Ways to Attract and Keep a Youthful Workforce

Local businesses rely upon young workers to expand retail hours, service customers, and fill in for other workers when requested. Often young workers are required to memorize detailed procedures for a company, make decisions, learn how to cook special orders, stay active and alert while standing for periods of time, represent their company on the telephone, operate technical machinery and get along with older workers.

Employers want to make sure that a new worker can work independently after training, will be on time regularly, and show some loyalty to their job. However, retail/sales operations often find that their younger workforce just disappears after a period of settling in, often without customary notice. Other industries report noticing that the employee becomes less and less interested in their work. “Sick” calls accelerate, as does endless text messages during working hours. Younger workers seem more involved with their electronic social networks, such as hi5 or Twitter. Often initial enthusiasm wears off and evidence of boredom seems readily apparent. What went wrong?

Actually, this is the so called “bell curve” of settling into a job or a career which is a new phenomenon to younger workers. Many are surprised to learn that work tasks are repetitive and often unexciting, and that their free time is compromised by work hours. Others believe that getting to work is the real task of the day, not just the first challenge.

Some are startled to learn exactly how many hours are in a 40 hour work week, and more are just floored by the size of their paychecks in relation to the size of their bills. These “Digital Natives or Millenniums” are supreme multitaskers who are a bit taken back with a request to “concentrate on the job at hand”.

The key to attracting and maintaining a youthful workforce is …

to make sure that you do not oversell the position in hopes of a short term hire/quick fix and that the candidate can offer some track record of responsibility. It will save time to consider what the candidate can offer and if they are a good fit for the current operation. Try not to promise what you cannot deliver such as consistently high tips, extra hours in the upcoming months, flexible work schedules, advancement in the company, approval to taking personal text messages, fun at work every day, etc.

Younger workers seek positions via friends or job search engines, finding out the essential characteristics of the job before going any further. Two vital questions to be answered, “What is the pay and are they nice?” Younger workers expect an adequate pay scale, a correct pay check every week, free parking and a solid supervisor. They do not have to work with their friends, but they do expect that the more experienced workers will assist them in their first days and to be pleasant. They will not necessarily follow rules that make no sense to them nor will they always be ready to be on time or to tend to their duties with more than a percentage of their attention.

New college graduates hope to see how they stack up in their positions, can they apply what they learned in college, and most importantly, is this what they really want to do? They actively use www.careerbuilder.com, www.idealist.org, www.monster.com, http://hotjobs.yahoo.com to see what might be out there. They will actively compare working conditions including recreational facilities across the US as they try to figure out their lifestyle preferences with work necessities.

This is accomplished largely through text messaging, social networks and is widely subjective and often inaccurate. Good relations with a current supervisor can actively filter out hearsay and speculation.

How to keep them?

Praise, acknowledgement, accurate information, occasional changes in work assignments, and competitive wages all help to build alliances.

Do try to pay attention to them, know their name, compliment them on something that they do correctly, laugh occasionally, learn something from current culture to talk about such as YouTube, have them show you a function on the computer and remember that many were born after 1983. Many have experienced the repercussions of job loss through their parents, and so do not expect to remain in any one position for very long, unless they see a prosperous work place.

Acknowledge that they will move on and stay in touch with them, the benefit might be all yours!

Ellen Weaver Paquette, MA, CAGS
Developpe, Inc.