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New Ideas for the Next-Generation Workforce (Part 2)

What are the best traits younger workers can bring to your company?

CHICAGO — There are a lot of opinions held about millennials and the younger workforce — and depending on the individual, some might valid while others are vastly dismissive. Understanding who they are, what motivates them and what they can add to a dry cleaner’s business is crucial to success — both for the owner and the new team member.

This was the message of Jennifer Whitmarsh’s presentation, “Attracting and Managing the New Generation of Workforce.” Whitmarsh, a member of the drycleaning consulting firm The Route Pros, spoke at the three-day WinterFest Expo, a series of virtual workshops staged in January. It was co-sponsored by The Northeast Fabricare Association (NEFA), the Pennsylvania and Delaware Cleaners Association (PDCA) and the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA) in cooperation with the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI).

In Part 1 of this series, we examined some of the negative stereotypes that surround millennials and younger generations, as well as how to approach and counterbalance these perceived weaknesses. Today, we’ll look at the strengths that younger workers bring to the table, along with ways to harness these attributes to everyone’s advantage.

Young Minds, New Talents

While the potential drawbacks listed in Part 1 get the most attention, the younger generation of workers also brings many strengths with them, in part shaped by the time in which they grew up. Dry cleaners who paint this demographic with too broad a brush might miss out on some of the truly powerful talents and ideas these workers bring with them, Whitmarsh believes.

Some of these strengths include:

They Love to Read — “They read more than any of the generations before them,” Whitmarsh says. “Now, of course, not every single person working for you as a book lover, but if they are, start suggesting some books that are easy reads that are inspiring. Find books that can help them become better versions of themselves as co-workers.” One book she suggests is The Heart of a Leader by Ken Blanchard because it has a wide appeal. “You could give this to your entry-level employee, you could give this to somebody who’s your retail manager, you can literally give it to anybody. It will start to help them and recognize things about themselves, about their co-workers, and about what they would like to do."

They Think About the Future — Whitmarsh says that 82% of younger generations contribute to retirement when it’s offered, and this fact speaks to more than just retirement, but to their worldview. “That shows you they are forward thinkers,” she says, “that they’re not just thinking about what’s happening in their lives right now and what work position they’re doing at this moment. They’re thinking about down the road, and that’s what you want for your business, as well.”

They’re Well Educated — “About 40% of our younger generation have bachelor’s degrees or greater,” Whitmarsh says, “and not every single one of them is able to get out of school and go find their career job. I know many people who have gone from college to our industry. They didn’t necessarily expect to make a career in our industry, but they have.” Whitmarsh points out that she counts herself in this group, and many who take this career track thrive. “We need them to accomplish things,” she says. “We need them to grow with our company.”

They’re Tech Savvy — This is, on the surface, one of the traits that older generations often see as a negative — “We think of them with their phones in their face,” Whitmarsh says. But today’s businesses need team members who are comfortable with technology, especially as automation and other equipment becomes more complex. Even their phone “obsession” can be a positive if harnessed. “They can start doing some of your marketing,” she says. “They might start taking pictures of unique pieces that you got in that you then end up wanting to share with your potential customers. You can utilize their talent, and it’ll show that you’re investing in them. They’ll feel a part of the team.”

They Want to Improve — Whitmarsh says that 94% plan for personal improvement. “Whether they’re writing down their goals, thinking about their future, or they’re saving for their house, they’re planning for personal improvement,” she says. “This just shows that they care about themselves, so they’ll want to care about your company, as well. You don’t want to get ‘one-hit wonders’ on your delivery route, because then you got to restart the cycle all over again. Because they’re planning for personal improvement, you’re less likely to get those ‘one-hit wonders.’”

They Communicate — “I’m sure you’ve had the experience where somebody left the team — they just quit — and you just did not see it coming,” Whitmarsh says. “We didn’t see it coming because they didn’t communicate to us. Our younger generation wants to share their ideas. They want to tell you what’s wrong. Sometimes they want to a little bit too much, but it’s still not a bad thing. I’d rather get too much than nothing.”

Come back Thursday for the conclusion of this series, where we’ll examine why workers leave a company, and what can be done to make sure valuable employees stick around. For Part 1, click HERE.

Group at a meeting

Caption: (Image licensed by Ingram Image)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected] .