“We can’t change anything, so what do you recommend?”
This is a question I recently received after presenting a keynote on Millennials (1982-1995) for the Grain Elevator & Processing Society (GEAPS).
The grain industry, like so many industries, is struggling to fill any job that requires some type of trade-specific experience or skill. This is largely because my generation was pressured to pursue a college degree, along with the fact that most high schools de-emphasized things like shop and mechanics classes.
But in this situation, recruiting isn’t even the biggest problem. The biggest problem is retention. The grain industry is struggling to keep the employees they do find for longer than six months. Some say it’s because of how labor intensive the work is—and yes, that might be a factor. But could it be because these organizational leaders are asking questions like, ‘We can’t change anything, so what do we do?’.
My response to that question? You have the wrong mindset. You need to first be open and willing to change. Sure, you might not be able to change the actual job description, but there are always things you can change within your company culture.
At the end of my GEAPS presentation, I gave the audience—mostly comprised of industry leaders—a call to action. I asked them to spend the next 30 days talking to a handful of employees (preferably the youngest employees), and to ask them for ideas on how the company culture could be improved. And I encourage you to do the same.
Here are four questions you can ask during these conversations:
1. What motivates and inspires you about working here?
2. In your opinion, what is our company doing really well?
3. What areas could we improve?
4. What would make you feel more valued and appreciated as a member of our team?
Use these questions to guide a conversation with your employees and I promise you you’ll be able to make the right changes for your organization to become a desirable company for younger generations. The “we can’t change anything” approach isn’t going to engage your employees or grow your business; it’s a dead end.
Retention is possible, but you must be willing to accept new ideas and new people as part of your team, and to stop resisting change.
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