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Dealers Voice: Millennials bring different expectations to the workplace

Dealerships that embrace millennial expectations will be the ones that flourish in the years ahead.

Cliff Lafreniere By: Cliff Lafreniere December 3, 2019
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A recent article in “Automotive News Canada” focused on what new car dealerships are doing to attract and retain millennials.

This is a concern in the retail automobile industry as more and more baby boomers retire. The article stated that by 2025, millennials will comprise three quarters of the workforce. (Millennials are people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.)

There are many stereotypes unfairly applied to millennials (they are lazy, entitled and unmotivated by money). Like many stereotypes, these are not true, but that does not mean millennials do not bring different expectations to the workplace.

Dealerships that embrace millennial expectations will be the ones that flourish in the years ahead.

So, what differentiates millennials from baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964)?

The first big difference is technology. Millennials have come of age with computers and smartphones at their fingertips. They have integrated the internet, mobile apps and social media into their daily lives and they readily embrace new online tools and platforms.

It is no surprise that millennials — at least in my experience — handle most of the digital marketing roles at dealerships. Interestingly, millennials also serve as mentors to baby boomers when it comes to learning about new technologies (it used to be the older generation mentored the younger generation).

The “Automotive New”s article also pointed out that dealerships need to invest in — and embrace — new technologies if they want to attract millennials. Millennials have little or no patience for dealerships that use antiquated systems and processes.

This leads to another area loosely related to technology — ongoing learning. Largely, millennials embrace continuous education and they like to be challenged.

Many millennials that I know believe the most important part of their education takes place after they graduate from college or university, and that constant learning is what makes their job interesting.

The second difference with millennials is that they have a low tolerance for jobs and careers that are not working for them. Andrew Au, a business leader who spoke at a recent conference hosted by the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, said that with millennials, “75 per cent are open to new job opportunities, and 43 per cent are actively looking for a new job.”

Au says that unlike previous generations, millennials are not content to stay in a job they do not like. Employers need to enable millennials, who tend to have a creator’s and an owner’s mindset.

Which takes us to the next difference between millennials and baby boomers: an entrepreneurial way of thinking. Millennials prefer to create their own opportunities, by starting a business or seeking new avenues of advancement within a company. They are also opposed to working at the same job or a company for years unless it aligns with their personal values.

Collaboration is another strength millennials bring to the workplace. Millennials understand the importance of networking, that working in isolation has little value in most work environments and that departments need to work together to achieve common goals.

The final differentiation between millennials and baby boomers is culture. Millennials want to work for dealerships that have a clearly defined culture.

This could mean employing people of diverse backgrounds, demonstrating a commitment to philanthropy or supporting lifelong education in the workplace. They want to feel that their place of employment is making a difference.

If there is one thing dealerships agree on about millennials, it is this: hiring and retaining this demographic will make their businesses more efficient, relevant and competitive in the long run.

This column represents the views and values of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association. Write to president@tada.ca or go to tada.ca. Cliff Lafreniere is president of the TADA and is president of Pinewood Park Motors (Ford) in Kirkland Lake. For information about automotive trends and careers, visit carsandjobs.com.

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