Before seeking more sales reps to hire, jan/san distributors and their hiring managers should identify what they want. If employers are looking to make a long-term investment in a worker, it makes sense to target greener applicants who are more of a blank canvas. Sales managers can mold these young workers into the company's prototypical sales rep.

"You pay someone with no experience less and it takes them longer to hit their stride, but the return on investment can be much better," says Ailene Grego, president and CEO of SouthEast Link, Atlanta.

If a jan/san distributor wants great performance right away, with little need for direction, an experienced worker — maybe one in the Baby Boomer or Gen X generation — makes sense. However, the return on investment has a capped ceiling with more experienced workers because they cost more and the older ones are more likely to retire or move on to another role. It's because of this low upside that Grego thinks it hurts companies that continue to prioritize experience in their hiring.

Just like any generation, not all members of Gen Z are alike. That fact that workers are individuals first and not like some mass-produced car is something experts say is important to remember when exploring age groups. Still, there are some traits that are more common in certain age groups than others and they're worth understanding.

The following are some traits the lesser understood Millennial and Gen Z person often possesses, according to Claudia St. John, president of Affinity HR Group, Jamestown, New York.

Gen Z

  • Digital natives
  • More independent than Millennials
  • Critical of inauthentic leadership
  • Critical of institutions and authority in general
  • Less need for attention


  • Want to know what they're doing
  • Desire collaboration

Attracting these younger workers might be easier now than it has ever been in the past. The exposure the COVID-19 pandemic has granted the entire cleaning industry has given the general public a greater understanding of what jan/san distribution involves and why it is important. Younger generations are intrigued and they see jan/san as a way to make a difference.

For example, Grego has found that younger generations like that the industry is moving toward safer product alternatives and technologies. Particularly, distributors are offering less toxic chemicals, such as hypochlorous acid, in addition to quats and traditional disinfectants. These generations also like to hear that technology, such as ultraviolet (UV) light, is being used to kill germs.

Evolution in the industry is that "cool" factor candidates like hearing, which opens the door to conversations about stability and pay.

In her experience working in human resources with business throughout many different industries, St. John has found that steady work and a strong salary is more appealing than it sounds. In fact, in today's climate, it's tantalizing. That's because a lot of younger workers are coming out of college with heaps of student loan debt, expensive housing and other rising costs. Distributors must let it be known that sales rep positions in jan/san aren't going anywhere, provide skills that are transferable to any other sales position imaginable, and will provide enough income to live comfortably.

"Employers need to realize the market for skilled talent is tight," says St. John. "They will need to really sell themselves."

When marketing a sales rep job opening, distributors would be wise to not only articulate the good pay and benefits it provides, but also share that information across different platforms, like through social media and traditional advertising. Distributors should also be posting videos on their website that tell their story and talk about how they're making the world a better place.

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