Hiring and Retaining Millennials

Hiring Millenials

Sean Dunnigan

Recent industry discussions have devoted a considerable amount of time to deciphering the mysteries surrounding the echo-boomer or millennial generation. Common descriptors at such events include disloyal, unmotivated and variations of “entitled.” The truth is that millennials are poised to make up the single largest portion of the workforce. The oldest among them are now 35. Organizations struggling to hire and retain millennials have already fallen behind. Fortunately, there are relatively simple solutions to the problems facing these organizations. As a millennial hiring fellow members of this generation, I would like to share my thoughts on what we as an industry can do to tackle this issue. 

First, the employer should keep in mind that not all millennials are “this” or “that,” any more than all boomers are exactly alike. The Millennial cohort is a vast population group. It is important to focus on individual traits: their backgrounds, education, work experiences, and motivations. Millenials are anxious to use their creativity. This is often put in a negative context. If your corporate culture accepts only the status quo, then this could be problematic. But in this rapidly changing market place, growing companies must foster new approaches and ideas to survive. “Because we’ve always done it that way” is an attitude that will surely stifle any enterprise or employee.

Loyalty and entitlement issues are common themes. The perception is that a young worker shows up to an interview expecting to begin their career at the top of the ladder. In our experience, this is not the case. What they want is potential for growth: a career path. It is important to lay out a plan for advancement and review it often.

The accelerating automation of the workplace will make this a key issue. A recent study in the UK showed that 37% of workers believe their jobs are “meaningless.” There is a growing sense that these jobs will become obsolete, if they aren’t already. Millennials will feel the impact of this process more than previous generations. They need to see a potential future within your organization: a future that involves meaningful, challenging work. To earn their loyalty, you need to show them options for professional growth as part of your team. 

The real strength of our industry is the people. I have been fortunate to attend many industry events, including golf tournaments and Electro-Federation Canada’s annual conference. Each time, there were no more than a handful of individuals from my generation. We should be encouraging manufacturers and distributors to introduce their younger employees to these events. I think as an industry we take for granted the friendly atmosphere of this conference, even amongst competitors. It’s a great opportunity to showcase an event that separates us from other industries. The number one reason given for leaving a job is “culture fit.” The Electro-Federation Canada conference can be an effective tool for shifting perceptions about work our work culture. 

Electro-Federation Canada’s Board of Directors is moving towards attracting younger members of our industry to the annual conference. This is a step in the right direction. But I believe the industry should avoid changing the event to suit the younger generation. The focus should be bringing in a larger group of millennials to experience the conference as it has always been. Treat them like peers rather than children, and they will come to know and love the electrical industry. 

F. Sean Dunnigan is General Manager – Western Canada for Techspan Industries Inc.; sean@techspan.ca




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