Millennials like more options in the workplace

Millennials are a different kind of animal. So said demographer Kenneth W. Gronbach, CEO of KGC Direct LLC (Haddam, CT). Gronbach is a demographer and futurist who spoke at last fall’s SPI/IHS Global Plastics Summit, offering some insights into how the retiring baby boomers and incoming millennial generation (which is larger than the baby boomer population) will impact the workplace.

According to an article in Forbes by Louis Efron, millennials (those who are now 18 to 30 years old) will represent about 40% of the workforce by 2020. Already, millennials have different ideas about their lives and their careers. Efron noted, “Millennials don’t want jobs. They want lives.”

That is what Keith Everson, CEO of SussexIM (Sussex, WI), discovered as the company embarked on a way to help the company develop a culture that attracts and retains its younger workers, and makes its business sustainable. Last year SussexIM, a full-service injection molding and contract manufacturing company that includes B-to-B manufacturing as well as B-to-C with the addition of its Sussex Brands division, brought in a consulting firm from Boston to help it develop a work environment that millennials want.

“Ed [Fabiszak, VP Sales & Marketing] and I are always on the lookout for articles, TED Talks and other resources to help us, because the millennials are a fascinating species,” said Everson. “It’s a fun group and they’ve adapted very well to the technological age—the first group in history that has had such technological advancements. Now we must adapt to the way they see their working life.”

One of the pieces of information that Everson uncovered is that 90% of millennials leave their jobs because of their boss. “That was a shocker to me,” Everson told PlasticsToday in an interview. “They don’t like the big corporate world and are much more in tune with how their boss treats them than their actual job.”

SussexIM has a large percentage of its workforce in the 36 and younger age group, and they work in all facets of the company from upper management to production. The consulting firm surveyed SussexIM’s employees on literally dozens of options with respect to their workweek, gradually narrowing it down to two choices, and the employees made the final decision: A 24/7 flex-scheduling program that allows participating employees to enjoy three-day weekends every other week.

The new schedule began on Jan. 3, after the conclusion of a nine-month effort to develop a program that employees wanted. “With the new 12-hour shift schedule, in a 22-day span they’re working 11 days, which allows them to pursue other interests or lifestyle choices, or to be entrepreneurial,” said Everson. “Millennials are not solely motivated by money. Quality of life is a big driver for this group, meaning that savvy managers need to appreciate the work/life balance this generation desires, or risk being left behind.”

Not only does the new flex-schedule benefit employees, but customers, as well. “Our customers benefit from our increased capacity and on-time, in-full (OTIF) performance,” Everson explained. “OTIF is considered the gold standard in delivery performance metrics.”

This is one of the main attractions for smaller, privately held businesses such as SussexIM, which can be flexible and make changes that allow employees to feel more in control of their lives. “After almost one quarter of the new flex-schedule program, it’s going better than I’d anticipated,” Everson commented. “We were hoping it would pay off and it certainly did.”

In addition to the company’s flex-schedule program, SussexIM also works with local high schools through GPS Education Partners to develop co-op programming that allows motivated students to obtain on-the-job training that can lead to company positions upon graduation.

SussexIM’s visionary business models have proven successful, resulting in double-digit annual growth. Recently, SussexIM announced that it is purchasing property to build a new 81,000-square-foot facility, a major expansion in facility size, inline filling capability and personnel. “These investments, in combination, will enable us to further diversify our business and build upon the double-digit growth rate we posted over the last five years,” said Everson.

The Forbes ebook, The Millennial Game Plan, offers some good advice for business owners looking to hire and retain millennial employees. “Giving your employees the flexibility and freedom, where possible, to be their own boss with a focus exclusively on results, produces greater employee engagement, loyalty and ultimately better business results,” said Forbes. “If you embrace Gen Y and Z’s entrepreneurial spirit and build a culture to support, rather than crush it, they will not need to leave your company to fulfill this desire.”