Make no doubt about ita war is raging within the tire industry and unless companies take an active approach to winning it, they may find themselves on the losing side in the battle.
Everywhere you turn, tire industry CEOs, managers and human resources (HR) directors are battling against an onslaught of new recruits who just don't fit the mold of the traditional worker.
Attracting and retaining top talent in the under-30 age bracket is vital to the survival of any business, but it also is becoming one of the biggest challenges in a number of industries, including the tire and automotive landscape. In fact, a recent Towers Watson & Co. surveyGlobal Talent Management and Rewards Studyfound that more than 30 percent of companies are reporting difficulty attracting top talent while 50 percent of companies report difficulty retaining top talent.
As someone who has worked both in multiple tire industry businessesand fits somewhere in between the baby boomer and millennial generationsI started to wonder where the difference is. I spoke with friends and mentors in the tire industry and they all came back with similar answers, telling me that businesses just don't know how to attract the under-30 set, nor do they know how to keep this new generation of workers engaged.
Though I could be considered a millennial, I feel like I am somewhere in between the old and the new workforce. I have a traditional sense of work ethic but also a thorough understanding of and respect for new technology and everything it can do for businesses.
I have to admit, I still have trouble relating to some of the issues younger recruits bring to the table. There's a different mindset that's hard to translate to traditional work ethics.
So where do we go from here? How do we reach the newest generation of workersthe ones who will be picking up the torch after us? How does the tire industry win the war for talent?
Every war needs a battle plan, so I've gone over these conversations, my experiences and the research available to devise a strategy to help get the tire industry on the winning path again.
This series will look at the main talent challenges facing the tire industry and develop a plan for tire businesses that are looking to succeed in this difficult market. Arm yourself with these tactical steps and I believe your company can win the war for talent.
To begin your battle plan, it's important to review a little history. Understanding market forces and changes in business practices is an important weapon in the war for talent. This knowledge will equip you for sudden changes in technology, market standards and even employees. It also will give you an edge over your competitors.
The world seems to be moving at the speed of social media. And today's marketplace has drastically changed over the last 10 to 20 years. Think about these facts:
c Facebook is just over 10 years old, founded in 2004.
c Twitter is just about 10 years old, founded in 2006.
c LinkedIn is about to be 15 years old; it was founded in 2002.
c The World Wide Web that we use to surf daily is just 25 years old.
Can you even imagine a world without some of this technology? Over the last couple of decades, information at our fingertips has changed the way we interact and entertain ourselvesand especially the way we do business. The world moves at the speed of typing and it isn't slowing down, especially when it comes to social media.
If you think these changes aren't affecting your tire industry business, think again. A survey conducted in 2013 showed that more than 80 percent of respondents felt that social media was an important communication channel for CEOs to engage with customers and investors. (CEO social media survey, www.brandfog.com).
Add to that the 1.96 billion people who, according to www.statistica.com, use some type of social media over 17 times a day in the U.S. alone and you're looking at a lot of potential employees or customers (Lulu Chang, digitaltrends.com).
With the growing use of this technology, the competition has grown more and more fierce. Why is this important? Because in order to compete in this fierce marketplace, tire dealership executives and the businesses they operate must adapt and evolve.
Don't hang on to that business plan you've had for 30 or even 50 years because it will only hold you back.
The next step in your battle plan is understanding your troops. A successful commander must be in the trenches with those troopsknowing their strengths, weaknesses, values and goals. What makes this so difficult today is the wide gap between a company's veteran employees and new hires.
Between 1946 and 1964, 76 million people were born, and according to a 2014 article by Glenn Kessler in the Wall Street Journal, now they are beginning to exit the workforce. Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are retiring every day.
This generation is characterized by the following values:
c Independent minded;
c Exceptionally hardworking;
c Enjoy long work weeks;
c Enjoy challenges;
c Like to work independently;
c Are motivated by perks (bonuses, rewards, etc), as well as positions and reputation/standing in the company culture;
c Loyal; and
c Enjoy structure;
In between the baby boomers and the millennials are the workers from Generation X, born between the years of 1961 and 1981. This generation grew up with technology in their homes and witnessed difficult financial times. They are characterized by the following values:
c Unstructured work hours;
c Dislike micromanagement;
c Technologically knowledgeable;
c Very educated;
c Don't enjoy risk; and
c Are less committed to one employer
The millennials entering the workforce seem to be the most confusing for veteran workers and CEOs. Understanding them really comes down to understanding their experiences and values.
Millennials have never known a world without technology. They are used to quick answers and often lack patience. Also, being born between 1980 and 2000, they have watched companies fire loyal employees and stock markets crash. They are characterized by the following:
c Working to live, not living to work;
c Value rich life experiences over money;
c Seek fun in the workplace, not traditional etiquette;
c Prefer technological interaction over face-to-face interaction;
c Want more feedback, coaching and contribution in workplace decisions;
c Desire friendships and personal relationships with their bosses, superiors and co-workers;
c Prefer teamwork;
c Switch career paths and jobs often;
c Not interested in company loyalty or longevity;
c Good at multitasking;
c Great with technology;
c Often feel entitled to perks, rewards and respect;
c Expect more rewards and quicker results for less work;
c Want the same rewards without climbing corporate ladders; and
c Engage in relationships more than status
These values are so different from the standard way of doing business that many company executives feel overwhelmed by the drastic change. Frankly, I am having trouble understanding these values myself.
This idea from one of my favorite bosses sums up the traditional work ethic: Be your own CEO; take responsibility for everything in your area, don't pass the buck; be flexible.
These values are changing and we have to meet those changes.
Training employees is a large investment and CEOs want troops they can count on. Most companies do not want to continue training people who will leave them.
The real challenge in retaining employees is finding a way to meet the individual styles and needs of each employee.
Many baby boomer and Generation X CEOs have a hard time accepting the new values of millennials. For a company to succeed they must recognize that these values are not going to change and they must find a way to work with them.
Any manager or CEO can tell you the most successful programs they've had relied on a great team.
A great team only works well when it has smooth pathways for communication, great leaders and excited members. So how do you fire up your team? It's a lot easier than you think.
Since many of you are already familiar with baby boomer and Generation X employees, let's focus on the millennial mystery. If you understand the millennial workforce, you can attract them to your company and retain them for some time.
Remember, long-term retention is a thing of the past. It isn't coming back so shoot for a good five to six years of employee retention. (Check out the article, 5 Reasons Why Long-Term Employment Is Dead (And Never Coming Back), by Jacob Morgan in the March 20, 2014 issue of Forbes magazine).
Also, don't worry. If you have a great battle plan that values your employees, your training dollars will come back to you. That's rightemployees who leave for greener pastures will return to your company and often bring friends with a good work ethic.
So here's how to attract and keep those mysterious millennials and get great work out of them:
1. Change your perksThis doesn't mean you get rid of old standards that have worked for your veteran employees. Simply adjust perks to meet the demand of applicants. Some ideas include:
c Flexible schedules: Millennials like working different hours or having untraditional days off. These flexible hours can actually make your company more accessible to customers as well.
c Open door policy: Remember that millennials like to give input on company issues, even if they haven't earned the rank yet. Let them stop by and give you their ideas and takes on various things. Even if you don't use their ideas, they will appreciate that you value their input.
c Fun social events: Millennials like to socialize, not just online. Start adding company outings as part of your reward program. It doesn't have to be big and the company doesn't always have to foot the bill. For example, meet for trivia night at a local restaurant; periodically bring in cookies; have parties to reward big sales; go bowling. Millennials value relationships and fun; adding these perks might get them inspired in their regular workand it might even add some life to the rest of your team as well.
c Have contests: Not the boring contests that make everyone groan. Stretch the limits of your imagination and come up with fun new activities that make people get excited about working. Do you have a deadline to meet or a big shipment to fill? Create a funny contest that gets your team movingand make the reward untraditional, like an extra day off or a gift card for the local coffee shop.
c Make your work mean something: One of the top motivators for millennials is doing work that matters. Even if your work doesn't seem world-changing, if you are helping just one person out, millennial employees will get excited.
c Cultivate charitable partnerships: This goes along with the same idea of doing work that matters. Partner with a local school, homeless shelter, hospital or anything that inspires you and your workforce. Have employees bring in donations or give portions of your sales to these non-profits. Your employees will find more inspiration in their work and get even more excited about doing it.
2. Change your training/management styleAs the baby boomers retire, management and training methods have to adjust. Try to tailor your training and management style to the individual as best you can. For millennials this means considering the following adjustments:
c Go digital: Stop informational videos and tiresome forms. Add digital training, interviews, meetings, conferences and anything else you can to engage different employees in a way that adapts to their needs. Flexibility is the key and a digital workplace increases productivity and accessibility for workers at all levels.
c Create different paths to success: The new generation of workers doesn't accept the standard routes of promotion. For these employees, promotions don't have to always be a vertical paththey can often feel successful with lateral moves as well. Look for different paths for individuals and find ways that they can best benefit your team.
c Create personal relationships: Get to know your new hires and make them feel like they are part of your team. People who are more engaged with their co-workers are less likely to leave their jobs.
c Continue and encourage mentorship: After a new employee is trained, don't just drop him or her in their position. Check up on them occasionally. Go back and follow up on their projects. Remember, this generation prefers teamwork and is used to getting a lot more input than past generations. These workers need to know you are involved and available.
c Encourage creativity: Creative minds solve problems, so encourage your team to think creatively. Also remember, millennials actually like to build things and work with their hands. They enjoy seeing tangible results from their work, and this includes with tire industry-related jobs.
3. Create a flexible workspaceStaying in one place is often hard, no matter the generation. Add a couple of these touches if you can:
c Standing workspaces: Sitting down all day is tiring and bad for a person's health. If you can have a few areas where people can work while standing, add them in.
c Sitting areas: In the same way that sitting all day is exhausting, standing all day is exhausting as well. Have a comfortable area for people to sit while working.
c Break zones: We all need a break once in a while. Have a nice break room with comfortable seating and even a few perks like games or fresh snacks and refreshments.
c Go outside: If it is at all possible for at least some of your company's employees, have outdoor workdays. Getting some fresh air will wake up employees and help them get through the long work hours. If you have a business outside, find ways to make it more comfortable for your employees.
When you want to win the war for talent and attract the best employees to your tire business or auto service shop, you have to go to the front lines. Here's how to win over those talented employees everyone wants:
c Promote your business on social media: As I've noted, social media is everywhere and everyone is using it. Promoting your business with social media won't just attract clients, it also will attract potential employees.
c Abandon old analog hiring strategies: Employees are no longer searching newspapers for jobs. You're not going to meet the next great leader for your firm at an employment agency. Fresh faces and new blood are plugged into social media. Get online and reach them where they are via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Instagram and other websites. Your company can potentially find great employees on social media, so start advertising positions there.
c Showcase your company culture: Your tire dealership or service shop needs employees who will mesh with your company culture. Find ways to highlight your mission statement, the office atmosphere and the talents of your team. People who share your vision will want to join your team.
Regardless of how you feel about it, the torch must be passed to a new generation.
The best way to ensure your company's continued success is to understand those who will one day inherit it. Having been in the tire industry throughout my life, I can understand how difficult it can be to understand these new work habits, values, generations and workers.
To succeed, companies need to get plugged into new technology, adjust their management styles and start accepting the differences between old business and new workers. Find ways to work these new strategies into your company culture to the benefit of your business.
Your company could experience a surge in employees and clients.
Mike Cioffi is owner/account manager of New Rochelle, N.Y.-based Efficient Business Solutions Inc., which does business as www.TireRe-cruit-er.com. He is a consultant in the tire industry and his day-to-day job consists of finding top talent for tire manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. He also helps set up trusts, succession plans and similar services for small businesses. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 843-732-8473.