I almost fell off my chair when I heard this comment from a 26-year old mechanical engineer who interviewed with one of my client companies.  In addition to being an employee retention speaker, I also work as a “headhunter.”  I conduct dozens of searches mainly in the manufacturing sector so candidates I find have to go into manufacturing plants regularly to interview.

The thing that amazed me about this situation was that the candidate loved the person who would have been their future boss (the Plant Manager), liked the VP Operations (the Plant Managers boss), and liked what they saw of the organization.  They did not like the fact that the plant was dirty.  The VP Operations made it a point to explain they had only acquired this plant 7 months ago and that the engineering role the candidate was interviewing for was going to play a key role in “turning this plant around.”

I don’t think the problem was that the plant was too dirty.  I think the problem was fear of a challenge because I see this come up with other millennials. Many of them are afraid of failure.  They are afraid that they will not always come out on top.  I see this as an employee retention trainer with clients I consult to as well.  They hire millennials and have to be VERY careful how they assimilate them into the organization or they quit when the going gets tough.  It is a real challenge that they face.  I have found there is a special art to assessing how much they can take without having a millennial quit.  If you are able to do this, you are then able to build a resilience in them that will enable them to step up to future challenges.  It takes a skilled leader to do this.

This challenge for leaders is not new.  It has always existed.  It’s just that with the millennials leaders have to have a better sense of how hard to push people before they will quit.  As an employee retention expert, I am asked if the millennials will step up to challenging situations. My answer.  Yes.  Just take a look at what our military has been able to do with this very same generation.  When I see what our young people have been able to do in Iraq and Afghanistan, I know the answer is a resounding “yes.”