Understanding and Retaining the Millennial Workforce
by Troy Schrenk
In many industrial sectors, including oil, gas, and construction, experienced workers (especially Baby Boomers) are retiring with fewer younger workers to take their place. As “The Great Crew Change” continues, smart companies need to adapt to the unique needs of younger workers, especially the Millennial workforce. The same tactics that worked in the past won’t necessarily work in today’s environment. How can companies step up their efforts to recruit Millennials for critical roles in the rotational workforce? How can they recruit these valuable, trained employees and keep them on board?
Generational Differences Matter
The Great Crew Change: Managing Generational Differences in Oil, Gas, Mining and Construction Workforces, our white paper, lays out the reality of generational differences. “The old ways of working with or training workers are simply not going to work for younger generations because of how these workers learn, understand information or relate to the world of work differently from their predecessors,” says author Elaine Cullen, MBA, PhD, CMSP. She notes that Millennial workers tend to:
- Expect a higher quality of life and a work/life balance—even on remote job sites.
- Be more comfortable with online communications and computers.
- Have less hands-on experience with machinery and tools.
- More likely to have grown up in a multicultural society.
Knowing these facts can help today’s companies recruit Millennials for critical positions. Companies can respond to these generational differences by offering high-quality housing with amenities such as Internet access and great food as an incentive. They can also reach out to traditionally underrepresented communities around the country. But recruiting is only half the battle. What happens once these employees are on the job?
Risks for Younger Workers
Younger workers in the challenging energy and construction fields present a disproportionate amount of risk. They are especially susceptible to on-the-job accidents and injuries, especially traumatic injury. Thanks to a lack of training and overall experience, younger workers may take risks and shortcuts that more experienced workers know to avoid. They may also feel that they don’t need to worry about sleep deprivation or healthy food; as Elaine Cullen notes, many young workers think of themselves as being “ten feet tall and bulletproof.”
Stress and loneliness caused by long stretches away from home pose a risk to mental health. Young people away from loved ones and social supports for the first time, living in inadequate housing, might be more susceptible to alcohol or substance abuse; this in turn can contribute to more on-the-job accidents.
Besides these safety and health concerns, younger workers are simply less inclined to accept substandard housing or food than older workers. They’re more likely to jump ship to another employer that offers a higher quality of life, taking their training and experience to the competition. Or they might go home altogether.
With all of these risks in mind, how can companies reduce turnover when it comes to Millennial workers? The first answer is training; the second is housing.
Investing in Training
Elaine Cullen notes that many Millennial workers have had little to no experience at all with hand tools or shop tools, simply because they did not grow up using them (unlike earlier generations). Another major challenge for these new workers is a limited education in STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) needed on the worksite. Today’s diverse workforce comes from many different educational backgrounds and might not have the STEM exposure companies need.
In short, Millennial workers need extensive training as they begin work in mines, drill rigs or construction sites. They need mentors and supervisors willing to teach them and show them the ropes, whether it comes to basic construction, tool skills or heavy equipment. It might take as long as eight to ten years to become an expert in some fields needed by today’s companies.
Retaining Millennials for the Long Term
Companies need to provide healthy living conditions and social support for this period of training.
Superior lodging that offers a better work/life balance, even on harsh, remote sites, is the key. Nutritious dining options and optimal sleep environments minimize the risks that come from fatigue. Policies prohibiting alcohol and drugs protect vulnerable workers against substance abuse. All of these factors help workers stay safe during the training phase and retain them afterwards.
Target Lodging knows that quality lodging near the worksite not only attracts Millennial workers in the first place but reduces the risks they face and improves retention. Here’s how our lodging helps:
- Superior rooms and beds offer true relaxation and high quality sleep.
- Short commutes eliminate a major cause of fatigue.
- Better food choices improve health and morale.
- Recreation options include Internet access and exercise facilities.
- A zero tolerance policy prohibits drugs, alcohol, firearms and cohabitation.
Companies ignore workforce generational differences at their peril. Younger workers represent an investment in training and time, but that investment is lost if they quit or suffer injury. By offering high quality lodging, today’s companies reduce risks and recoup their investment in tomorrow’s workforce.