With an estimated 75 percent of the workforce expected to consist of the next generation by 2025, now is the time for in-house facility managers to equip young cleaners with the necessary skills for potential management positions, as current managers approach retirement.

Training and education — and conveying the importance of such — are essential in preparing the next generation of leaders, say consultants.

“Young people are looking at how this job can help them prepare for the next step,” says Sandra Christensen, an organizational development consultant in Milwaukee. “So a manager must convey that what they’re learning could be beneficial to them down the line, even if it’s an entry-level job.”

Jessi Moffatt, environmental services director at Shady Lane Nursing Care Center in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, believes in open communication and keeping her staff in the loop, regardless of their current positions.

“I share whatever education I can with my staff, from seminars and conferences I attend on what’s new in the industry, to refreshers about disinfecting,” she says. “Engaging with my staff and letting them know what’s going on in the industry is very important in keeping their energy level up.”

Whether recruiting new hires or training the next generation, custodial executives must demonstrate strong leadership, as well as emphasize growth opportunities that are appealing to workers.

“Millennials get bored easily, so talk about the job’s challenges during interviews, or write about the challenges in ad copy,” suggests Sharon Cowan, CBSE, industry consultant for Cleaning Business Consulting Group, Vero Beach, Florida. “They need to see there’s strong leadership in the organization and the opportunity to achieve goals.”

Once new hires are on board, Ralph Peterson, training manager for Healthcare Services Group Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina, uses forecasting to boost productivity and prepare newcomers for future management roles.

“The easiest thing to do — and also the hardest, in reality — is forecast with your staff,” he says. “Show them what a position in management is going to look like. Start having that conversation with your staff early on, so when the time comes, they’re better prepared to handle the situation.”

While managing the next generation can be frustrating at times for Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, a slight shift in perspective can help to bridge the generational gap. For example, Traditionalists and Baby Boomers that are used to working long hours may balk at requests from Gen X or Millennials to work remotely.

“When these younger generations want a flexible schedule or time off, managers tend to see that as a desire not to work, and that’s not necessarily true,” says Cowan. “Managers need to be aware of what’s going to produce the best result from the younger workers and be flexible.”

Experts don’t suggest ignoring how the department has been managed in the past, but encourage executives to keep an open mind about new ways to accomplish goals.

“Traditionalists and Baby Boomers need to adjust their management style to show Gen Xers or Millennials respect, engage them and listen to their ideas,” Cowan adds.

Attitudes and work ethic aside, possibly the biggest challenge current custodial executives will face with their younger staff is the fight over wages. According to a CNN study, 87 percent of hiring managers and HR professionals say Millennials exhibit a sense of entitlement that older generations don’t. Due to the financial demands associated with college and degree prerequisites, including on-the-job experiences/internships, young staff expects competitive wages, even in entry-level positions.

KASSANDRA KANIA is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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