As the first chairwoman of AED, I realize that I represent the changing face of our industry. Somehow I survived in a field that was far less open-minded than the one that we have today. We may be slower to change than other industries, but change is coming our way in a tsunami whether we want it to or not.
The real change is not so much in the acceptance of women or minorities, but in how we are going to have to adapt to the changing workforce that is emerging in our industry. In 2020, there will be over 70,000,000 millennials in our workforce, all replacing baby boomers, who still dominated the crowd at our annual Summit in January.
As a parent of a millennial, I’m always struck by how differently she thinks than I did at that age. First of all, from a very young age she stated that her goal was to be an entrepreneur. This is the “Shark Tank” generation where we’ve taught our young people that with a great idea they can make their fortune and not be subject to the corporate America that laid off their parents. Even basic American ideals, like the value of home ownership, were destroyed in their impressionable years. Lifestyle and growth opportunities trump the size of their paychecks. Expectations include career paths at all levels and soft skill/leadership training.
So how as an industry are we going to change ourselves to meet the expectations of the next generation of leaders? We might have to make modifications like changing our work environment to that of a more collaborative team, or changing compensation programs to unleash that creative, entrepreneurial spirit. Not only are flexible work environments expected, but so are equal opportunities for women and minorities. We will have to work to inspire our employees to stay with our companies for reasons that go beyond the size of their paycheck. Some studies have reported that millennials leave their jobs after three years, on average.
But first and foremost, we will need to put more of an emphasis on education and training within our dealerships that is non-product-related. It’s important that AED be at the forefront of educational programs that will motivate and inspire our future leaders. Even at the technician level, the new certification program introduced by The AED Foundation is a great tool. Our technicians proudly display their JD certifications on their toolboxes. I’ve been rolling my future leaders through some of AED’s leadership programs with great results. I highly encourage you to investigate all of the AED educational programs and make a commitment to put more of an emphasis on training for our industry’s future. Attracting the best and brightest is crucial to the futures of us all.