There is no question that B2B businesses in the building products industry are having a hard time attracting millennials. I think that most hiring managers can remedy this situation by changing how they focus on recruiting and retaining employees. As an example, I’m going to take you through a recent conversation I witnessed between two traditional B2B business owners at a recent roundtable. For the sake of this column, we’ll call them Steve Stationary and Adam Adaptable.
Steve: Adam, I suck at hiring millennials. I can’t get young people to work here…and even if I do, they don’t stay here.
Adam: Well, the truth is…they don’t like you.
Steve: What do you mean they don’t like me? I’m a likeable guy. Our people here are likeable.
Adam: Slow down. They have to know you before they can like you.
Steve: How can they get to know me without ever coming to meet me or paying attention to me?
Adam: Ahhh…now we’re getting somewhere. Think of it as sales instead of a hiring issue. If your sales prospects don’t come visit you then what do you do?
Steve: We send the outside sales team to go find them. We call on them, ya know…the usual.
Adam: Does it work?
Steve: Yes, to an extent.
Adam: What if they don’t grant you that face-to-face opportunity? What do you do?
Steve: [Silence] What’s your point?
Adam: My point is that reaching people—whether you want to sell them or hire them—has shifted and you won’t always be granted face-to-face time like you were in the past.
Steve: So if they won’t pay attention to me…what do I do?
Adam: First, you need to go hang out where they hang out… Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. That’s where young people are spending time. The data doesn’t lie.
Steve: Yeah, our company does some of that stuff.
Adam: Oh? What do you do?
Steve: We post about projects we’ve worked on.
Adam: Does that make you likable?
Steve: Well, we want to show what we can do… so, kind of.
Adam: I agree that’s valuable, but that’s just a piece of the puzzle. What else makes you likeable?
Steve: Our people, our experience, our passion.
Adam: And have you shared that?
Steve: Well, eh…no. No one likes the camera.
Adam: I get it, the camera makes my face look even fatter, but you gotta get over it. Everyone who owns a smartphone has a gatekeeper now. The better you articulate who you are on the social platforms (where people hang out) and why someone should care, the more opportunities you’ll attract for business and employment.
Steve: Hmmm… but…
Adam: It’s 2017…and say, metaphorically, you’re looking for a date…and you’re hanging out in the wrong places. Nobody goes to Bob Evans after 5:30 p.m. and even when you do, you’ve got bad pick-up lines. It’s like all you do is talk about your car and no one cares. That’s a perfect recipe for going home early and alone.
Steve: Well, I do have a nice car and it does…
Adam: Yeah, yeah, I got it…yours is the best with the highest quality. Everyone says that. What if I tell you all other companies are the same? Quality, price, service. What differentiates you then?
Steve: Well, our people make the difference.
Adam: You’re damn right they do. And you need to ride that pony! The human experience your business has delivered for decades face-to-face now is through the phone.
Steve: Ok, I get it…kinda.
Adam: Millennials are looking for businesses and people who care, who want to make something special, who want to do good things, and allow them to make a difference. Show them that’s what you’ve done for decades and what you want to continue to do with them leading the charge. And be sure to tell that message where they’re paying attention…that starts with the TV in their pocket.
Steve: Ok, let’s say I get them here, what do I do to keep them?
Adam: Keep being a human. Figure out how to help them, grow them, reverse engineer what they want out of life, give them responsibility and let them make a difference.
Steve: Sounds like work.
Adam: Your business is people, not robots. Any relationship requires effort. Empower them, get behind them, build a culture where people can succeed personally and professionally. And if that’s the culture you create, they won’t want to leave.
Steve: Maybe you’re right.
Adam: I’m just responding to what I see, person-by-person.
Adam is on the right track but even he does not “hold all the answers” to retaining all employees. Simply put, people are a crucial part to your business and the more time you spend helping them be happy (at work and out of work), the better off you and your business will be. Millennials are no different. Go meet them where they are and offer a purpose and a path that excites them.