Age, industry and demographics notwithstanding, here’s what we know about next-generation talent: almost 70 percent of Millennials and Generation Z seek rapid career progression; over half of them would like to grow their career abroad; nearly three-quarters of them believe their employer should provide clear guidelines for earning bonuses and promotions; and over 50 percent of them would be more likely to accept a job if the employer used the same technologies they do.
Global Executive Solutions Group’s Larry Wainscott was part of a panel on attracting and retaining next-gen talent at the Specialized Transportation Symposium 2019. The panel included (from left) Nathan Barnhart, Kevin Kwateng, Wainscott and SC&RA’s Jason Bell. Wainscott emphasized to the panel and audience that leaders who remain open to what younger talent brings to the table, as well as adapting versus holding fast to ‘old ways’ of doing things, will find success in the industry moving forward.
By 2025, these two generations (Millennials born in the ‘80s and ‘90s and Gen Z born in the mid-90s and 2000s) will comprise the majority of the workforce. In fact, Gen Z will make up roughly 32 percent of the global population of 7.7 billion in 2019. These young people are the first “digital natives,” rarely without a smart device or phone – ever-tech savvy and connected. They also boast more formal education than any generation in history. And many of them have mastered multi-tasking through early exposure to a wide range of media.
The top three reasons Millennials and Gen Z change jobs? Twenty-five percent indicate bonuses and a better pay. Equally, a quarter of them cite the desire for a more fulfilling vocation. And 20 percent point to better career development opportunities.
Compelling numbers aside – these folks are entering industries around the globe. The question remains, how do we get them to choose this industry – and once here, how do we get them to stay?
A growing discussion
Larry Wainscott, Managing Director, Global Executive Solutions Group, addressed this very topic at the Specialized Transportation Symposium back in February in Houston, TX, during a panel discussion that included Nathan Barnhart, Project Sales Representative at Barnhart; Kevin Kwateng, Director of Heavy Haul Operations at Transport Bellemare International Inc.; and moderator, Jason Bell, SC&RA Director of Membership.
Wainscott followed this presentation up with a webinar via SC&RA’s website in late March – highlighting the same topic: Attracting and Retaining the Next Generation of Talent.
The discussion has certainly grown in recent years, undeniably fueled by the persistent skilled-worker shortage across all industry sectors. One of Wainscott’s points of emphasis centered around recognizing young talent for who they are, what attracts them and what will keep them around. Understanding that today’s young workforce – and by connection, tomorrow’s leadership – responds more productively to personalized training and support, continuing education and exposure to a variety of responsibilities within the business is the first step in a multi-tiered approach.
“One key challenge for many of us is the old-school thinking that we’re reluctant to let go of,” he said. “The theme in so much of this conversation circles back to today’s leaders adapting and accepting certain things. For a long time, we’ve done things a certain way – especially within industry – and we assume that if it has worked for decades and people ‘did what they were told’ and it’s ‘gotten us here,’ then that’s the way it should continue to go. That’s where we’re making a big mistake.”
It no longer behooves management to bark out instructions and expect young workers to jump into action without inquiry – especially beneath the presumption that this group lacks experience, so they should do what they’re told. Millennials and Gen Z may not possess a wealth of knowledge, but they can process information and generate ideas quickly, and see things through a different lens. As Wainscott pointed out, hampering their ability to feel both included and appreciated from the beginning often leads to what he believes is one of the most important caveats in modern business.
“People, especially young people, don’t quit companies, they quit bosses,” he said. “If you (or your people) are going to do battle on the ‘old way of doing things,’ then you’re going to find yourself near the bottom of companies trying to attract and retain good people.
You look out at the forward-facing companies in our industry today: they bring in young talent and spend months floating these people around the organization so they can find the most productive and worthwhile fit for both
the candidate and the company. Obviously, these companies lose people too, but they’re giving people an opportunity to learn about different things and discover their place in the organization – and that’s smart.”
‘It’s on us’
Industry insiders across the board will say that adaptation isn’t just the key to attracting a young workforce, but also prepping for the next generation of leaders. It’s being said with greater urgency that now is not the time to resist – it’s time to adapt. Within a decade, current leaders will likely be gone, or close to leaving. If a company is to survive, and the industry along with it, people literally have to adapt to the needs of new workers, or accept the consequences.
Distinguishing oneself is a strategic way to land good people and keep them: offering up “opportunities” versus assignments; maximizing the value of mentoring up – listening to mentees and implementing insights and feedback that prove valuable; “showing” versus telling; thorough training programs and personal development plans; consistent mentoring and shadowing; and important to today’s young workers – providing an inclusive and social workplace.
Also something to remember: over half of Millennials and Gen Z report that poor company culture is a source of disappointment in a new job. Additionally, they also respond productively to clear goals and expectations, empowerment through delegation, a variety of challenges, leaders that seek their input and provide consistent, structured feedback and, believe it or not, a relaxed working environment that includes plenty of humor.
Social events (that include food and a different setting), celebrated successes and decreased bureaucracy is also high on the vocational-priority list for next-gen workers.
“Leaders that are open to this type of thinking will find a lot of success interacting with today’s young workforce,” explained Wainscott. “We shouldn’t pretend that just because we’re in charge means we know everything. It’s easy to be devoted to the ‘way we’ve always done it,’ especially when you and/or your family built the organization from scratch over many decades. But it’s on us to understand the evolution of the modern workforce. It’s no different than bringing in a new project management system or technology or business practice. We have to adapt to it and accept it – in order to be better, and move productively forward.”
“People, especially young people, don’t quit companies, they quit bosses. If you are going to do battle on the ‘old way of doing things,’ then you’re going to find yourself near the bottom of companies trying to attract and retain good people.” -Larry Wainscott, Managing Director, Global Executive Solutions Group