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Working with Millennials

Millennials, often defined as individuals born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, are almost all out in the workforce at this point. Now in their 20s and 30s, they are the largest generation currently in the workforce. If you haven't thought about how this generation and their differences to past generations affects your business, it's time to start. 

Last week, the CEO of a Mitchell-based manufacturing company Trail King, lamented that an outrageous amount of his millennial hires were leaving the company (279 out of 280 in the last year, to be exact) "mostly because of work ethic issues" in his opinion. His feeling was that his generation, because of never telling kids no and giving everyone participation ribbons, had "screwed up the kids of this current generation."

The CEO of Click Rain, Paul Ten Haken, a much smaller white-collar technology company based in Sioux Falls, got in on the debate with an article in defense of millennial workers, citing a generational divide between baby boomer employers and millennial employees as the real issue. Unlike their baby boomer bosses, millennials are not as driven by compensation. When they don't respond to higher entry-level wages, bonus opportunities, and overtime options, it's not that they are lazy or entitled, it's that the motivational tools are wrong.

Ten Haken talks about how learning what it takes to recruit, retain, and grow his millennial workforce has taken time, but he is now seeing them for the amazing, driven employees they are. The key to success for this group? It's not as much about the money as it is about the culture of the business. Millennials want a culture of inclusion, service and family--they put community and home life ahead of making profits for the man.

Want to be able to recruit young workers? You'll have to answer more questions about the character of your company. Do you give back to your community, financially and through employee service (during work hours)? Do you offer opportunities for your employees to grow personally as well as professionally? Do you shut down the office at 4 once a month to take the employees out for a beer and some darts? Ten Haken candidly shares what works for him in his article.

Millennials may not be entitled, but, as John Mayer of 9 Clouds in Brookings would say, they are impatient. They've grown up in a time where whatever you want is a credit card and a click away. I've heard people lament that millennials aren't willing to pay their dues like previous generations, and it's true in a lot of ways. They want the great job, nice home, trendy wheels (car or otherwise), and social life right now. Instead of playing by the rules of the older generation, they want to break the rules by finding a new, better way of getting to that success faster. They want their bosses to get out of their way and let them rock the world.

This has big implications for our little rural town of Mobridge. If we want to reverse the population decline in our community, we need to make sure their jobs are something that they feel will help them leave an impact on the world. We also need to make sure we can meet their expectations as a community and operate in ways that encourages their creativity and joint ownership of our town. They won't rent rundown homes, they won't live somewhere that doesn't offer entertainment, they won't stay in a community that isn't welcoming and inspiring. If Mobridge is to have a future, we need millennials as partners.

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