professional and personal lives. They also want close relationships with and frequent feedback from supervisors.

Gen Z grew up with the Internet, technology, and social media; so they’re more tech savvy than Millennials. According to a Northeastern University survey, 81% of Gen Z believes a college degree is necessary to achieve their career goals. They want more than a job; they want a career that allows them to grow personally and advance professionally. 

Some other differences between these two demographic groups: 

• Gen Z is less focused. They’re more accustomed to continuous updates from their friends on Snapchat and celebrities they follow on Instagram. As a result, they generally have shorter attention spans and are able to process information faster.

• Gen Z is better at multitasking. They can quickly and efficiently shift from work to play, despite multiple distractions from texts, posts, and messages. 

• Members of Gen Z are early starters. They’re more likely to start working earlier than Millennials, skipping college entirely or pursuing degrees online while they hold a job.

• Gen Zers are entrepreneurial. They prefer working independently and hope to someday start their own businesses. 

• Gen Z has higher expectations. They want raises and promotions sooner, and they want to be appreciated. Gen Z expects loyalty, but they’re not as loyal as Millennials. 


• Members of Gen Z are digital/social natives. They’ve grown up with smart phones and social media. Over 92% have a digital footprint and they’re more open to sharing personal information than Millennials. 

• Gen Z has an even more global perspective than Millennials. Their world is online, they have international friends, and they value and even expect diversity.

Although Millennials and Gen Z are different in many ways, they’re similar in several key areas. They both want to be heard by supervisors and empowered in their jobs. They want to be recognized for their accomplishments. Neither wants to be limited by titles, job descriptions, or silos. And both groups want their work to have meaning and make a positive impact on the world. 

Applying what we know

The key to keeping Millennials and Gen Zers happy is applying what we know about them, and adapting our management style and culture accordingly. Following are 10 ways distributors can nurture young employees, especially marketers, while preparing them to be the directors, VPs and CMOs of tomorrow. 

1. Give them ownership. Put them in charge of achieving a goal or solving a problem. Ask for regular updates so you can check their progress and redirect them if necessary, and give them feedback and encouragement. 

2. Give them some leeway. Allow them to express and follow through on their ideas — within reason — especially when it’s something that’s never been done before. 

3. Embrace technology. If you don’t understand it, ask them to demonstrate the benefits using real data or case studies. Be open-minded. 

4. Don’t treat marketing like a drive-through. Your marketing department is probably capable of more than producing materials. Get them involved early in a project to get their input. 

5. Treat marketing like the strategic management function that it is. Involve them in higher-level discussions and annual business planning, strategy, and goal-setting. 

6. Realize that execution takes time. There’s no magic computer that spits out integrated campaigns with ads, flyers, and events at the push of a button. 

7. Don’t set them up for failure. Don’t expect marketing to solve a business problem that someone else created. The best promotion can’t sell a product when there’s no market. 

8. Invest in their success. Get them the tools, training, and resources to do the job, whether it’s a new Mac, a marketing automation platform, or a digital marketing class.


9. Loosen the reins. Don’t impose too many restrictions or rules, especially regarding technology. Remember, they are good at multitasking and managing distractions.

10. Teach them about the industry. Help them understand the business so they can better help the company achieve its goals.

“This is a very unique and more niche industry,” explains Cara Backman-Perlis, Marketing Manager at Franklin Empire, Inc., Montreal. “Someone coming from outside needs to quickly gain a general background and a good understanding of the players in the industry.” 

Backman believes young marketers must have a thorough knowledge of the distributor’s customer groups — from large contractors to institutional buyers to hotel buyers. “They each have distinctive buying habits and different priorities.” Backman-Perlis explained that those new to the industry, especially young marketers, bring a fresh perspective and distributors need to be open to new and creative ideas, techniques, and tools. 

And as electrical distribution continues to undergo digital transformation, that new thinking is especially important. “We don’t know what the future holds. Even when we hire a young marketer out of school, we may ask them to do something they haven’t learned or studied, like e-commerce,” explains Backman-Perlis. “That’s why it’s important for us to stay on top of new techniques and new ways of doing business.”


Enabling networking and learning


One of the ways young marketers can continue to learn and grow is through organizations like Electro-Federation Canada (EFC)’s Young Professionals Network (YPN). Formed to encourage and support those age 40 and younger in any field within electrical distribution, the YPN produces a quarterly newsletter and hosts training sessions and (fun!) networking events with industry leaders. 


“I was fortunate enough to have been asked to join the Ontario Regional Committee of the YPN when it formed a few years back,” shares Bernard. He is now Chair of YPN’s Ontario Regional Committee and Vice-Chair for the national committee. “The premise is to bring together our young and emerging leaders within the industry to share ideas and continue our development. We host various events throughout the year along the lines of our pillars for success: Give (giving back to the communities in which we work and live), Gather (coming together in a social environment to meet with other young and aspiring industry professionals to share ideas and network) & Grow (events centred around professional development and learning). It’s a great initiative that in its short life has had a great impact on the industry. The events are well attended and we have a strong core group leading the organization.” 

Calling his experience with the national association “eye-opening,” Bernard was surprised to learn that many of those getting involved were already in management roles. This underscored for Bernard the potential for young people to advance their careers and try something new.

Backman-Perlis is also excited about the opportunities offered by YPN. “People who have been in our industry for a while have already established long-term relationships and a broad network. YPN is a great initiative to encourage networking among younger people and people newer to the industry.”

For more information about YPN, visit http://www.electrofed.com/about/ypn/ or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Katrina Olson is principal of Katrina Olson Marketing + Training. She speaks to companies and organizations about marketing and other topics, coaches individual marketers, consults with distributor and other B2B clients, and writes for several industry trade publications. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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