Home Commentary It’s Not a Millennial Problem; It’s a Leadership Problem

It’s Not a Millennial Problem; It’s a Leadership Problem



Along with four others, I participated on a panel titled “Real World Strategies to Attract, Hire, and Retain Millennials” at September’s LBM Strategies conference. As a group we had one goal in mind: to put to bed the myth that the LBM industry was not “sexy” enough to attract, recruit, and retain millennials. As a millennial and HR Director myself, I found this panel mildly humorous. I don’t view myself as a stereotypical millennial (entitled, lazy, job-hopper, social media-obsessed, etc.). Nor do I work for a company that holds such beliefs. As I networked with other organizations within the industry, I was surprised that many of them discuss attracting and retaining millennials as a large challenge. I then asked myself, “what strategies have allowed Drexel Building Supply to attract and retain our 50% millennial demographic when other companies find this to be their Achilles heel?”

Hire Character, Train Talent

Attracting and recruiting millennials is not a millennial problem, it’s a leadership problem. As leaders we need to always be planning for the future. Remember, if a tree isn’t growing, it’s dying. If you want your tree to grow, you need young talent to help push your company in the right direction. You need to start strategizing on how to make that possible. As leaders we need to train ourselves to stop looking for that perfect unicorn that is 24 years old and has 30 years of experience in the industry. At Drexel we have the mindset “hire character, train talent.” We can train how to estimate or sell a 2×4 but we cannot teach how to be a go-getter. Work with local high schools and colleges that offer school-to-work programs or college programs with internships. We have seen tremendous results in students coming to work for us full time after high school or college because they understand our culture and dynamics.

Authentic Culture

The traditional workplace dynamic is dissolving as we speak. With the rise of the Internet, people now have an unlimited amount of ways to express themselves, which also bleeds into their work life. Millennials are looking for an authentic workplace that gives them the opportunity to grow, thrive, and have a purpose. The who, the what, and the why are the keys to creating that authentic experience and giving your team the purpose they need (and want) to push the company forward.

  • The Who: your company, your customers, the communities that support you.
  • The What: your core values or building blocks to success.
  • The Why: your mission as a company

Together that equation gives your team purpose. When millennials have a purpose, their engagement increases and you begin creating a culture. As you build that culture, your team (including those millennials) will protect it and help to grow it. Encourage your team to use social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to promote your culture and authentic message.

Referral Program

With a strong culture and team willing to protect it, you can use your current millennials as your strongest recruiting tool by implementing a referral program. If your youngest and brightest are ambitious go-getters at work, there is a good chance they have a group of friends with similar characteristics who they can recruit for you. At Drexel, the majority of our young talent came to us via referrals. If a team member refers someone for a position and that referral leads to a new hire, they receive a bonus between $500 and $1,000 depending on the position. To add to the enthusiasm for our referral program, we are always hiring. We are always looking out for someone great. It could be a coffee barista with energy and incredible customer service or the guy who changes your oil whose passion and honesty keep you coming back even if he is 10 miles farther from your home. If we find an amazing candidate who we can train and mentor, we will create a position for them.

Finally, remember that all age groups have had a stereotype attached to them, from Baby Boomers to Generation X, to the upcoming Centennials (those born after 1997). As leaders we cannot get pulled into bucketing people and ignoring the ever-changing employment market. If you do, you are putting your company at a disadvantage. By 2020, 50% of the nation’s workforce will be made up of the millennial demographic. Millennials have a tech-savvy backbone and eagerness to take on challenges that will help push your company forward and enhance your organization’s future.