The Pillars of Retention

Feb. 1, 2020

Keep your millennial workforce engaged and productive with this advice from columnist Adam Tatum.

One of the biggest challenges in our industry over the last few years has been in hiring and retaining the best talent. We work in environments that are dirty. You get dirty, it’s cold, rainy, hot, etc. This is not for the faint of heart!

As we go into 2020, many of us are failing to recruit the talent that will make up over 50 percent of the workforce. They are called millennials. I am just outside this generation class myself, so I have found a few good ways to connect and keep these talents. There are seven pillars that you need to understand in order to get the most out of this group. I will break them down and give you some helpful insight into each one of these over the next two columns.

Here are the first three pillars:

Care About Relationships, Not Roles

This group of people are not loyal to brands or teams. The average stay for them is 2.6 years in a location. But if you try to get to know them, know their dreams and how they want to make an impact in the world, they will be impressed. There is still a danger zone in this area. 

Don’t try to be like them, just be yourself. Otherwise you will come off as fake and they will seek a different environment. Another part of building a relationship is that you are helping them build meaningful relationships. When they are down, they turn to devices. They send text messages and await responses. They take selfies and track likes. They do this because they are looking to be accepted by their peers. Build a real relationship with them and they will be likely to stay in your organization.

Keep Them Challenged

They have grown up in a technology-driven environment. Everything they want, they can get and see now. They care about advancing and learning and you must understand that in order to get the most out of them. If you want to try a new method, let them help roll it out. If you have a new machine, let them train the other staff members. Job satisfaction in the real world is slow.

It’s slow to learn the skill. It takes time to build the resume. It takes time to earn that promotion. The science that is out there says that if you keep them challenged, they will stay longer. So, take your time and identify ways that you can keep them engaged and progressing. Take the time and put in the effort and you can improve that 2.6-year average.

Be Flexible

This will be the hardest thing that you face in working with millennials. They do not grasp the concept of the traditional 9-to-5 work time that older generations just accepted as the norm. Be flexible in scheduling them on later shifts, different locations. This will help you retain them. This is so much easier to say than to actually do in our industry. One possible solution to this would also work well with your other employees, as well. You can rotate weekends with the staff. Generally, we all keep people on the weekends due to how busy they are, but rotating could keep everyone happier. They could go out with the family, hit a sporting event or just catch up on the to do list at home. You will find happier employees overall if you start to adopt a little flexibility. Secondly, some of these hires may not want to be full time, preferring to be a little more open with their time. Don’t be afraid to take the chance on the right skill set that could improve your business.

I will continue in the next article with the final four pillars in managing millennials. Try to look at your current employees and how they work with the others. Put into place a few of these actionable items above. How well do you know Johnny the hood tech? What does he want to be in a year? Set some goals for sales or brake work. Keep them competitive. Finally, if you can do it, look into working weekends off for a few guys here and there. Sometimes you have to do something uncomfortable to break that traditional way of thinking in managing in our industry.