The majority workforce

Keeping millennial employees engaged requires effective training and management

Millennials (those 21 to 39 years old) often are portrayed unfairly because of misconceptions such as being lazy and entitled. In the workplace, some believe millennials look for employer handouts and lack self-motivation to accomplish goals. These and other negative perceptions can deter young, talented individuals from seeking employment in certain industries and companies.

But many millennial employees are the opposite of those notions. According to a “Multi-Generational Impacts on the Workplace” study conducted in 2017 by the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University, Waltham, Mass., 84% of millennial workers say they care more about making a difference at their jobs than personal success. This shows millennials are incredibly impact-motivated, passionate and driven employees. As many roofing businesses need capable workers, these characteristics in an employee can be invaluable.

Millennials currently represent a majority of the U.S. workforce. To attract and retain top talent from this generation, employers must adapt their training and management styles.

Following are a few principles you can implement to help train and manage millennial employees effectively and create a more enjoyable work environment and higher return on investment, which all can make a tremendous difference in your company’s future success.


Millennial workers are searching for an optimal company culture with effective leadership and opportunities to learn.

Provide e-learning content

Whether for education, work or entertainment, millennials routinely use modern technology. Most of their days are spent in front of digital screens of some sort. Business owners from older generations weren’t introduced to these technological capabilities until adulthood, hindering their ability to grow with them during most of their lives. This can cause some to be unaware of how vital technology is to a millennial’s everyday life. To engage millennial employees, adapt your training programs for their preferences and skill sets by incorporating technology such as videos, online articles, podcasts and quizzes.

By using such technology, you can deliver small pieces of information at a time in a dynamic and interesting way. Providing information in smaller doses allows new employees to consume the content without devoting a lot of time upfront while still gathering what they need to understand. Many millennials learned material in school using these technologies, which means the familiarity with this learning style is a huge advantage for them.

Provide onboarding mentors

Having a mentor may be one of the more underrated aspects of developing a successful employee. In fact, a 2006 report from Gartner,® a Stamford, Conn. based research and development firm, found employees who have mentors are five times more likely to get a pay raise or promotion than employees who do not have mentors.

Mentors provide understudies with guidance and expertise, and millennial employees want to become experts in their professions. According to a 2012 survey conducted by, only 55% of millennials prefer face-to-face communication compared with 60% of adults who are 55 or older. Additionally, 35% of millennials prefer digital communication, seven points higher than the older population, showing how much communication has shifted one generation. With the preference some millennials have for digital communication, they may be less likely to approach one of their colleagues about having him or her as a mentor.

You can help this process by providing a mentor for your millennial employees during onboarding. Ideally, you want to pair an experienced employee with a specific trainee where their strengths and weaknesses balance one another and/or create a pairing of similar backgrounds. When new employees can interact with employees like them, they will feel more comfortable approaching a mentor with questions and concerns, which can lead to a more successful employee.

Provide leadership education

They may not be leaders on day one, but in time, millennial employees eventually will be the faces of your business, internally and externally. This is why it’s important to work on their leadership skills early and continue to grow these skills during employment. Fortunately, millennial employees already are seeking this training. “The 2016 Deloitte® Millennial Study” found 60% of millennials are interested in leadership skills, looking well down the line in their careers.

Training millennials to be leaders can consist of a variety of things, such as you or other company leaders personally leading them and providing guidance about how to be an effective leader. You also can provide your employees with leadership resources, digitally and in print, they can review to help expand these skills. The sooner millennial employees can grow confidence in their leadership abilities, the sooner they will become integral leaders of your company.


Millennials yearn for purposeful opportunities within their careers, and this yearning decides which company they ultimately will join. But once they are hired and complete training, how can you keep them motivated and satisfied? Promote a sense of purpose, promote collaboration and provide feedback.

Promote a sense of purpose

Millennials desire worthwhile, meaningful work beyond simply making money for themselves or their companies. It can be challenging to recruit millennials into the roofing industry when skilled trade positions have been dubbed inferior to other industries. But the truth is a skilled trade career can be one of the better fields to enter for a variety of reasons, including the chance to positively affect people every day, something that should be emphasized to each new employee.

Whether it’s installing a residential roof system that will protect a family or a commercial roof system that protects an entire community, the work roofing professionals do is bigger than one small project, which can be incredibly appealing and fulfilling to millennials.

Promote collaboration

Because millennials thrive on the opportunity to make a difference and be a part of something bigger than themselves, it’s not surprising they look for opportunities to work within a team setting in which they can engage and build relationships with colleagues.

You can help millennial employees gain valuable communication skills by presenting more opportunities for team members to interact with each other and build comradery. Although constantly changing health guidelines can make in-person interactions tricky, virtual team building and team events are a great way to bring employees together.

Challenging millennials by providing chances to show their leadership and opportunities outside of their existing roles help them form connections that extend beyond the job site, enhancing collaboration among the entire team. Not only can your business benefit from the results of a close-knit team but employees also will grow as individuals by building confidence and comfortability, something the millennial generation wants.

Millennials yearn for purposeful opportunities within their careers, and this yearning decides which company they ultimately will join.

Provide feedback

Like many individuals who are looking to build upon their strengths and diminish their weaknesses while climbing the proverbial professional ladder, millennials seek feedback from supervisors as part of their self-improvement process. A 2016 Gallup® survey found 44% of millennials would be more likely to increase their work engagement if their supervisors met with them more frequently. Unfortunately, only 21% meet with their supervisors weekly.

Be sure to set up quarterly supervisor meetings to review employee skills and share constructive comments to help millennial employees improve. Too often employers worry about hurting employees’ feelings and avoid constructive criticism, but clear, honest feedback can jumpstart improvement.

Providing frequent feedback also builds trust between employers and workers and demonstrates supervisors truly care about employee growth while also giving employees clarity about how they can improve. Employees then can take this feedback and set clear objectives and goals for improvement, keeping them challenged and inspired to continually improve.


The millennial generation will change the workforce indefinitely. The burden is on roofing industry leaders to prioritize investing in millennial employees—not just as workers but also as people, professionally and personally. When you follow the discussed principles to train and manage your millennial employees, you provide them with the tools they need to positively affect the future of your business, the clients they serve and the overall community.

For an article related to this topic, see "Reshaping the workplace,” February 2019 issue.

JOSH WHITE is president of Hoosier Contractors LLC, Indianapolis.


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