Josh Zolin
CEO, Windy City Equipment

Adapt or Die: Shifting the Generational Mindset

So, we all know that we’re in the midst of a skilled labor shortage. That’s evident by how many of us are screaming it from the rooftops. We complain about how our businesses are bottlenecking at the mercy of quality talent, how we remember technician wages being half of what they are today, and how people used to be grateful to just be employed.

Well, I have news for you. It’s 2022 and the Silver Tsunami is in full crest. We are in a new age of people with millennials occupying that largest population of the American workforce at 35%. Gen Z has officially passed millennials as the largest living generation, so it’s fair to think that their 11.6% share of the workforce is primed and ready to skyrocket in the next couple of years.

What does this mean? Well, it means that all your complaining will get you nowhere unless you take action. And I’m not a “fluff” kind of guy so I’m going to shoot it straight. Action does not mean posting ads for techs, emphasizing technology, offering more money, or even visiting trade schools. I’m going to make your brain hurt a little more than that. So, if you think you’re safe because you’re taking action, think again.

First off, what are we doing to the industry by recruiting technicians? We’ve all talked about the revolving door, but how do we stop it? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we created that monster by besting everyone else’s offers. And now we need to slay it. We can no longer only focus on recruiting technicians. We need to recruit people to be technicians. This means creative marketing, delivering information in an entertaining way, partnering with not only high schools, but middle schools, and even elementary schools. And beginning to convince these generations that this trade is an honorable profession worth pursuing. And yes, it also means revisiting our budget for training.

Second, we need to take a good look in the mirror and understand our own values and priorities. If you were a kid, why would you work for your company? Be honest.  We put such an emphasis on money, hard work, and thick skin (all of which are undoubtedly important), but does that really resonate? Maybe we would be better off focusing on the things young people already value like community, contribution to a shared vision, and making a difference. All of which are things that our respective companies already do.

And lastly, what used to be about a paycheck is now about so much more. It’s about being excited to go to work. It’s about setting a good example for those around you. And it’s about being able to lay your head on the pillow at night knowing you are appreciated for your hard work.

I don’t have enough time to give you all the answers, but I’ll leave you with this…

If we want something we’ve never had (a new generation of technician), we must do something we’ve never done (be attractive to that generation).