Cushman & Wakefield: To attract top young workers, businesses need to make big changes

Amazon has already committed to automation. What about other companies?

Amazon has already committed to automation. What about other companies?

by Dan Rafter

Here is a staggering figure, courtesy of the Deloitte Millennial Survey: By the year 2025, Millennials will make up 75 percent of the global workforce.

That’s big news. And for businesses, the message is clear: They need to do whatever they can to attract Millennial workers if they expect to remain successful into the next decade.

John Morris, head of industrial for the Americas, and Jeff Lessard, managing director of global business consulting, for Minneapolis’ Cushman & Wakefield, have been studying the impact that Millennials are and will have on the business world. In an interview with Midwest Real Estate News, the two Cushman & Wakefield pros said that businesses need to develop plans today to attract and retain the Millennials who will continue to flood the workforce in the coming years.

What do businesses need to know about Millennials? Lessard said that the younger generation of workers isn’t interested in merely following orders and picking up paychecks. They want to make a bigger impact on their companies. They want to voice their opinions and lead projects.

And they want to do this from the very start of their careers.

“The Millennials are tech-savvy and highly collaborative,” Lessard said. “They reject structure in all forms. They are an expressive and optimistic generation. They want to make a difference. We see those attributes coming through in what they want in their workplaces.”

Job hoppers? Not really

Millennials have a reputation as being job-hoppers, moving from one job to the next as they move throughout their working years.

Lessard, though, said that this reputation isn’t accurate. Millennials instead are what Lessard calls experience-hoppers. They’ll stay at a company if that company can provide them opportunities to tackle several different tasks and jobs.

If companies don’t do this? If they don’t provide Millennials with plenty of opportunities to move into new positions? They shouldn’t be surprised when their younger workers leave for new experiences elsewhere, Lessard said.

Morris said that Millennials are more educated than any other generation. He said that the number of 25- to 29-year-olds who have four-year college degrees has tripled in the last 30 years.

This has an important impact on the type of work that Millennials are good at, and the type of work with which they struggle, Morris said.

“One thing that is true about people with four-year degrees is that the majority of them will not do an industrial job,” Morris said. “They won’t work in manufacturing, for the most part. And they won’t work in the warehouse.”

This can cause problems for companies. More shoppers today – many of them Millennials, of course – are ordering good online. These goods come from a warehouse, not from stores. It can be challenging for companies to find quality laborers willing to work in these warehouses.

“The Millennials, many of them, won’t do that work,” Morris said. “And if they do it, they’re bad at it. It’s not what fits them. They are not productive at it. That means that these mega-warehouses filling orders for Amazon have to become more mechanized and automated so orders can be filled. If you don’t have access to productive labor, you need productive capital instead.”

At the same time that younger people are less willing to work in warehouses, they are ordering goods from their laptops, phones and tablets, Morris said.

“That volume of goods that they buy through their devices is creating a challenge in the industrial world,” Morris said. “The demands on facilities are rising at the same time that the labor pool to work those facilities is shrinking.”

Are businesses ready?

The big question, then, is this: Are companies across the globe ready for the rise of Millennial workers? Are they willing to change the way they operate to attract and retain these younger workers?

Morris, the industrial specialist, says that manufacturers are adapting, but mostly because they have no other choice. Customers today expect the items that they order online to arrive at their front doors quickly, often as quickly as one day.

Companies that can’t fulfill this expectation – whether through increased automation or a skilled workforce – will struggle in today’s evolving economy, Morris said.

“I think companies in the industrial market are only learning because they are in the fire now,” Morris said. “There is no substitution today for the expectation that an order be fulfilled from a customer’s computer in one day or two days, at the most. Businesses are trying to meet those expectations in a cost-effective manner. They are learning by fire in the distribution world right now.”

Lessard said that most businesses today are not yet prepared for the increase in Millennial workers. For instance, Lessard said, human-resources professionals report that Millennials flip the script during job interviews.

Increasingly, Millennials spend much of their interviews asking companies about what they can offer them, Lessard said. They want to know about the varying opportunities companies can offer them. They want to know if companies have a diverse workforce and if they are committed to sustainable ways of doing business. They’ll ask about company charitable programs.

“The best, most progressive companies are able to answer these questions,” Lessard said. “But a lot are left sort of scratching their heads.”

Of course, head scratching isn’t enough today. Morris and Lessard both said that companies need to offer Millennials what they want – plenty of diverse opportunities, flexible work schedules and the opportunity to take on interesting work – if they want to nab the best workers of tomorrow.

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