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Attract & Retain the Next Generation of Employees

Originally published
Originally published: 2/1/2018

Millennials are not a lazy generation; you simply have to know what they want in a company and how to lead them.


Between the skills gap, the growing drug epidemic and a lack of loyalty and work ethic, HVACR business owners have become increasingly desperate for good, clean, hardworking employees.

While there’s not a lot we can do about drug abuse other than encourage those who struggle with addiction to get help, good news is on the horizon. Culturally, we’re beginning to see the err of our “college or bust” mentality and realize the importance of trades and developing these valuable skills in the newer generations.

While it will take some time and concentrated efforts to get the younger generation out into trucks and on the job, being aware of what younger employees are looking for in a blue collar career can give you a hiring advantage over your competitors in the short and long run.

Additionally, the latest surveys and research into the minds of working Millennials reveals that this generation isn’t lazy, you simply have to know what they want in a company and how to lead them.

So what can you do to attract, retain and better lead the Millennial generation? Think hard about how you present the job.

A lot of assumptions are made about the Millennial generation, but here’s a fact: this generation of employees wants to work for companies that offer value and provide opportunities to make a difference.

According to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, “employees who feel their jobs have meaning, or that they are able to make a difference, exhibit greater levels of loyalty.” In other words, contrary to popular opinion, Millennials are not lazy. But if they’re going to commit 40-plus hours a week to doing something, they want that something to make a difference, to matter.

That desire doesn’t make them special snowflakes who are somehow strangely different from the previous generations, it simply makes them human.

So consider how potential hires will see your company and the position for which you’re hiring. Make sure you are showing a culture of respect and value and clearly communicating purpose, mission and core values to potential hires.

Once you do bring someone on, regularly communicate the importance of their work and remind them of how much value they bring to the community. Doing so will help you attract the best this generation has to offer and keep your employees motivated and driven to do better and be better.

Also realize that this generation, through no fault of their own, may not have been exposed to the skills they will need to do the job at hand. As trade schools have closed and high schools have turned away from teaching the trades, a hole has been left in basic training.

This means that you may have to fill in the gap with state-of-the-art training at every level. Don’t look at this as an unfair burden on you as the business owner; instead, use it as your number one strategy for differentiating yourself as the company to work for in your area.

If you’re putting up ads on Craigslist that say nothing about the company, the job, or the type of person you’re looking for other than “must have own vehicle” or “must be able to lift 50 plus pounds,” you’re going to have a hard time finding employees who are a good fit.

Here’s why: when you present the job in this way, you communicate that transportation and physical fitness are the only requirements that matter. Poor work ethic? Drug problem? Baseline morals? No problem. You’ve already told them right there in the ad that those things don’t matter and you’ve also communicated that there’s nothing about your company worth mentioning or knowing.

While this type of ad may bring you a large pool of potential hires to choose from, it won’t bring you the best people.

Instead of inviting just about anyone to apply to a meaningless job in a faceless company, give potential employees a good idea of what your company stands for, what they can expect, what you have to offer and what you expect them to bring to the table. Don’t wait until you’ve set aside valuable time to interview them and train them before letting them know at what high level you expect employees to perform.

Be selective and take the time to really determine whether or not a potential employee aligns with the way you do things, the values and standards you hold and the why behind your company.


Millennials want to be invested in and to work for leaders who are willing to form connections with them. They want to be led by inclusive, transparent leaders.

In regards to the impact of different management styles, the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that, “organizations taking an inclusive approach, rather than an authoritarian/rules-based approach, are less likely to lose people.”

Are you the type of leader who involves your employees in your mission, purpose and vision? Are you throwing down rules from on high or investing in your employees and asking for their input? How you lead will greatly influence how attractive your company is to potential hires and how loyal your employees are.

Many leaders are hesitant to invest in and involve employees, develop their leadership skills and hand over any responsibility or sense of ownership because they’re afraid that an empowered, educated and autonomous employee will eventually leave and start their own business. While that is a possibility, you stand to gain so much more than you stand to lose when you invest in and involve each member of your team.

For one, you’ll have employees who are energized and who care about their work, the company itself and the customers being served. And energized, caring employees treat customers better, have higher productivity rates and make better employees all around. Foster loyalty by making sure your employees know they’re valued and by providing the type of growth opportunities, work environment and leadership style that makes them want to stay.

Wait it Out

Sometimes, you need a replacement fast, but in most cases, the cost of hiring the wrong person far outweighs the cost of putting off hires until you find the right person, so be patient and get it right.

Does waiting it out scare you? Consider which is worse for your bottom line: postponing a job until you can get to it or sending a new hire with a drug problem and poor customer service to your client’s home?

We live in the age of social media and a poor customer experience and a damaged brand reputation can cost you dearly — much more so than a lost job — so don’t hire just anyone.

Hire for Culture, Not Skill

You may think culture doesn’t matter all that much, but the poor personal values and bad attitudes your employees bring to work will inevitably affect your other employees, your company culture, your customers and your work environment.

If you have to choose between hiring someone with experience who is not a culture fit and someone with no experience who is a culture fit, you’re much better off choosing the latter. Protecting your company culture is that important.

Yes, training an inexperienced employee takes time, but there are a couple of perks to doing so.

First off, with no previous training or experience, there are no bad habits to break; you can train the new employee to do things exactly how you’d like them to be done so you know the results are to your standards.

Secondly, by investing in training, you’ll end up with an employee who feels invested in your company and is more loyal to you. And finally, you won’t have to worry about your new hire coming in and creating a toxic workplace, bringing a poor work ethic, taking short cuts, or delivering poor customer service.

You’ll know that if mistakes are made or problems occur, they can be traced back to the training, which can help you identify holes in your systems so you can make your business better and more efficient at training future employees.

If you find it more difficult to find, train and retain employees than ever before, you’re not alone — but you’re also not powerless.

Take a step back and look at your company and the way you’re presenting the job to potential hires. Ask yourself if you’ve built the kind of company you’d want to work for.


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