Workforce continues to be a hot button issue and point of discussion in the water industry. Every day a significant number of the workforce inches closer to retirement. Industry leaders are focused on how to attract the next generation of talent. Fortunately, the industry is well positioned to do just that, especially considering the values of the incoming generation.
A recent article in the January 2019 issue of the AWWA Opflow publication titled, Millennials are Motivated to Make a Difference, discussed this very topic. According to the report, 83 percent of US millennials believe they can make a difference in their communities. They value and seek careers that allow them to make a positive impact. Every single day, water utilities across the country serve as positive influences in their communities through public service. Make this truth a focus during workforce recruitment efforts.
Water utilities investing time, talent, and effort to address the lead challenges in their community is undoubtedly one-way utilities can communicate the value of public service in the water sector. Every conversation water utility staff have with people outside of the industry is an opportunity to build an advocate. Whether it’s a conversation at a job fair or in line at the local coffee shop, here are some talking points related to lead to use when engaging with millennials in your community.
Millennials want information, and they want it now. When information is difficult to find or inaccessible, it breeds suspicion. Consumer request lead testing programs create an environment of transparency in communities. A lead testing program arms a utility with data they can then share that empowers other community members with information they can use to make more informed decisions in their home. These programs also open up a dialogue for discussing the difference between public water infrastructure and private premise plumbing. Millennials want to learn more. Build a relationship and become the subject matter expert they turn to and encourage them to share what they’ve learned. Invite them to see the program in action to create a tangible connection to the impact you’re making.
Millennials have never experienced a time without technology and instant access to information. They grow frustrated by systems and processes that are outdated and cumbersome. Showcase how digital consumer request programs or lead service line inventory programs streamline processes. Technology allows water utilities to address problem areas more quickly which also gives those residents peace of mind. It also fosters more transparency because that data can now be shared across a variety of platforms easily accessible to residents. Accessibility builds a sense of trust and inclusivity.
Millennials don’t want talk; they want action. They want to see solutions happening. A strong lead program demonstrates due diligence. It is a tangible way for them to see firsthand how water utilities can positively impact people directly. For those of us in the industry, we recognize the value of that every time we turn on the tap or flush the toilet. For the vast majority of people, clean water isn’t a miracle; it’s an expectation. The only way we can begin to communicate the value of water is to do it through a lens that means most to the customers we serve. With lead as a such a hot button issue these days, it makes a robust lead program a launch that shows action and from which to start a broader conversation about the value of water. Instead of fearing the discussion, lead can become an entry point to engage with the community, show commitment, and invite dialogue surrounding the true cost of water.
The passion to change the world through water is not a notion shared by the water industry alone. The innate value system of the millennial generation makes them a prime candidate to recruit. Together we can innovate and work together to solve the industry’s greatest challenges while protecting the public health of the people we serve each day.