Tissue World Magazine
Alexandra Stuthridge, Technical Business Manager, BioProducts Institute (BPI)

2014JulAug_marketissues (2)By Brian Work

At Tissue World Americas 2014, American Paper Converting’s Brian Work discussed why tissue is a dynamic sector that can attract smart young people with creative minds. Here, he talks to TWM about the need to embrace change.

It is no surprise that the towel and tissue industry is in need of young talented workers. The current workforce is a mix of three generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. In 2014, Millennials made up 34% of the total workforce in the United States amongst all industries. However, in 2020 this number is projected to be 46%, an increase of 12%. This can be correlated to Baby Boomers reaching age of retirement and Millennials coming of age to join the workforce.

With the influx of Millennials to the workforce, it is important to understand some differences between generations. In 2011 both current managers consisting of the three generations were asked what job factors they valued as important and the results were quite different. Meaningful Work and a Sense of Accomplishment were more often valued as important amongst Millennials, where as managers more often valued High Pay and Responsibility. High Pay is still valued as important to Millennials however; whereas for managers other job factors are equally as important. This needs to be considered as Millennials enter the workforce.

[box type=”info”] Millennials – a US originated term referring to children born in the years 1982 to 2004 whose work prospects were linked to the millennial year of 2000.[/box]

Differences between the generations can also be found in workplace expectations. Older generations are looking for job security while Millennials are seeking ways to become more employable and build their résumé. Millennials prefer an unstructured environment where the job allows for flexibility in how work is completed and also in how information flows. Older generations are accustomed to defined job roles and procedures on how work is completed along with a structured flow of information.

As such, five items need to be considered to attract, maintain and retain the next generation of talented workers.
These are:
i. Augmenting your online presence
ii. Work environment
iii. Communication
iv. Engagement
v. And retaining your investment

Workplace expectation results when asked to older generations and Millennials in all industry in the USA
Workplace expectation results when asked to older generations and Millennials in all industry in the USA

The first step is to attract the young talent to your company or the need your company has to fill a position. To accomplish this you need to increase your online presence through the use of multiple channels. When asked what sources Millennials use to find work online, 75% visit company websites, 65% used job boards and 25% used social networking sites. In addition, the greater your online presence, the more likely the intended audience is to see your brand names and corporate image and thus the more likely they are to remember your company. When millennials seek information videos or podcasts are preferred where the information is direct and to the point. Also consider using videos to promote the work culture and ways the environment or community have been positively affected by your organisation. However, the information and media provided online needs to be technology friendly. With the increasing popularity of using smart phones and tablets to access the internet, if your information is not compatible, Millennials will move to the next opportunity.

Flexibility in the workplace is sought after by the younger generation by allowing the ability to determine how work is to be completed and which tasks are to be completed first. So long as the work is completed by the due date and to the quality expected, there is no need to regiment their daily routine.

Millennials are committed to their employer but likewise to their personal life. When asked on a scale 1-10 with 10 being the most important attribute to work environment, balanced life ranked third overall. Additionally, technology could be used as a means to attract the brightest and most talented of the generation, as they are attracted to the latest equipment and updated technology. Use of technology can be used to increase the speed in which business is conducted, facilitating a fast pace environment which is preferred amongst this generation.

Millennials have grown up with smart phones and the ability to contact anyone at anytime. Due to this they have come to expect immediate feedback and prompt responses to questions and comments. A slow or lack of response is interpreted as being ignored or not of high priority. Along with rapid response, Millennials prefer communication that is short and to the point. This is why email and text messages are favoured over face-to-face and phone conversation.

However, it should not be assumed that Millennials have poor communication, face-to-face or over the phone skills. Rather, spending 30 minutes in a meeting is hard to justify when a five minute email would accomplish the same objective. This can also be related to trade shows, but they will have their place in the market with the use of technology such as video conference and webinars. In addition to the expectation of a quick response, Millennials have lived their whole lives with the internet where information is immediate and endless. Often they become impatient or irritated when the information needed is only available from a superior or co-worker, where they have to wait until the person is available.

Millennials want to be engaged in the task being performed. This generation wants to work in an environment where they are continually challenged, requiring them to test the skills and abilities taught in school and training.

“To attract young talent you need to increase online presence through multiple channels but it needs to be technology friendly and compatible or millennials will move to the next opportunity.”

Along with a challenging job they want it to be one which is meaningful and provides a definite benefit to the company. A millennial employee would not be satisfied crunching numbers or working on a task where the benefit is unknown. In addition to meaningful and challenging work Millennials value Empowerment and the ability to make decisions necessary to get the job done.

Responses from Millennials across all industry in the USA
Responses from Millennials across all industry in the USA

Companies that empower their workforce are also showing trust in the skills and ability of the employees. Opportunity for career advancement is another item Millennials highly consider when looking for a potential employer. When millennials were asked, the amount of time required at an entry level position before advancing to another, half of the respondents think that one-two years is all that is necessary, where 19% indicated three-five years.

Millennials are continually looking for ways to build their skill set and knowledge whether it be at the current organisation or for future opportunities. Further education by in-house training, additional schooling or certifications courses are great ways to keep young employees engaged and enthusiastic while providing a benefit to the organisation.

So now that we have found the young talent and assimilated them into the organisation, we now need to understand how to retain them and protect the company’s investment as turnover results in loss of skill and money. In order for employees to be loyal to the company, the company must first and foremost be loyal to the employees. There can’t be one without the other. Employers must look after your employees by upholding your duties and obligations by providing a safe and enjoyable place to work. Employees will continue to show up for work and be loyal to the company. As the economy improves so will the job market.

“The workplace is changing … companies that are not actively looking for new young talent may find themselves in a shortage of skilled labour or will be forced to pull them away from other companies at a premium.”

Millennials having the least seniority and commitment to the company, they are more likely to be the first to look for the next bigger better opportunity. Some 43% of respondents indicated that they plan to be in their current position for another one-five years before moving to the next opportunity. The goal of working for a company that will be a lifelong career is no longer the case. Changing jobs every six years is neither uncommon nor viewed as unfortunate.

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Maintaining moral is critical. If employees lose interest in their job or direction of the company it is certain they will look for another opportunity. In addition to the items discussed previously to engage employees, frequent recognition for excellent work and company functions are also great ways to keep moral high. Another aspect is to set clear expectations. The desired outcome of a task should be very well defined as well as the reproductions of inadequate work. This minimises the probability of an undesired outcome because there are no surprises of the consequences.

In summary the workplace is changing and this is something that the industry needs to be aware of and actively working toward accommodating. Companies that are not actively looking for new young talent to fill positions may find themselves in a shortage of skilled labour or will be forced to pull them way from other companies at a premium.

In the next six years the number of Millennials in the work force are projected to increase by 12%. Our industry could see more growth with many current employees reaching age of retirement. Companies need to be open to new and flexible ways of doing business that accommodate the next generation. Allow them to express their ideas of how things could be accomplished.

Technology is continually advancing and changing. Embrace the change and allow the generation to experiment and find uses to simplify current tasks. Overall the key to success is collaborating amongst all generations using their strengths. Encourage the current experts to share their knowledge with the newcomers so nothing is lost is transition. Because like the saying goes … life is like a roll of toilet paper the closer you get to the end to quicker it goes.