Over the last few years, there has been so much talk about the rising generations and their influence on the future of the workplace. Statistics state that, in a few years, millennials will make up 50 percent of the workforce. Then, in just a few more years, they will make up 75 percent of the workforce. Those staggering numbers have led to an endless number of articles about how to attract more millennials, how to make them happy, what will keep them inspired to work, and how to use their unique work approach to learn and grow.
There’s good and bad news here. Regardless of whether you buy into the hype about the next generation of workers, here’s a fact: They are the future of our industry. If we fail to embrace or encourage their contributions, then who will be there to carry the industry forward? Here’s the bottom line: We need this next generation to be excited about what our industry has to offer. That places a certain amount of responsibility on our industry’s leaders to shine a light on what we do, so that rising stars want to bring their talents to the commercial technology space.
Spending a lot of my time on the road and speaking with integrators, I often hear stories about the challenges of attracting young, talented workers. There are many ideas about why we’re not successful at attracting enough of them. Sometimes, it’s because young workers need too much money and too many benefits, and they expect too much opportunity—all while they lack the experience to justify their demands.
We can’t compete with Google or Big Pharma when it comes to wages and growth for young workers; however, all too frequently, my inquiries to integration firms about what they’re doing to make our industry attractive to millennials elicit little (or no) response.
I still see companies with a dull digital presence, inactive social media accounts and websites that looked dated five years ago. Those are the first places that young workers look when exploring companies. If they visit your website to see that it was developed in Flash, or if it still looks like an old brochure with pictures of installers mounting CRTs, what do you think they will really “see”? If your social feeds are nonexistent, boring or abandoned, then the company looks like it isn’t keeping up with the times.
I also more specifically ask companies about how their owners are getting involved in the community. Are they out in front, being leaders, talking to students and sharing their vision of an industry with boundless potential? Cloud, mobile and social are all at the core of what we do, and that should excite younger workers. They should want to have a chance to be part of our industry, which works to bring collaboration to life.
However, many owners and senior leaders simply aren’t out there to share that enthusiastic view of our future. And if they aren’t doing it, then who is? Can you imagine what would happen if Tim Cook, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos decided not to shine a light on his company, his industry and his personal vision?
The industry we love has the potential for a very bright future. Sure…business models are changing, and technology consumption is moving from a capital-expenditures (CapEx) model to an operating-expenditures (OpEx) model—something we’ve discussed repeatedly. However, technology has made our world smaller and it’s created rapidly growing demand for more collaboration, visual communication, digital signage, physical security and content creation. All of those are proficiencies of the integration industry.
All of those are also exciting technologies about which our future workforce can, and should, be excited. Generating that excitement isn’t their responsibility, though. I know that some people think millennials are just entitled kids who still live in their parents’ basements, but that isn’t the norm. The oldest millennials will turn 40 in fewer than five years. When we were young, the preceding generations worried about us, as well. That happens with each generation that comes through the workforce.
Our industry leaders must get out and talk to their communities, schools, chambers and other relevant associations, face to face, about what we are doing. We need to think more progressively about internships and job rotations—even about how we market our businesses—to inspire younger workers to find their way into the integration space. This is an everyday priority for NSCA, and I hope it is for you, too. You’ve worked hard to build successful companies, and your companies will prosper if you’ve got the right people on board, and if they’re excited about what they do.
NSCA just launched its new IGNITE Career Center. It’s a great resource to share with students, educators and community members as you talk to them about the future that our industry can offer. Visit it at www.nsca.org/ignite-career-center.
If you have ideas or questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.