I’ve traveled quite a bit during my five-plus years with BNP Media — first covering the HVAC industry, and now plumbing. One thing both trades have in common is their overwhelming distaste of millennials in the workforce. Millennials get a bad rap, which is probably why I don’t often claim to be part of my own generation. We are stereotyped as being lazy, entitled, overly sensitive and in need of constant hand-holding.

Lumping an entire generation together is asinine. Not to mention, it could be disastrous for your company. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. labor workforce. And if you think that’s scary — millennials are forecast to make up well over half the workforce by 2025.

Employers who understand millennials’ strengths and weaknesses have an opportunity to tap a significant source of raw talent. But the real challenge lies not so much in attracting millennial employees, but in retaining them once you have them. Because, let’s face it, millennials are much more likely to job hop than previous generations.

According to a study from Robert Walters, a global recruitment firm, 91% of millennials want a clear path to career progression. In fact, career progression was the No. 1 answer (69%) to the question: “What keeps millennials engaged at work?” Next was the opportunity to exercise influence with 54%; recognition of individual achievements had 32% of respondents; and personalized training came in fourth with 28%.

With those statistics in mind, maybe it’s time for you to update your current company policies by detailing a distinct career path for each position along with clear guidelines for earning bonuses and promotions — something I know our esteemed columnist Al Levi has preached for some time! 

Millennials want to know they are being heard and that they have the chance to make a difference. One great way to do this is to institute regular one-on-one meetings between managers and employees. Or maybe create an employee of the month program, which is a great way to recognize outstanding employees and inspire other employees to success. Such awards can also spark interest on social media, driving people to your website and therefore creating more brand recognition — it’s a win-win for the employee and your company.

One distinct advantage the millennial generation has is the ability to adapt to new technology quickly. We use Snapchat, pay for streaming services instead of traditional cable TV, get our news from social media and we prefer texting over phone calls. This same acceptance of technology in our everyday personal lives can be put to good use in the workplace. Millennials are the first generation to grow up using computers — in other words — we’re early adopters. Most of us pick up and implement new technology faster than members of previous generations. Given how quickly technology is changing and advancing, especially in the trades, this is a huge strength in the job market.

Take PM’s 2019 Residential Contractor of the Year for instance (Read more on page 36). Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing employs an IT manager who is constantly working to make software and other technology run smoother and make a better experience for customers. The company also has a person who is solely in charge of communicating with customers through text messaging and online chats.

“She rarely picks up the phone,” says Chad Peterman, president of Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing. “She’s constantly communicating with customers on different platforms. We always want to stay on the cutting edge of technology, looking for new ways to make it easier for our customers to communicate with us.”

Additionally, as millennials increasingly become homeowners, learning to communicate with them will be important for home service providers such as plumbing and heating contractors. As a contractor, you need to communicate with customers in the manner they prefer. And let me tell you, millennials don’t want to have to call or even email a company. Text messaging or communicating through a mobile app or online chat is preferred. Having key people on staff who are quick to embrace new technology will be key to a company’s future success. 

Don’t be too quick to write off all millennials. Not all of us fit the cookie-cutter mold that we’ve been lumped into. Instead, find new ways to challenge us that will help us succeed, and in doing so, help your company succeed as well.