The jan/san industry is not getting any younger. Distributors historically have struggled to recruit young professionals and recent graduates to sell toilet tissue, vacuums and other “unglamorous” products. With Baby Boomers retiring in droves, distributors need to find replacements for these vacancies. But more than simply filling a need, distributors really should be cultivating the future.

Sanitary Maintenance asked its advisory board members how they’ve been reaching out to the next crop of employees. Not every company featured has had success attracting the new generation, but they’ve all learned some lessons along the way.

Here’s what they had to say:

Question: Millennials switch jobs on average about every three years. How can a company retain its young talent?

Attracting and retaining an employee for three years or more is tough. Most Millennials are looking for quick advancement and/or frequent changes in their jobs.

I think the misconception for employers is trying to keep Millennials on a job when the employee might have outgrown the position or there is just no room for advancement within the company. Sometimes the employee becomes stagnant in their performance and they become discontent with their jobs thus the employer becomes discontent with them. Sometimes three years employment with one employer is actually enough for both parties. The employee has received valuable training and the employer is in need of someone with more experience.

I believe that new employees bring new ideas and excitement to our company and I have no problem with an average of three-year turnaround unless the candidate displays that they are potential management material.
— Shelley A. Riley, President, MaintenanceMart Janitor Supply, Phoenix

Being interested in them as people and having open dialogue.
— George Abiaad, President, Royal Corp., Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

Above all employees are still looking for security, a sense of belonging and appreciation, and a steady paycheck. Many Millennials have seen parents lose jobs and may have already experienced the consequences of the recession. When they know a company is sustainable and that their efforts will have a pay off (paycheck, benefits) then retention is more likely.
In sales, efforts are rewarded financially; therefore they have a sense of control over their destiny with the advantage of a steady company supporting their efforts.
— Charles Wax, President, Waxie Sanitary Supply, San Diego

Reinvest in your sales force via training and technology upgrades that assist them in selling.
— Chris Nolan, President, H.T. Berry Co., Canton, Mass.

We try to create an atmosphere where people want to stick around. It’s a family here. My core 30-some people have been here for years. They get their full benefit package paid for by the company, they make a nice wage or commission.

I keep coming back to getting young recruits to understand when they come on board not to expect miracles. They’re not going to make what someone who has been here 20 years makes. But if they talk to the experienced reps, they’ll find they started same way. New reps have to go out and pound the bricks.

Employers also have to be willing to make the investment. If you do it right and provide the real opportunity, you’re going to invest at least $40,000 to 50,000 the first year. You have to be willing to do that. You can’t let that issue cloud your decision.
— Bill Nourse, President, Brookmeade Hardware and Supply, Nashville, Tenn.

Retaining young talent is hard. A lot of that difficulty comes from compensation and benefits. Young talent is looking to make money and reach their lifestyle level. They also are looking to do this as quickly as possible instead of at a steady growth rate. If companies focus on their benefits and ability to provide growth, as well as keep a vastness to the job description that does not pinhole them into one repetitive and redundant task, then there is a longer life to the younger professional.
— Eric Cadell, V.P. of Operations, Dutch Hollow Janitorial Supplies, Belleville, Ill.

Young talent should be paid exponentially and made to feel they are stock holders in the company. Nothing really new about that. Spiffs and bonus opportunities on performance.
— Paul “Dutch” Owens, President, Gem Supply, Orlando, Fla.

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Company Perks That Attract Young Professionals
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Personality Traits To Look For When Hiring Young People