Before World War II, Americans were more likely to rent their homes than own them. But that changed after the war. Special programs were instituted to encourage homeownership, especially for veterans. By 1960, 15 years after the war ended, more than 60 percent of Americans were homeowners; this percentage rose steadily until 2007.
But with the Great Recession of 2008 home ownership took a downward spiral that has accelerated over the past decade, especially among millennials. Why are millennials not buying houses? After all, the economy has picked up considerably in the past few years, and jobs in specific sectors are going begging.
The reason has little to do with the economy. It’s all about the situation many of today’s millennials find themselves in, and addressing this situation may be one way the jansan industry can attract younger people to the industry.
Many millennials owe anywhere from US$40,000 to more than $200,000 in student loans.
“Rising costs, student loans, and salaries for entry-level jobs are all barriers to home ownership [for college graduates]; this has led to a substantial drop in home-ownership among those 35 and younger—from 43.6 percent in 2007 to 35.9 percent today,” according to ReputationPartners.com’s July 26, 2018, Home Trend Report. Because of this, some employers are offering better starting salaries but many also are helping millennials pay down their student loan debt.
“The hope is that by offering to help this demographic pay off their [student] loans, companies can have a leg up in the recruiting process,” wrote Jillian Berman in MarketWatch.
Admittedly, only the larger organizations in the professional cleaning industry will likely be able to provide this benefit on any type of grand scale. But on a smaller scale, providing some assistance is possible. Many organizations are offering to contribute about $1,200 annually for up to six years if a young person joins their team during that six-year period. ISSA member companies can encourage employees and their families to apply for one of the more than 40 scholarships offered annually through the ISSA Charities, a perk of ISSA membership (see page 40).
Does this mean helping pay down their student loan debt is all we need to do to get young workers to join the jansan fold? Unfortunately, no. There is more to it than that.
Connecting the Dots
Millennials are cleaning fanatics, according to HFM (March 2016), a publication that focuses on the housewares industry. The publication reported 56 percent of millennials obtained an upright vacuum between one and four years ago, and 24 percent of them vacuum every day. The study makes it sound as if the next step for millennials might be pounding on the doors at vacuum manufacturers’ offices, looking for employment. Unfortunately, this is not the case. At best, their interest in cleanliness and vacuuming is a tenuous connection to our industry’s offerings, and certainly is not translating into them seeking jansan jobs.
So if cleanliness doesn’t cut it, what are young workers interested in that could convince them to investigate employment in the cleaning industry? One answer is technology, but maybe not for the reasons we assume.
Millennials are interested in the tech industry. This has been verified for a few years now, including by LinkedIn InMail data, which reports millennials receive more InMail from recruiters in the high-tech sector than any other sector … and they like receiving it. However, while they indeed may be interested in technology itself, there is something else they see in the tech industry that attracts them, and that is a “sense of purpose.” They believe that technology improves people’s lives worldwide and, that these high-tech companies are also capable of developing technologies that will help protect the environment long term, according to the report Demystifying Millennials (March 2016). Both these ideas appeal to young professionals (see page 12).
How Jansan Can Offer a ‘Deeper Purpose’
Now that we have an idea of what young professionals are interested in, how we leverage this information to convince them of the value of our industry? We can do this by taking the following steps:
Publicize our environmental and health accomplishments. How many young workers are aware that the professional cleaning industry was one of the first major, multibillion-dollar industries to embrace green and environmental causes and is an emerging leader in sustainability, health, and wellness? Our rock stars (see below) and our industry need to get this information out. We need to let them know the dire circumstances the world and its inhabitants would face without us.
Promote our high-tech. Our industry is high-tech; the problem is, we are the only ones who know it. Robotics, Internet of Things, self-cleaning surfaces (see page 50), a variety of software programs, dashboards, and apps are now available and used every day by many throughout the industry. We are using this technology to protect the environment and make people’s lives better, easier, and safer, which as we established above, appeals greatly to younger workers. But first they must know about it.
Identify industry rock stars. Mark Zuckerberg, Meg Whitman, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, even shy Tim Cook of Apple, are all rock stars because they inspire young people to get involved with their companies and their industries. Jansan has its own rock stars. Finding ways to introduce and promote them to younger professionals will attract more talent.
Talk about our giving back. ISSA, through its ISSA Charities (see page 40) along with many ISSA members and other jansan organizations have programs designed to help others and give back to their communities. Yet ours is a very humble industry, and for that reason, many of these good deeds receive modest attention if any at all. As an industry, we need to show the good we are doing to help others and our communities.
Expand on the possibilities. One of the big attractions millennials see in the tech industry is that there are entrepreneurial welcome mats on every corner. From its start, the tech industry has embraced entrepreneurs with new ideas and innovations. And to turn these dreams into reality, financial backing has traditionally been plentiful. While those same financial resources may not be available in the professional cleaning industry, we still have lots of welcome mats. We need to make sure young job seekers know that entrepreneurship is alive and strong in our industry and that the possibilities for success and innovation abound.
We could cover many more points, but here is my key takeaway. Instead of trying to understand younger generations as so many in our industry say they are attempting to do, we have to turn things around and help them better understand us. We need to show them what our industry has and will accomplish, its value, and the abundance of opportunities it provides.
We are certainly not just about mops. In fact, mops and mopping have very little to do with today’s jansan industry. We serve a vital life-essential purpose, and it’s time younger people—in fact, everyone—knows it.