Engaging millennials in the workplace

How business owners in the cleaning industry, property developers, and facility managers are taking note of millennials.

Millennials are on the cusp of outnumbering boomers to become the nation’s most significant living – and working – adult generation, according to projections by the US Census Bureau. Millennials, who were between the ages of 20 and 35 in 2016, now number about 71 million.

By comparison, baby boomers, aged 52 to 70 in 2016, number approximately 74 million. As the number of millennials increases via migration and the number of boomers declines, millennials are poised to become America’s largest age group, either this year or by 2020.

In New Zealand, there are more than one million millennials, 82 per cent of who are in employment and make up 37 per cent of total employment.

Millennials have different values and character traits, not only compared to older boomers, but also those identified in the group Generation X, people aged 36 to 51 in 2016.

Because of this, business owners in the professional cleaning industry, property developers, and facility managers are taking note.

They are making changes to their facilities and the way they operate, to accommodate this new workforce.

For instance, it is becoming clear that millennials are not only very particular about the types of organisations they work for; they are also particular about the types of facilities they will work in.

Two of the key differences between millennials and older generations are that millennials are: (1) much more sustainability-focused and, (2) much more tech-savvy.

This should come as no surprise to jansan manufacturers and distributors now hiring these workers.

Older generations of workers were not confronted with many of the environmental concerns today’s younger generations must grapple with.

As for technology, if we turn back the clock just 20 years, we see technology played a far smaller role in our daily lives than it does today.

“One of the characteristics of millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good,” says Leigh Buchanan, editor-at-large for Inc. magazine who is quoted in the book The Multigenerational Sales Team.

“Almost 70 per cent say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.” As we know, giving back to local communities is one of the key components of sustainability.

Related to this, a 2016 survey by Cone Communications, a firm that focuses on social and environmental issues, uncovered the following about millennials:

  • 64 per cent consider a company’s social and environmental commitments before deciding to work for an organisation.
  • 64 per cent will not work for an organisation that does not have strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) values.
  • About 70 per cent of all US workers say they would be more loyal to a company if it were socially and environmentally focused; this number jumps to 83 per cent for millennials.
  • Finally, 88 per cent say they find their jobs more fulfilling if their employers allow them to make a positive impact on the environment in the workplace.

Connecting environmental concerns with technology

Because this younger workforce is both environmentally focused and tech-savvy, some jansan business owners as well as property managers are looking into initiatives that can connect the dots, show the steps that their organisation is taking to become greener and more sustainable, and using technology to do it.

One way this is being accomplished is by taking sustainability dashboard systems, now offered by many vendors and used by many facility managers and displaying the information they provide on television monitors placed in strategic locations throughout the building.

These dashboards typically measure building consumption of fuel, energy, and water, as well as the amount of greenhouse gases released by their property. By providing this on monitors, they are now sharing it with everyone.

The goal with these systems is engagement. They are designed to help building users, visitors, customers, vendors, and others in a facility realize and relate to the sustainability successes of a facility.

However, sustainability data is typically presented in numbers, which are hard for people to absorb or understand. For example, a typical facility may have the following statistics at hand:

  • Energy consumption in the building has been reduced from 97.2 British thermal units (BTUs) to 90.2 BTUs in the past five years.
  • 3.5 million gallons of water was consumed in the building in 2018; in 2015 we consumed 4.6 million gallons annually.
  • Today, the facility emits 201 MT of carbon dioxide due to energy, waste and fuel consumption. In 2015, we emitted 304 MT of carbon dioxide due to energy, waste, and fuel consumption.

Although this information may be interesting to building managers, it is not as effective at engaging building users.

Because of this, some systems have turned this data around. Information is presented more tangibly so that millennials and others can engage with and relate to it. For instance:

  • Since 2016, the facility now saves enough energy to power 140 homes.
  • In the past three years, we have reduced water consumption enough to fill 247 in-ground swimming pools.
  • Compared to our baseline year of 2015, our avoided carbon pollution is equivalent to planting 392 trees.

Millennials and others can now see exactly how a building is performing when it comes to environmental issues.

Putting this information on display invariably encourages building users to find new and additional ways to reduce the environmental impact of the facility.

In other words, it helps create a “culture of sustainability” throughout the facility.

Katrina Saucier is program manager for Sustainability Dashboard Tools. She can be reached at katrina@green2sustainable.com.

This article was first published in INCLEAN NZ magazine 

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