Recruiting may bring contractors into alien territory

LAS VEGAS Most contractors have no idea how different todays young job seekers are, consultant Robert Wendover told contractors here. Wendover, who runs the Center for Generational Studies in Aurora, Colo., told members of the Mechanical Service Contractors Association on Oct. 2 about young people so different from them that he might be describing aliens. One hint about the psyches of Gen-Ys and (anyone

LAS VEGAS — Most contractors have no idea how different today’s young job seekers are, consultant Robert Wendover told contractors here.

Wendover, who runs the Center for Generational Studies in Aurora, Colo., told members of the Mechanical Service Contractors Association on Oct. 2 about young people so different from them that he might be describing aliens.

One hint about the psyches of Gen-Y’s and “Millennials” (anyone born after 1981) is that, “They don’t know what vesting is and they don’t care,” Wendover said.

Most people default into a job, he said, and then discover 10 years later that it’s turned into a career. The need to make some money has transformed into an intellectual and emotional attachment. Contractors have to work to make sure that young people default into mechanical contracting. Get to more schools, Wendover advised the MSCA members.

“The only way to know how high school kids think is to talk to high school kids,” he said.

It’s important to talk to the kids about money. A journeyman can make double what a teacher earns, yet teachers keep telling their students to go to college. Most students don’t come out of college as highly paid engineers. Most of them get liberal arts degrees and make $30,000.

Point out that after a five-year apprenticeship, a newly minted journeyman plumber or pipefitter will be up over a college grad by $214,000, he said.

“Money means something to a high school kid,” Wendover said.

Plenty of tools can be used to interest young people in the industry, such as career days and recruiting brochures from the United Association or Mechanical Contractors Association of America.

Outside high school, the most effective recruiting method is an employee referral program, Wendover told the contractors. Constantly remind employees about the program or else they’ll forget about it, and make sure you give the referring employee a cash reward in front of his co-workers as part of a public “celebration.”

Contractors should always be on the prowl for potential employees who have great customer service skills but who are being wasted in low-paying retail jobs, Wendover said. Once a young person is interested in the mechanical trades, a contractor has to interest him in his company.

Wendover has put together a short list of what he calls the “new rules of recruiting.”

No. 1 is that young people don’t care that you’re hiring. Putting up a sign that says “help wanted” or “positions available” is worthless.

They pay attention to business scandals such as Enron and they know the new business ethic is “all is fair.”

They may know more about your company than you do, Wendover said. They will research your company on the Internet and if you don’t have your own Web site, you don’t exist to them.

?hey will also research your company with their friends as a form of “reference check.” Young people have many more contacts today than older people traditionally do, Wendover said. He noted that in looking at his own firm’s e-mail records, his young employees might have contact with 40 different people, with most of the communications just a sentence or two.

Gen-Y’s and Millennials ask impertinent questions right away during interviews, such as what are the hours and how much does the job pay. That’s because they look at it as a contract rather than as a career - they perform job X and you pay them for it. They also decide and make up their minds quickly for the same reason.

They expect contractors to follow through in the hiring process in a timely and consistent manner. You can’t wait three weeks to call them because they’ll already have a job.

Scheduling flexibility is the most important factor, Wendover said. Once you hire them, young people want to know what specifically you want them to do and how they fit into the big picture.

They need to recharge their batteries more often, so they take long weekends rather than weeklong or two-week vacations, he said.

Work environment will always win out over wages, Wendover said, so investing employees in the process will add months to the average tenure.

Finally, you’re not going to get people to stay for 20 years. Your retention efforts should be measured in added weeks and months, he said.