By David Weaver, The Rawls Group
In our Part I installment of Mining for Millennials, we talked about the characteristics and expectations of the millennial generation. Those included focus on self, a work ethic that supports their lifestyle not the work itself, and a general feeling of entitlement along with anxiety from unmet expectations. So how do you embrace this generation and what they have to offer while not upsetting the existing ‘old school’ culture that has worked for so many years? Read on!
Let’s begin by defining what is important to millennials. If we can find a match with our own culture, then we can create a win-win for all generations involved.
First, millennials like working with other millennials. If making your first millennial hires, this might appear a hard sell. Find someone who is motivated, show them a path to success, and they might be helpful in attracting others closer to their age to follow them into the business.
Second, millennials like feedback and I’m not talking the annual review type. Continued feedback allows them to monitor their direction, progress and success. Setting expectations, holding everyone accountable, and guiding performance based on feedback creates a high-performance culture. Everyone benefits from better communication so working this into your system can be a positive for the entire organization.
Third, this age group embraces flexibility. In a recent PWC survey, only 29% of millennials said they expect to work regular office hours while 81% believe they should be allowed to make their own hours at work. If we had ‘extra’ employees, we could create some overlap that provides coverage for time off. Yet at a time when finding good employees is already a stretch, techs complain if they don’t get enough hours, and we are trying to keep expenses down, this can become a trifecta challenge.
Start by setting clear, written expectations for work performance. To earn extra time off for sales, it might be quota-driven with mandatory sales meeting attendance. For other areas, such as fixed ops, it may take the form of trading hours with others who can fill in the gap. Finding ways to work this into other areas of the dealership will require feedback from all managers, helping develop a more flexible work environment.
Fourth, millennials appreciate opportunities to learn. Make sure you communicate a clear path of training, ongoing support and development and then deliver on that promise. Show them how what they are doing today will help them succeed in the future by tying the job skill to their eventual career goals. Discussing a candidates’ career expectations should be a standard job interview policy, regardless of age.
The fifth area of interest to millennials is purpose. According to Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me, ‘not feeling that a company had a purpose is the number one reason millennials quit their jobs. They do not feel a connectiveness at work around something greater than the job at hand’. Twenge suggests allowing volunteer time so that millennials don’t have to ‘park their values at the door’. Showing how employees create value for your customers while helping to create a better community through dealership programs, volunteer days, sponsorships and more can help millennials scratch this itch.
It helps to also recognize that helping others is not universal to this younger generation, but to all generations. Establishing a Mission and Vision for the organization helps define both why we do what we do and where we are headed as a company. This allows everyone to get on the same page and feel they are part of something larger than earning a paycheck.
Regardless of accommodations that may be made for millennial workers, they still have to pay their dues, be treated like any other new employee, and work their way up the ranks without any special treatment. ‘Going overboard may get them what they want’, says Twenge, ‘but not what they need for the long haul.
What they need is a company that makes a profit and coworkers who don’t resent them for being ‘special’. Organizations who can find this balance will be more successful as millennials come to dominate the workforce in coming years.’
Ironically, this is the same advice we have been giving for years to successors coming into the business. The best way to earn respect is to perform well and not expect special treatment.
During this process, remember that just because you have done things the same way for so many years does not mean that change is a bad thing. Sure, you may get pushback from those who, like you, are probably used to 6-day a week, 10+ hour days. Change rarely comes without some hiccups along the way but progress takes work and cooperation from everyone involved. Get your team together, discuss potential changes and ask for feedback.
Millennials have much to offer and represent the future generation of leaders for our industry. Let’s help them discover the automotive business and develop them into the employees, managers, and owners they need to be for continued success!
References: Generation Me, Jean M. Twenge, PhD; The Trophy Kids Grow Up, Ron Alsop
David Weaver is an Associate of The Rawls Group, a business succession planning firm. David focuses his work with owners and management teams specializing in strategic planning, business performance, management synergy and teamwork. He helps identify areas that effect performance and culture – transforming managers into effective leaders. For additional information, visit www.rawlsgroup.com or call 407-578-4455