Dealing with millennials? ‘Resistance is futile’

By MIKE LEWIS
mlewis@crossroadsbizjournal.com

By Mike Lewis
Participants browse the informational booths at the Manufacutring 4.0 conference at Hagerstown Community College Tuesday morning. More than 100 people attended, organizers said.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — For business leaders puzzled about managing millennials, Rod Bourn has three words of advice: “Resistance is futile.”

“They are coming like a big Mack truck,” Bourn said during his presentation recently at a Manufacturing 4.0 conference at Hagerstown (Md.) Community College.

The daylong conference featured speakers and panel discussions on the changing nature not only of manufacturing but also of the workers who are moving into jobs.

Bourn, founder of the Down Set Lead consulting group, and Ted Vecchio of P4 Management Inc. spoke on “Millennials in the Workforce” and “Four Paths to Meet the Technology Skills Future,” respectively.

Both spent a lot of time talking in general terms about millennials, the generation born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Many millennials grew up with formative experiences that were much different than those in preceding generations, Bourn and Vecchio said.

Millennials are sometimes mocked as the “everyone gets a trophy” generation, they said. But many millennials also saw the economic damage Great Recession.

They’ve always relied on technology not only as a tool, but as the main means to communicate and interact with others.

And they face new health and economic challenges.

The following are some highlights of the talk by Bourn and Vecchio, with the caveat that both said they were speaking in broad generalities:

Rod Bourn, Down Set Lead

• There are about 80 million people in the baby boom generation that is nearing retirement, followed by about 40 million in Generation X (think latchkey kids) and 80 million millennials. The simple math means millennials will be stepping into leadership roles soon as boomers leave the workforce.

• “They’re willing to work,” but they also value flexible schedules so they can pursue hobbies and other interests. And they’re willing to walk away from jobs that don’t offer those opportunities.

• Millennials will be less likely to own cars or homes than people in previous generations. “They can’t afford it,” and they value education, experiences and other interests.

• One out of three millennials is obese. Those people could face health problems, such as diabetes and joint problems, at much younger ages. “If you are paying for their benefits, what’s that going to do to your schematics?”

• Because of their close relationship with technology, millennials can process a lot of information and learn things quickly. “(But) they don’t tend to think as deeply or as critically.”

• Millennials expect frequent feedback. Consider moving a new employee through a series of mentors, changing every six months or so. “Two years is a long time to them.”

• Don’t rely on email or telephone calls. Millennials text. One company is conducting some of its initial job-screening interviews by text.

• Like previous generations, they are looking for good wages and benefits. But they’re also looking for a company with strong values that contributes to communities in positive ways.

Ted Vecchio, P4 Management Inc.

• “We can’t keep, train and select people the way we did 5, 10, 15 years ago.” Many parts of the country have more job openings than people available to fill the vacancies.

• Some firms should consider hiring ex-offenders. The demographic can be “a really good source of new employees” in some situations.

• Most workplace training programs “don’t even average a 1:1 return on investment.” Training programs have to adapt to changes in jobs and the people filling those roles.

• Millennials already are the largest demographic group in the workforce — that happened in 2016.

• Those age 50 and older are the largest demographic group entering the workforce — some have retired and some back, some are still recovering from the Great Recession. “If you hire a person who’s 50, they’re probably going to be there until they’re 70.”