The way we work

By: Matt Wilson, NTEA president; Chairman & CEO of Switch-N-Go, AmeriDeck & Bucks Divisions of Deist Industries Inc.

This article was published in the July 2016 edition of NTEA News

This article is the second in a series on employee recruitment and retention. Part One  was featured in the May 2016 edition of NTEA News.

Do you remember your first job? How about a first boss and their expectations? I do. While I never received a W-2 tax form for my efforts, I consider time spent working for my father as one of the hardest but best experiences of my life.

In the summer, I would come down to the kitchen table each day, and there would be a list (usually on a yellow legal pad) of many different tasks. Some were one-time responsibilities, 
daily or weekly chores, and others were projects which would take the whole summer to complete.

While many of these jobs required limited skill (filling five-gallon buckets with rocks from the newly-graded yard comes to mind), the sense of accomplishment after crossing a task off the list was real. In many ways, this experience shaped my work style. I like to have projects outlined, with a road map signaling different milestones along the way. Generally, I’m satisfied with a job considered well-done.

I do have a competitive nature, though. In a previous position, my employer would send a spreadsheet listing how many billable hours we had each month, along with totals for every other employee at our rank. Talk about motivation — I always wanted to be one of the top names on the list. It made no sense financially (we were not paid hourly and there were no bonuses) or personally (nothing better than passing up doing something with friends to put in more unpaid overtime, right?). Even so, I never regretted it in the moment — I wanted to be one of the best.

Is this the case with everyone? For some, the answer is yes. If so, you surely have your own stories of this competitive nature coming out at work.                    

In a recent conversation with Amy Hirsh Robinson, principal at Interchange Group and Work Truck Show 2016 presenter, I learned people with this disposition are a minority in the current workforce. At present, much of the working public is composed of millennials, exceeding baby boomers and Generation X. In a few years, millennials will encompass more than half of the workforce. As a business owner, I’m excited to see the emergence of the new people coming into our company as part of this generation.

I must admit I didn’t realize the influence millennials have. Growing up, I thought of baby boomers as the largest, most powerful age group, and they were. However, a shift has occurred. Anyone who attended Amy’s session at the 2016 Show — Integrating Millennials into Organizations for Long-Term Success — became aware of how these individuals have affected the way people live and work.

In general, they are motivated differently, tending to be less individually competitive than prior generations. That said, millennials usually excel in group settings, tailoring work plans to people’s strengths to achieve the best final outcome. In addition, they are problem-solvers. While financial compensation is important to them, in many cases, it is not the primary driver. They typically like to work for companies which mirror their values, see employees as more than a number, and seek to understand their personal goals and preferences. 

These observations only begin to capture the impact of this powerful generation. Hearing Amy’s perspective on millennials enhanced my understanding of their influence and work habits. It will help me provide a business environment that they find attractive.

Amy will be sharing her employment expertise at the upcoming Executive Leadership Summit. I encourage you to register for this event, scheduled Oct. 25–26, 2016, at The sooner companies learn to adapt to millennials, they will become better at recruiting and retaining the most talented employees.