Shifting priorities

New approaches needed to attract, recruit young workers

Posted on Jun 1, 2016 :: Up Front
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Millennials just might be the most dissected and analyzed generation to ever enter the workforce.

No doubt they hate it, but there is a reason for it. For those charged with trying to retain and attract this group of workers to fill a labor force in transition, getting to know the demographic and cultural challenges is paramount to building a thriving company and economy.

As generational shifts go, this one’s a doozy.

“It’s much more than a generational shift,” says Karen Sinette, director of people experience at Green Bay-based Elevate97, a branding and marketing company. “It’s a complete shift in thinking about careers and the workplace.”

Supporting a workforce of 83 employees — 56 percent of whom are millennials — Sinette has developed a pretty good sense of some of the challenges companies in the region face. Who they work for is much less important than where they live. They are more likely to be single, live with parents and be less concerned with pay and benefits than their predecessors.

Recruiting is much more about community, culture and company values than about perks and salaries, she says. Of particular importance is career development.

“It’s not about the money,” she says. “They are looking for companies and opportunities that will offer them a development plan. They are expecting to get the skills that help them move on.”

So, just what is the makeup of this generation and why does it compare so differently with the Gen-Xers and baby boomers who came before?

A comparison of key demographic data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau between 1980 and 2010 show changes that explain why this group of young adults is so different — and presents both opportunities and challenges for the New North region to attract and retain them.

Data Insight gleaned from Northeast Wisconsin’s five metropolitan statistical areas shows young adults in this region are:

»Earning less money. Median income from young adults ages 18 to 34 have been declining across the region since the 1980s, dropping anywhere from 11 percent to 19 percent.

»More educated. The number of young adults earning bachelor’s degrees in this group has grown to 15 percent for the Manitowoc area to a high of nearly 22 percent for the Green Bay area. It was about 11 percent in 1980. 

»Less likely to be married. This group has delayed marriage, with more than 60 percent in all the region’s MSAs likely to have never been married, compared to roughly 40 percent in 1980.

»More likely to be living with their parents. With marriage delayed and median income declining, the population living with a parent has increased from around 20 percent in 1980 to closer to 30 percent or higher in 2010.

Mix those findings in with others such as greater diversity and more mobility, and it becomes clear that recruiters have their hands full with a generation that will choose where it wants to live first, then pursue an employer.

Manny Vasquez sees that as a potential advantage for the New North region. As vice president of the Fox Cities Regional Partnership, he sees the region’s lifestyle assets — especially when coupled with other factors such as low costs of living — as a great selling point when it comes to attracting young talent.

He also noted that particular industries such as IT or engineering are commanding a salary premium in the region.

“Maybe it’s a bit easier to sell ourselves against Austin, Texas, when we can show how much more you can get here because of the low cost of living,” Vasquez says. His experience with the Fox Cities Regional Partnership’s Talent Upload program (which recently won a national award for bringing college students to the area to familiarize them with the positive attributes of the area) has made this evident.

“Of course, we still have to work on being a cool place to live,” Vasquez adds, “but I think we can compete with anybody.”