Author: Jane Gibson, London
As the baby boomers head towards retirement, the chemical distribution industry needs to look to the Millennial generation, or Generation Y, to fill the gap.
Cornelius Group’s chairman Neville Prior and non-executive director Jo Stephenson believe that the industry has been relatively successful in attracting Millennials due to its efforts with national education systems, solid training plans, recognised career paths and the industry’s intrinsically international nature.
They point out, however, that competition with high-tech industries is creating challenges and argue that the sector needs to better understand Millennial employees’ requirements to prevent retention becoming an issue over the longer term.
“Unlike Generation X, Millennials consider workplace satisfaction more important than monetary compensation,” says Stephenson. “The needs and desires of our Millennial employees are also more deeply ingrained – the need for flexibility, work/life balance, high tech working practices, networking and social needs are all to the fore. Our industry needs to further adapt and evolve its business culture to meet these needs.”
BROADER CHOICES TODAY
Stephenson adds that those entering the job market 10 years ago were acutely aware of the economic slowdown and volatility and were therefore perhaps more grateful to enter a more traditional industry. “Today, choices are far broader and more sophisticated – despite what the media might indicate.”
So how do you attract a Millennial to the industry? Prior argues that this all begins and ends with engaging with the education systems around the world and backing this up with good digital communications.
“Millennials do not wake up to the industry once they are searching for a job but are far more
aware of the impact of industries on society through their engagement with digital channels early on in their lifetime. They’ve seen the stories – positive and negative – and decided whether that industry is ethically, morally and socially right for them, well before leaving the education system.”
Prior points out that a large focus of the chemical industry has been on ensuring the growth in numbers of STEM graduates. He believes that many companies do an excellent job of working with their local community schools and colleges to educate students on the chemical industry’s role, opportunities and challenges. Many Fecc member companies support a range of STEM supportive activities including in-house local community campaigns and local government initiatives.