6 Considerations on Millennials in Your Ecommerce Fulfillment Workforce

Each generation sees the world differently. Ecommerce fulfillment managers and HR leaders at client firms often grumble about the difficulty of hiring and managing millennials. For sure, those born between 1981 and 1996 view life and work through a different lens. As a result, many businesses have struggled to find the best ways to integrate them into their culture.

Meanwhile, the generational makeup of the workforce is changing rapidly:

  • “More than one in three American labor force participants (35%) are millennials, making them the largest (working) generation in the U.S.,” according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
  • A recent article in Forbes said millennials will make up nearly 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025, suggesting companies find ways to make their business more millennial-friendly.

In researching their book “What Millennials Want from Work,” Jennifer Deal of The Center for Creative Leadership and Alec Levenson of the University of Southern California conducted a study of 25,000 millennials in 25 countries, exploring their characteristics, behaviors, proclivities, and desires, specifically related to work and career.

Millennials are entitled AND hardworking,” Deal said. “They want to have a say and contribute their ideas. They resist doing repetitive or boring work. They want to have a life outside of work and expect enough flexibility to allow them to fulfill both their personal and professional commitments.”

We have hired millennials in recent years and found they bring new ideas, for sure. From this experience and that of some clients, we’re convinced there will be major conflicts and frustrations if we don’t spend more time identifying the best ways to integrate them productively into our work environments.

To that point, here are 6 considerations when hiring, training and retaining millennial workers for ecommerce fulfillment:

Setting Goals and Achieving Results

Millennials may have attended schools which did not give grades for their schoolwork. We would not assume they have much business knowledge. Our recommendation is to teach every employee how your company makes money, and how owners and shareholders receive a return on investment. Earnings aren’t simply shared equally with every employee.

Manual and Repetitive Work

As this is the nature of ecommerce fulfillment, is it challenging enough for them? Or are their goals and education pushing them to more lofty expectations? In every generation there are people that choose to work manual jobs. Will there be sufficient labor? At the same time, the trend towards automation and robotics will reduce many jobs.

Company Culture and Management Style

According to the Forbes article, millennials now hold 20% of all leadership positions. They want to make a significant contribution and have their opinions heard and acted upon. This may be a conundrum for companies which aren’t as open to change. Changing management decision processes to be less dictatorial may be difficult for some.

Technology and Social Communities

Millennials are digital natives, having grown up with the internet, computers and social media. Experts say you should incorporate technology into their jobs to get maximum productivity – but is that always possible?

Clients have told us that trying to restrict millennials’ smartphone and social media use during work hours brings frustration; it’s such an ingrained behavior, they don’t understand why they can’t. They feel cut off from friends and networks. Relying heavily on technology, many lack basic communication skills needed to deal with customers, prospects and colleagues. Their preferred medium is texting, often in shorthand with no punctuation.

Millennials as managers will be the first generation faced with major conflicts between automation and jobs being reduced. Will they employ it in all aspects of the business or will they slow it down because it replaces jobs?

The Entitled Generation 

Parents of millennials have given them many opportunities and experiences. Millennials have grown up with an incorrect impression they are entitled more than others. They graduate from college and expect to move into high-paying management positions. For first-time jobs we know that’s not realistic. We need to help them understand how people advance in the company.

We recommend every company adopt career paths for every employee, so all of them – millennials included – understand their role and growth potential within your company.

Employee Manual

These young people think differently, and many of them probably just have service-type jobs on their resume. Now more than ever it’s necessary to develop an employee manual. Spell out the general responsibilities and expectations of every employee, how performance reviews are conducted, how raises are determined and awarded, and about benefits and time off. We have found some millennials don’t even realize they need prior approval and scheduling for vacations.

All of this amounts to a sea change for many organizations. How you integrate millennial workers productively – and Generation Y coming up hard on their heels – will be essential to your long-term business growth and profitability.

Brian Barry is President of F. Curtis Barry & Company

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