Last month, I wrote a column about how some plumbing contractors are getting young people interested in the trades by being hands-on at the local level (

But, what good is luring young men and women to the trades if your company isn’t somewhere they — or anyone else, for that matter — might actually want to work?

The reality of it is that there are more open job positions in the trades right now than there are people to fill them, so qualified tradespeople of all ages have the ability to be pickier now about where they choose to work. Companies that are not actively doing something to distinguish themselves from the competition are missing a huge opportunity.


What millennials want

Last year, millennials overtook baby boomers as the largest living generation in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. They are a rapidly growing part of the workforce and will comprise 40% of it by 2020, according to the Intelligence Group.

So, what do these workers want? Turns out, they want the same things Gen X and baby boomer workers want — to make a positive impact in their company, to do work they are passionate about, to have financial security, and more, according to the IBM Institute for Business Value.

In fact, the values across generations were nearly uniform. Additionally, researchers determined that “meaningful differences among generations probably do not exist in the workplace” and “the small differences that do appear are likely attributable to factors such as stage of life more than generational membership,” according to researchers from George Washington University and the U.S. Department of Defense, as compiled in the Harvard Business Review.

So, while people love to bash this generation and label them as lazy, entitled, and self-centered, the numbers just don’t back it up. Further, I would argue, this mentality is dangerous to an industry that desperately needs workers.


Creating a company culture

Some companies have caught on to the fact that, in general, there are far more open jobs in the skilled trades than there are qualified workers to fill them and that standing out as a potential employer is necessary. And since research suggests that workers, regardless of generation, are generally looking for the same things, incorporating these values and goals into a company’s culture can do quite a bit to bring in fresh talent — millennial or otherwise.

Some plumbing companies are ahead of the curve with this. At We Care Plumbing, Heating, Air and Solar in Murrieta, Calif., they have an entire page devoted to company culture and employee testimonials. In it, employees list things like “[they] value family and they value their community,” “They listen to your ideas,” and “You are included in the decisions made” as reasons they enjoy working there.

Flow Masters Plumbing in Daly City, Calif., touts an “uncommon company culture inspired by unique individuals,” and James Wisler of Wisler Plumbing in Rocky Mount, Va., blogs about his company culture, saying it comes from their values of “faith, family, provide, and courageous — every single day, the people inside our organization know what we’re about.” A simple internet search reveals dozens of other contractors who have taken the time to entice potential employees with information about their company culture and values.

So while it is true that millennials are becoming an increasingly large part of the workforce, the idea that their values are drastically different from previous generations and require special treatment is a fallacy. They are looking for the same things in an employer that Gen X and baby boomer workers are also looking for, and companies that concentrate on creating a company culture that embodies these values stand to do well.