Personnel e.bulletin – Mar 2014

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Why Would a 20-Year Old Want to Work for You?
Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.

If your only answer to that question is “a steady job and a paycheck,” then think again and make it fast! What motivates employees in their 20’s is very different than what motivates you.  Twenty year olds are part of the millennial generation and they have been studied widely.  Why? This generation, also known as Generation Y, spans the ages of roughly 20 to the early 30’s and will soon represent the biggest chunk of the American workforce.  As sobering as it is, between 2010 and 2025, up to 95 million Baby Boomers will leave the U.S. workforce or change work focus, but only 40 million workers will be available to replace them. The plumbing, heating, cooling industry is struggling and will continue to battle to find younger workers who have the skills and motivation to fill these positions.  The good news is that there is a strong correlation between what millennials want and what you have to offer.

So What Do Employees in Their 20’s Want?
An abundance of studies have found that millennials want:

  • To make the world a better place.
  • To be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss, they want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor.
  • A collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one.
  • Flexible work schedules.
  • Work-life integration, which isn’t the same as work-life balance, since work and life now blend together.

Millennials are discerning; they are looking strategically at opportunities to invest in a place where they can make a difference, preferably an organization that itself makes a difference. Before you turn a blind eye, dismissing what millennials desire as wishful thinking; let’s check their “wants” against what you can offer.

Make the world a better place – Check
Your industry is full of companies that are focused on better products and services – those that are more energy efficient, capture and reuse water efficiently, are environmentally friendly, and leverage technology in ways that save the earth and consumers pocketbooks.

Be their own boss, or work for a boss that is more of a coach – Check
Few industries offer a faster track to becoming your own boss or are as dominated by small entrepreneurs. Apprentice programs that pave the way to entrepreneurship are the embodiment of working with a coach and mentor. They are paid learning experiences that are designed to build skills by working side by side with experienced trades men and women at actual job sites – what could be a better example of working for a mentor rather than a typical corporate boss?

Collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one – Check
The plumbing, heating, and cooling industry relies on collaboration and partnerships – with suppliers, vendors, customers, etc. The biggest competition you have is for customers.

Flexible work schedules – Check
You can offer flexibility to the extent that you can meet your customer’s needs. The possibilities for creating flexible work arrangements are limited only by your creativity.

Work-life integration – Check
The type of work that your skilled workers do lends itself to work-life integration. Unlike jobs that require being tied to a desk or an office, a field employee’s work can vary widely from day to day. With some planning and up-front agreements between employer & employee, that variable work schedule can allow for breaks in schedules to manage “life.”

You just scored five out of five.  There should be no doubt in your mind whether a 20 year old will want to work for you. Lets’ move on to some practical tips for managing and motivating millennials.

What Do You Need to Do to Manage and Motivate Millennials?

Don’t expect them to read your mind
Skills and habits that may seem obvious to you are sometimes not obvious to millennials, simply because they were born and raised in a completely different era. Tell them what you need, how you need it, when you need it and why you need it. Spelling it out will take time but will save you time in the end.

Set boundaries from the top and with respect
It’s not the job of employees to figure out what is expected of them or what the boundaries are in their new job – boundaries need to be set and communicated from the top-down. Be clear about your boundaries, what you need from your team, what rewards they will receive for work well done and also any consequences if job expectations are not met. As long as you’re clear, and your expectations are reasonable and spoken in a tone of respect, millennials will step up!

Listen, challenge and give feedback
Millennials have grown up with loving, attentive parents who value their opinions and input.  As a result, they have been encouraged to think differently and bring confidence and a fresh perspective to the workplace. Providing challenges will not only help get more work done, but will motivate them to stay engaged and plugged into your company. Give them regular and immediate feedback – informal is best. Let them know what they are doing that is good, as well as areas that need work. They want to excel, and the more they know how they are measuring up to your standards, the better.

Ask their expectations
Take time to find out what their ambitions are. If they seem unrealistic to you, use a tone of respect and be honest with what you think more realistic expectations would be. Share your wisdom about what they can do practically to achieve these goals.

Increase responsibility
Millennials thrive when given responsibility. It gives them a sense of ownership while making them feel connected and valued by the organization. Help them see the big picture, then let them run with it.

Be a mentor
If you want to get the best out of millennials, you have to invest in them. They have grown up with an abundance of role models who have worked hard to teach them how to steer their worlds – they will expect you to help them navigate the “adult world.”

Acknowledge accomplishment
Millennials grew up on a reward-based system and are used to being recognized for hard work and achievement. They value speed, efficiency, gratification – give it to them.

Remember the Golden Rule
Treat others as you want to be treated. Respect is a two-way street and millennials will contribute more time and effort when they feel they are respected. Even though they have not been in the work force as long, they want their results to be appreciated and ideas valued – they want a voice.

Have fun
Millennials believe that life is too short to take too much too seriously, so provide a fun, employee centered workplace. This generation wants to make friends in their workplace. Worry if your millennial employees aren’t laughing – their energy just might be contagious!

By 2020 millennials will represent a full 40% of the total working population. It is in your best interest to start now to distinguish yourself as the kind of employer who knows how to attract, reach, and motive this crucial group of the labor pool.

This content was developed for the PHCC  Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. ( Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of February, 2014. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at

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