LAS VEGAS, NV — At the Mechanical Service Contractors of America’s (MSCA’s) 2002 Education Conference, attendees had the opportunity to learn more about a problem that seems to affect the majority of HVACR contractors.

Robert Wendover, executive director of the Center for Generational Studies, presented a seminar called “Recruitment and Retention in the New Millennium.”

Wendover provided those in attendance with strategies for finding and keeping qualified workers. According to Wendover, the rules for finding qualified employees have changed. Contractors and business owners must realize what makes younger generations tick, and use this information in developing recruitment strategies.


According to Wendover, “Most people default into their career choices.” He explained that many people make employment choices simply because they need a job or money.

If they stay with the job, it is because they enjoy coming to work. This is especially true for those individuals who belong to the groups known as Generation X and Generation Y.

Wendover believes that these young people are all going the college route, which isn’t for everyone.

“We have made college the big marker,” he said, “but we can’t all be white-collar professionals.”

Wendover pointed out that the average student graduates from college with thousands of dollars of debt and is struggling to find employment in his or her field of study. Those who don’t find jobs in their field of study eventually “default” into a job.

On the other hand, people need to be introduced to the option of a union apprenticeship, said Wendover. Not only are apprentices making money as they study the trade, but they are not in debt when they become journeyman, and their job outlook is better.

“Money isn’t everything, but to a high school kid it means an awful lot,” said Wendover.

He said that the baby boomer generation was taught to “be thankful for a job.” But the younger generations are coming into the workforce with a very different agenda.

“They are not in it for a career,” said Wendover.

When it comes to finding a job, he explained that young people want to know “What’s in it for me?” It is the responsibility of the employer to “sell” their business to prospective workers. Once employees are hired, it is the company’s job to keep them.


Since the needs and attitudes of the workforce have changed, Wendover suggested that business owners change their tactics when it comes to recruiting future employees.

Instead of telling potential applicants about what you need, said Wendover, tell them what you can provide.

To be more specific, he said that such phrases as “Help Wanted,” “Positions Available,” and “Accepting Applications” are worthless. He suggested that contractors eliminate these phrases from their recruitment promotions immediately. Tell prospective employees how it will be a benefit for them to apply, urged Wendover. Tell them about the moneymaking opportunities, the laid-back atmosphere, the vacation time, the financial benefits — whatever it is you believe your job can offer to entice employees.

Wendover also strongly suggests using referral programs. He believes that this can eliminate the need for many recruitment efforts, which can sometimes be costly. As long as employees are rewarded for their efforts, employee referral programs can work.

When it comes to the Internet, “If you don’t have a website, you don’t exist,” said Wendover. Prospective employees can often find out everything they need to know about your business online, and they will then determine whether it is something they might find interesting.

Wendover said that some young people “may know more about your organization than you do.” He noted that prospective workers often conduct a reference check on an organization before applying. Not only will they see if you have a Web presence, but they will ask friends what they think of your business. If they are familiar with your business and like what they see, they will tell all their friends. The same goes if they don’t like your business.

Wendover said that during an interview or when inquiring about a job, younger employees may “ask questions that you thought no one asked in polite company.”

For instance, Wendover said that young people want to know how much they will be making and what kind of benefits come with the job. Traditionally, these seem like the kind of questions that you are not supposed to ask right up front, but as Wendover said, many young people today want to know what’s in it for them.


When you have finally hired that new employee, Wendover said that there are still expectations, and this is when retention strategies come into play.

First, Wendover stressed that young people see the new job as a contract, not a career or vocation.

He said that this may be frustrating to some older employers, but this does not make younger workers bad; it just means that they operate a bit differently.

If you want these new employees to stay with your company, Wendover said that you must accommodate them in a few ways. That means satisfying some job needs.

Wendover maintained that money is important to younger workers, but work environment can win over wages every time.

The most important questions new employees ask include:

  • What specifically do you want me to do?

  • How do I fit into the big picture?

  • How do I get help when I need it?

  • Against what standards will my performance be measured?

  • What’s in it for me (besides a living wage)?

    Wendover explained that these kinds of questions are important to young employees because the answers let them know where they fit in the workplace and how important they are. If they believe that they are secure and comfortable, chances are they will stick around.

    Furthermore, Wendover stated that when your new employees feel secure in their job and it does not interfere with other priorities (i.e., family, free time), they will be loyal. More importantly, they will pass on this feeling of satisfaction to others they know. This can bring in more employees.

    Wendover urged attendees to measure their retention rates in days and weeks, not months. Make sure that your employees are still happy. Investing in your people, said Wendover, will add months to the average tenure of your employees.

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    Publication date: 11/11/2002