I’ve been hearing it for 12 years: No young talent; trouble retaining workforce; the young generation has no work ethic; how to sell the younger buyer?
“Those darn millennials,” I can already hear you murmuring, “they just don’t get it. You gotta work. You gotta hustle. No trophies for finishing last. Always on their phones,” etc.
In some areas, I’m not going to fight you on these stereotypes. But for all intents and purposes, these stereotypes should be meaningless to you. Why?
Because if your long term viability depends on attracting, hiring, retaining, and selling the younger generation, you need to be open to their way of thinking. Period. They don’t have to “get it” or “get you.” In reality, you need them more than they need you. It’s simple economics and our industry as a whole has too much supply (jobs) for not enough demand (young people who want to fill them).
Sorry for the quick gut punch, but that’s just the way it is. Now for the arm-around-your-shoulder part:
First, let’s not fall into the trap of labeling every young person with a stereotype. To build a business full of multigenerational talent, you need start with one person. For most of you, this will be one younger person.
History tells us the younger generation always challenged the status quo in hopes of leaving its mark, and the millennial generation is no different. Due to several factors (communication evolution being one of them), you could argue that millennials are the most socially conscious generation in recent memory. Speaking as a collective whole, younger people want to make a mark. They want to change the world, both figuratively and literally. And you can’t blame them. Technology has made them the first generation with the ability to communicate instantly across the seven seas. The right young person for your business probably wants to take care of themselves, better your business, and have an extra $10 to send via PayPal to a family in the Philippines who is going through tough times. Money is important, but it’s simply one part of the compensation package for a socially driven person.
The behavior described above is not one of the industrial economy, rather the connection economy. Doing your job because you “should” is foreign to most of this generation. This new economy is alive and well…and connection, authenticity, and meaning have become paramount.
With this understood, I ask you this: How does your company help them leave a mark above financial profits, and beyond quality products and safe work environments? Not sure? No worries; we’ll address it.
It’s Time to Change the Narrative
In order to create an influx of interest, we as an industry need to tell a much better story around the meaning of what we do day in and day out.
The current narrative: “Working at a lumberyard means dirty, old-fashioned, boring, and rigid. They’re just going to tell me what to do, tell me to stay in my lane, and sit me in a corner until I’m 40 before they think I have enough experience to promote me.”
The new narrative: “Damn, that’s not your traditional office job…it actually looks fun! I’ll work with a driven team in order to create amazing homes for people in my community. My job is different every day. I’ll bring expertise to the business, they’ll value my input, and I can see a clear path of advancement within the organization and the industry.”
The story we tell ourselves about what we do, where we work, and why we’re doing it is very important, especially in this socially conscious age. The LBM industry has a lot of “good” to offer if we tell the story correctly.
I don’t think our industry does a very good job articulating the connective tissue around what each one of us does. What you do is how you get paid. Why you do it is the fulfillment opportunity you give to all your employees. Culture wins, and community involvement is awesome, but you have to believe it, be genuine about it, and buy into it.
Is your narrative solely about you, your profit and loss statement, and the organization? Or is it larger than that? (The latter, I hope.)
Would your community miss you if you were gone? If the answer is no, then your opportunity for young committed talent will follow suit.
The Profitable New Hire: The Documenter
Nail your narrative and then go find one young person. Here’s how to do it:
STEP 1: Pick 20 customers who spend a decent amount of money with you but find that they struggle with their own sales and marketing efforts.
STEP 2: Call them and ask, “If I could help you communicate your brand, offering, and value better, would you give me more of your business?” This is all upside with no downside to them.
STEP 3: Create a short job description for a video/photography expert who has strong communication skills, loves social media, and loves to help good people. Part time or full time is up to you. Make sure you include your brand story or narrative.
STEP 4: Post to Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as well send it to a local college and/or university job board. Spend a couple dollars in targeted social media advertising so you make sure the right people see it. If done correctly, you will get applicants.
STEP 5: Hire the person, give them a small education fund for training on social media, video, photo topics, and purchase them the camera equipment they need to execute the following:
- This person’s job will be solely to document and market your business on behalf of your builder customers. 90% of the content they produce is your customers’. 10% of the content is directly for your business.
- Have them take videos of the construction process and post it to customers’ social media on their behalf (tagging you, too, of course). Take pictures before and after, and post them to Instagram.
- If someone asks your builder why they should use 2×6 construction, that means at least 100 more are asking the same thing online within 25 miles of where you’re currently standing. Record your builder’s answer and put the clip on YouTube.
I can keep going, but simply put, be the marketing team that your customers don’t have but desperately need.
Your New Hire Receives:
- They get to make an impact on day one.
- They learn a new business/industry otherwise foreign to them.
- They get to teach your organization how to use social media effectively. (Just because you’re active on these platforms now doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.)
- They are doing good…truly doing good.
- They get to utilize natural talents to benefit a number of people.
Your Business Receives:
- A new, young hire.
- A young person who gets to learn your business, and all the good you have to offer.
- Stronger relationships with builders.
- Pull-through business.
- New ideas from the mindset of the next buyer (the millennial generation).
How Much is This Going to Cost You?
On your behalf, allow me to put my CFO hat on (I did learn a few things from the finance degree). The cost may vary but this is an entry level, fun position. Your “documenter,” executed correctly, should make your bottom line smile because you’re focusing on pull-through business on behalf of your customers. All this with an entry-level salary.
Most businesses in this industry do a terrible job of helping the small builder/remodeler sell more. Of course, lunch and learns, product knowledge meetings, and other trainings are helpful but it’s usually product centric. The moment of truth is the builder/remodeler sitting at the kitchen table with the homeowner and you’re nowhere to be found. What are you doing to help your customers build their own individual brands? I give you “The Documenter.”
This position will increase your opportunities, sales, and gross margins for your customers, which flows back up to you. Additionally, it’s redefining what a relationship basis truly is today. If you helped 20 different businesses do this, would you receive more sales?
Not to mention the retention level of your current business with them just went up 10x. Everyone wins, and you got a “darn millennial” to thank.