by Larry Lawton — Originally published in the April 2018 issue of ISSA
On the long train of demographic groups, the cars full of millennials are pulling into the employment station. As the baby boom generation slowly ages out of the workplace, millennials are stepping into their shoes as the group with the most economic promise and clout. These are the people whose minds and muscles you need to carry your company into the future. So the question looms: How best to attract and retain them at your organization?
Who are the Millennials?
Social scientists and marketing gurus love to talk about millennials as if they comprise some monolithic, singularly focused demographic different from every preceding generation. However, as people born roughly between 1980 and 2000, their educations, attitudes, and potential differ as much as those within any other age group. But if you had to pick one characteristic with which to broad brush the millennials, you could legitimately say that they take the health of the environment and other social issues quite seriously.
The seeds of activism that their parents planted have found fertile ground in their children. That’s why green cleaning your facility will play a large part in your ability to cultivate a durable and top-notch millennial-aged staff.
Why Millennials Care
Heirs to a world still reeling from environmental and “sick building” pollution, many millennials already suffer the effects. According to the National Coalition on Millennial Health report, How Millennials Use Their Health Insurance: “After mental health, trauma-related disorders and COPD/asthma are the most frequent conditions for which young adults receive care.”
This means that young adults can easily react to the harsh chemicals in traditional cleaning products and have an acute need to avoid them. Of course, their elders do, too. Everyone benefits with green cleaning.
Shunning personal contact with chemicals is just the beginning, though. Millennials also feel a keen need to keep them out of the planet’s water and air so they can’t come back to haunt them and future generations down the road. Industry research shows that millennials actively seek out companies that practice environmental responsibility. This explains to a great extent why sustainability is a huge trend in the industry, leading companies to practice green cleaning, promote recycling and composting, get Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) and LEED Green Building-certified, and try to reduce water consumption and energy usage.
A recent survey published by Recycling Today (April 6, 2017) conducted on behalf of Rubbermaid Commercial Products discovered that: “Sustainability is important to this generation and is a core value they consider in relation to their career. Nine in 10 millennials say it is important they work for a sustainable company” and would quit their jobs if they found their employer was not serious about sustainable practices. Thus, besides relief from petrochemicals, to attract the millennial workforce, a facility’s cleaning protocol must also involve the use of recyclable or re-usable products, such as cotton or microfiber mops and cloths
Studies on what millennials look for in terms of employment consistently announce that they want to work for environmentally responsible employers. One survey by the marketing communications agency Shelton Group discovered that, “. . . sustainability is a cultural norm for them, and cultural norming is, perhaps, the most powerful force in affecting behavior long-term.”
But practicing an overall individually planet-friendly lifestyle proves difficult for some millennials who may not have the financial resources to support it on their own yet so they look for employers that do. According to research published by the Glass Packaging Institute, nearly half of millennials believe they can contribute to the health of the environment or a social cause more effectively through a company than they can on their own. In fact, many rank a company’s purpose and commitment to environmental care above their rate of pay.
Twice as many young workers claim a higher level of job satisfaction when they can make a direct social and environmental impact at work than those who have no such influence, according to NetImpact.org.
As consumers, millennials prefer products and services from sources that promote causes and the environment and are often willing to pay more for this, according to Business Insider.
This up-and-coming generation has little patience for careless practices that fail to take care of their own and the planet’s health. Implementing a green cleaning program is a necessary component of winning the hearts of your growing millennial workforce and customer-base.
Larry Lawton is vice president of janitorial supply distributor Lawton Bros.,Inc. He can be reaches through the company’s website, www.lawtonbros.com.