During the Dealer Section meeting at the 2017 WQA Leadership Conference in San Diego in September, one topic sparked the most discussion by far: millennials.
The need to bring younger people into the water quality industry has long been a topic of discussion at industry events. The discussion at the Dealer Section meeting was launched by a suggestion that dealers bring younger employees to events such as the WQA Convention & Exposition to provide them the opportunity to become more engaged with the industry.
Dealers mentioned several concerns with bringing their younger employees to industry events. Some were wary of spending the money to travel to conferences on newer employees who may not stay with the company long-term. Others noted that if younger employees attended events, no one would be left at the dealership to keep the business running. Others wondered if young employees were mature enough to take industry events seriously.
Meeting attendees brought up many counterpoints to these concerns. Some noted that bringing young employees to events might help them become more passionate about the water quality industry and make them more likely to stay with a company and develop their careers. According to Fortune, research has shown that millennials “want to invest time acquiring the skills and knowledge they need to grow both personally and professionally” and that they believe companies could do more to help them develop their leadership skills.
During the Dealer Section meeting discussion, a stereotype of millennials seemed to emerge: someone in his or her early 20s who doesn’t expect to stay at a particular job for more than a few years and is part of the “participation trophy” generation.
When discussing millennials, it’s important to keep in mind that the generation generally is considered to include those born between the early 1980s and the mid- to late-1990s. That means the oldest millennials are now in their mid-30s.
Full disclosure: I’m a millennial. I don’t fit many of the millennial stereotypes. I’m married, I own a home and a car, and I’ve been with the same company for more than seven years.
My point is that it’s important to remember that not all millennials fit all of the stereotypes you might have heard. Certainly, there are many ways millennials differ from other generations—we grew up in the internet age, we communicate differently, and we do expect different things from our jobs.
It’s also important to invest in the youngest generation of water treatment industry employees. In WQP’s latest State of the Industry survey, more than 80% of respondents said they were age 50 or older. As that generation reaches retirement, the next generations—including millennials—need to be ready to take the lead, and that means investing in training and mentorship to ensure they have the technical and leadership skills they need to keep the industry at its best.