MMAC panelists disagree on how to retain millennials

Two MMAC panelists disagreed on how important it is to cater to what millennial workers want, addressing a key issue of how to attract and retain talent in Wisconsin.

Mill Mielke, CEO of the engineering firm Ruekert & Mielke, noted older employees are “more stable, more content, more easy-going,” looking for benefits such as profit sharing and 401k’s. Young people, meanwhile, are “more impatient [and] not overly interested in pensions.”

Mielke, then, created a system of “immediate gratification” in which managers give out poker chips to employees who are doing a good job.

“When was the last time someone told you you were doing a good job? We’re not really doing it as much as we should,” Mielke said. “When a person gets 10 chips they can turn it in for a gift card, but that is insignificant for the praise they receive. As dumb as that program sounds it does something to recognize their hard work.”

But Power Test CEO Alan Petelinsek said managers need to be leaders instead of adapting to what the younger generation wants.

“We have lots of young people working for us, and it’s our job to lead them,” Petelinsek said. “Their parents may not have told them to save for their future, so we talk about retirement money. We’re in front of our employees all the time, leading them and encouraging them to plan for their future.”

The two did agree on the importance for businesses to provide their employees with clear goals and ways to meet them.

The panel yesterday also evaluated what managers look at when hiring someone. Mielke and Petelinsek, for example, use a talent management system called Culture Index, which takes into account the applicant’s personality and strengths that will mesh best in the position that’s open, before even considering skills or previous experience.

“First we look for a good match. Then we look for a resume,” Petelinsek said. “We’ve got a whole electronic file of each person who has applied, and sometimes, based on their personality, we will recommend a job different than what they applied for.”

Brad Zepecki of SafeNet Consulting said his company also has a “standard profile of what we look for,” requiring employees to fit into the culture well, rather than just looking for someone with technical ability.

SafeNet’s main recruitment tool is LinkedIn, but it also uses its employees and their contacts.

“If you’re working at SafeNet and you refer someone you hire, you get a $2-per-hour bonus for every hour that you both work there,” he said. “That’s been our biggest success story in reaching the people that we want to reach.”

— By Jordyn Noennig,