One of the things I hear from older people in business is that “employees just aren’t loyal anymore.” I disagree entirely.
Loyalty is still there, at least as much as it was before the dotcom era- when bouncing from company to company became not only acceptable, but the norm. Loyalty is especially strong for small businesses lately: it’s just a different kind of loyalty.
As a small business, enthusiastic young adults can be a great asset for your company. Recent graduates are stepping into one of the most difficult job markets in years. (In fact, according to the Associated Press, economists say September was the 44th straight month in which unemployment has topped 8 percent.) Without three (or more!) years of applicable experience, which for most students translates to unpaid internships, those fresh to the work-force aren’t going to get a second look. The corporate giants have a constantly growing stack of resumes from unemployed prospects across the spectrum. Highly experienced candidates are taking jobs at far lower salaries, filling the niche of the young and inexperienced, and pushing them out of the market. So, you can see why an enthusiastic twenty-something will greatly appreciate the opportunity you can offer.
Will that employee work for you forever? Probably not. However, giving them the experience they need is not solely a burden upon you. Every employee will need training, and there is always a cost associated with employee acquisition. As a group, however, these entry-level youngsters have a great deal to offer your business:
- They have an almost instinctive approach to technology. They learn new software very quickly, and are quite likely to know most of the software you use in your day-to-day activities. Many are more well-versed with Microsoft Office than you might be, and can show you keystroke commands for common tasks.
- They understand how consumers communicate in the modern world. For example, would you know how to find customers talking about their experience with your company? Most large companies have Twitter accounts solely dedicated to consumer relations: thanking happy customers, and helping to satisfy disgruntled ones.
- They haven’t acquired bad habits. When you hire an employee with years of experience, they are no doubt an asset to your organization. The problem with experience, though, is that it breeds both bad habits and good. Maybe their last workplace allowed shortcuts that you can’t stand, or sales tactics that you’re not quite comfortable with. It is far easier to teach good habits to a fresh mind, than to erase bad habits from an experienced one.
- They give you more bang for your buck. Entering a saturated job market is a very scary experience. Imagine being 18-23 years old, and competing for jobs with candidates who have 18-25 years of experience! The young crowd knows that they probably won’t be making as much money right away- in fact, Time Magazine says 85% of them will move in with their parents after graduation. They are fully willing to take a smaller salary, in exchange for the opportunity to gain experience. They’ll also work harder in many instances: they need your reference.
If you treat a young employee right, the loyalty is absolutely still there. They will work hard for you- you’re an important step on their career ladder and they know it. Beyond the short-term dedication and appreciation, the long-term can prove to be even more lucrative for your business. Every place this employee goes in their future, they will remember you, and the opportunity you were able to offer for them. They know you and your company, inside and out, and will recommend you to their employers in the future. As they bounce from company to company, they can leave you with a new business partner.
Investing in shorter term, less experienced employees, can often pay off quite well. If you treat them well at this important juncture in their life, they’ll treat you well for the rest of your career.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and if you’re a fan of this post (or any of my posts!) be sure to share with your friends and colleagues!