Strategies To Keep Millennials At Their Peak Performance In a Home Performance Company

Posted by David Byrnes on June 22, 2014
 Strategies To Keep Millennials At Their Peak Performance In a Home Performance Company
While it may seem like common sense, "Keep your shirt on during the job" had to be added to the newbie training at Green ID. (Photo from InsulPro)

Let me first start by confessing my guilt. Guilt for being bored easily, guilt for wanting praise, even if it is a pat on my own back for an achievement, and guilt for being a millennial. On the other hand, I enjoy working in teams and I encourage frequent communication between all team members from administration staff to auditors, sales staff and crew members to improve our workflow. 

Yes, I am a millennial, but let me add that there is nothing that makes me cringe more than the excuses I get from potential and new crew technicians of my generation on why they can't make it in to work or why this work isn't cut out for them. The excuses range from "I ran out of gas" to "from man to man, I can't do this job" and make for good stories around the bar. I came to one job site where after a new hire went through training, I found him loading the insulation hopper with his shirt off like he was a teenager cutting the grass of his parents' house. "Keep your shirt on during the job" has now been added to our newbie training. I have been tempted on several occasions to throw a cold glass of water on their face or give them a good slap back to reality. This blog post is about how to get the best out of the millennial workforce to help boost profits, keep turnover low, keep customers happy, and keep job quality high.

To take a step back, home performance businesses have been on rocket fuel for the last 6 years with federal mandates and subsidies, consumer awareness, and an economic condition that favors homeowners save more and put money towards home improvements rather than build a new home. All of that creates ideal conditions for home performance businesses to thrive, and with growth comes an increased demand for a greater home performance workforce.

Unfortunately, there is no union workforce for home performance technicians and community colleges do not offer all the combined trades required to do this type of work in a semester class. Our workforce has to be trained from the ground up. Having HVAC experience is an advantage but extensive training still needs to be done. In addition to the lack of trained workforce, this work requires a balance of someone who is willing to crawl into tight, hot, and rodent-infested areas, has the willingness to learn building science, and who can hold a conversation with a homeowner if required. The last two characteristics can be done by an older generation well, but that generation would not likely to be willing to get their body and knees beat up day-in and day-out from balancing on studs for 6 hours a day and have their arms itchy from realigning batts from the field work. That is why it's the millennial generation that is best suited for this work.

How do we, as managers and owners, get a millennial to stay long term and to work at their peak performance? By nurturing the positive aspects of working well in teams, wanting open and frequent communication with supervisors, playing to a millennial's technological strength, and the motivation to positively impact the company, you can create a strong work environment and lasting positive culture at your company... that and drawing clear standard operating procedures and customer guidelines to make sure your business operates functionally.

  1. Fun days like taking the crew out to a nice restaurant or sports outings. Skybox arena football is a cheap alternative to professional skybox seats and it's still entertaining. In Phoenix, I like to take the guys to a Brazilian-style buffet where each person is given a coin. One side of the coin means "bring me more food," and a barrage of waiters come to the table with different meat samples, the other side means "I need a break." We all have fun getting class A-treatment for a night and filing our up stomachs. This is also a good way to spend time outside of a work environment and have fun.
  2. Having crew meetings online via Google Hangouts. Having weekly meeting with your crew and/or crew leads is an important opportunity to go over strong areas of the teams and reinforce areas of improvement. Most millennials have smart phones and can download Google Plus so meetings at the office do not have to take place and can be much more convenient for all parties.
  3. Spending time finding out what each employee wants to do, and using your experience and knowledge to actually help them reach their goal. Whether they want to just learn the trade, get into HVAC, or start their own business, if they are dedicated and do good work helping your employees reach their goals shows that you care about their future and gives them the attention they need. The home performance world is small and employees come and go and come back again. It's prudent to have good relationships with them regardless of if they want to start their own businesses or go to another trade. You will both be happier with open communication, plus they may always come back.
  4. The existing crew and company culture you have in place plays a critical part in what good or bad habits new workers will pick up. I've had to start from scratch with crews because holding on to bad employees is like leaving a bad virus to spread to anyone else that comes through your door, and it was one of the best things I did for the business and for my well being. Make sure you have guys that want to work, who know what your company stands for, and who share your vision.

The traditional company perks below are typically more important to employees with families or with more experience in the workforce but can also have powerful staying power with your staff.

  1. Health benefits can be important for millennials with families to support, which can also be a good sign for an employee looking for long-term employment.
  2. Tailored perks like one-week paid time off after one year employment give incentive for a longer term commitment.
  3. $25 bonuses for each crew member on jobs that pass post inspection and high customer satisfaction rating. The bonuses are accumulated and paid out every 6 months. The only down side is that you may have several employees leave after on a 6-month interval, but that should not hold you back from trying it or your own variation.

It is a must though that you set standards of work and expectations at the beginning of employment so that everyone knows how their performance will be judged and what actions will get them fired (going shirtless). Standard scripts should be developed to help smooth over customer interactions, especially if a millennial's communication style is less than ideal when working with baby boomers.

Sometimes you'll find they are just lazy, don't want to listen, or really don't want to work. In that case, your decision should be easy as going, going, gone.


David Byrnes is the founder and CEO of Green Integrated Design (Green ID), an energy advising and auditing company in Arizona. He is LEED accredited, Building Analyst certified through BPI and RESNET,  Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) certified, and received his Masters of Science from the University of Arizona in Chemical and Environmental Engineering.  

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