Millennials and Gen Z numbers are increasing in the workforce. Discover the impact on the flooring industry.
With new generations coming into the workforce, it’s often asked how these twenty somethings are impacting their fields, and the flooring industry is no exception. Consider these stats about Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994) and Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2010):
- Millennials are expected to make up at least 44% of the workforce by 2025
- 60% of Millennials say a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer
- 75% of Gen Z is willing to start at the bottom and work their way up
- 61% of Gen Z is willing to stay 10 years at a company
At the recent Starnet Floor Care Conference in Las Vegas, we spoke with next gen individuals about their backgrounds, education, experience, and long-term goals. Below, five rising stars offer valuable insight, and as future industry leaders, their perspectives – along with those of their peers – will continue to shape flooring and floor care for years to come.
Before we dive in, tell us about yourself.
Devon: I’m 21, and graduated from Etowah High School in Woodstock, Georgia in 2015. After I graduated, I planned on majoring in architecture, but I was only in college for a couple semesters before I realized it wasn’t for me.
Kristin: I’m 29 years old and graduated in 2012 from Georgia Southern University with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management with a minor in Business Administration. I worked in the hospitality industry for 2 years before stumbling into the flooring industry.
Carlos: I grew up in the industry. My father held a job as a crew supervisor for a maintenance company when I was very young and I remember sitting on a swing machine to add weight when he would be restoring our floors at home. I was intrigued by the results and eventually learned how to refinish and maintain different kinds of flooring. I graduated from Southington High School in Connecticut and took a few classes at a local community college for marketing and business management. My goal is to be the best in this industry.
Spencer: I am 25 years old. I grew up in flooring with my father being on the manufacturing side, contractor side and now on the maintenance chemical side, and my mother being a designer. Every friend of my parents was involved in either the design community or flooring industry in Columbus, Ohio. When I graduated high school, I had no clue I was going to end up in the flooring. I had been cleaning floors for Rite Rug and Bob Deweese, who is a great friend of my father and is like an uncle to me, but I never thought it would turn into a career. But to say I had a plan would be a wild overstatement. I do have a degree from the University of Dayton in Marketing.
Kal: I’m 27. I graduated from Penn State with a degree in Logistics and Information Systems. When I graduated high school I knew I wanted to work in small business and follow a more “entrepreneurial” path where I could impact and grow a company. After college I found myself working for an international chemical shipper in Houston, Texas. It wasn’t for me. I needed something more hands-on where I could make a bigger impact for my colleagues and clients. I’ve found that, and more, with FSG.
Tell us about your experience in this industry, your current position, and how you ended up here.
Devon: I’ve been a lead floor care technician for Southeastern Commercial Flooring for about nine months, but before becoming a lead tech, I was a part time helper for a couple of the other technicians, and even before that, was going out to jobs with my dad as young as 13; though I didn’t really consider the field a serious career option until I was around 19.
I’m on call every day. Most jobs, especially typical maintenance, are scheduled at least a week in advance, but most of what I do involves being available in case an emergency job comes up. Alongside regular restoration and maintenance work, I take care of more customer service-oriented and specialty jobs.
Kristin: I started at Occupied Renovations in 2014 as the Executive Administrator for the company. I had zero knowledge of the business. I fell in love with Occupied Renovations and the industry as a whole. I still hold a lot of administrative tasks, but I am now the Director of Maintenance for the company. The majority of our company focuses on P&I, so most of our leads come from our customers created from that side of the business. My duties include providing customized close out packages for our customers at the end of the renovation that include warranty and maintenance instructions. I also include a customized maintenance proposal specifically tailored to the client’s needs.
Carlos: One of my first jobs was at Premier Maintenance where I was a Shift Supervisor. My job consisted of leading projects such as strip and wax, carpet cleaning, and post construction cleaning. I then moved on to the sales and operations side of the business working for Stratus Building Solutions. I realized that I enjoyed sales and operations. I enjoyed the competition. I also enjoyed having the opportunity to educate customers on the importance of properly maintaining their facility. Later on, I was hired to run a sales and marketing team at AMV Maintenance. Before taking a position here at Higgins Flooring Services, I spent 4 years at Capital Contractors where I handled many different floor care and general maintenance accounts in MA, CT and NY. I am new to Higgins Flooring Services. I have been here for just about a month now. I oversee quality control and sales. I am loving it here. I work with a great team. They are focused and driven — qualities that are hard to find.
Spencer: My current position is Technical Maintenance Specialist for Roppe Holding Company. I previously worked for XL North as a territory manager and a floor care technician for Rite Rug and Legacy Maintenance Services. I have been with Roppe Holding Company for about a year and a half. Day to day responsibilities are never really the same. One day I could be traveling to do a training or job site inspection, while another day I could be at my home office catching up on emails and answering phone calls.
Kal: I actually interned with FSG for two years while in college. At that time I focused on programming and developing our previous information system. I learned a lot about how technology can tie into the floor care and installation industry with regards to pricing, planning, and implementation and really enjoyed my position. After college I had the travel bug and wanted to experience living elsewhere in the US so I moved to Texas. However I could not stay away from flooring too long as I found myself back with FSG in 2017. I’ve now been here for two years as the Operations Manager. I manage all operations for the company (purchasing, scheduling, project planning, etc.) and execute sales when opportunities present themselves.
Why floor care? What about the industry attracted you? What are some benefits and disadvantages of working in floor care?
Devon: After dropping out of college, I considered a wide variety of career options while helping part time at SCF. I knew I didn’t want to have to go back to school, and I eventually came to the realization that I had enough knowledge of the flooring industry that it’d be a bit silly to set myself back years by not sticking to it. Personally, I think floor care is very rewarding. I’ve always liked seeing the results of doing a good job, and those results are particularly obvious in this field.
I grew up around flooring. SCF is very tight-knit, and even all of the kids of employees have at least met each other at one point. Many of the newer Millennial employees at the company are the children of other salespeople and project managers.
Kristin: To be honest, floor care is no glamorous job, but what is awesome about the industry is providing solutions for our customers. Our customers spend thousands and thousands of dollars investing in their space; they deserve to have that investment last. I think my favorite part of this industry is being that solution. I believe to be successful in this industry you need to start with educating your clients on the front end and explain the benefits of putting a floor care program in place.
The majority of my knowledge has come from the Starnet community. There are so many people who have pioneered this business and have been very successful at it. The Annual Starnet Floor Care convention is something I look forward to every year, and I always walk away feeling energized to take what I have learned from that conference and implement it in our business.
Spencer: Why floor care? Why flooring in general? I have no clue. I was just around it so much growing up and I learned elements of maintenance and flooring that most kids didn’t hear every day. I would hear names of companies and names of people in the industry and now I know these people on a personal level. So basically any info I came into the industry with was absorbed over the years of listening to my dad.
Kal: Two attributes of floor care attracted me – sustainability and growth. In today’s world, sustainability is key. There is no reason anyone should be changing their floor covering unless they are tired of the look and ready to re-brand. With proper floor care and restoration practices, we, along with our Starnet partners, have proven that coverings such as carpet can far surpass their traditional “shelf-life” and don’t need to be re-installed unless you’re ready for a new look. If it can last 1000 years in a landfill, there’s no reason it shouldn’t last that long in our clients space.
I also believe there’s lots of room for growth and development in the floor care industry. Lots of our current clients hadn’t even heard of “Floor Care Programs” until we pitched it to them and they quickly understood the value of securing their investments.
Lastly, none of this is possible without education and training. I owe all of my knowledge to our company’s President, Chip Grimes, and our partners at Starnet Floor Care. I still have a long way to go, but I’m up for the challenge.
What growth potential or opportunities do you see for yourself and your company?
Devon: From my current position, I’d like to move into operations or sales to help grow our floor care division. I’m currently IICRC CCT certified, and plan on attending the RFMT class as soon as it’s available, with my end goal being to be a Master Textile Cleaner in three years alongside growing my knowledge with areas the industry sees expanding.
I think there’s a great deal of room for general growth within the floor care division at Southeastern Commercial Flooring. Sales and education should go hand in hand; in a lot of places, the minimum amount of effort and funding is put into maintaining the floor as it receives years of abuse, and then we’re called in to restore it as best we can. We should be working with janitorial and management staff everywhere monthly, quarterly, and yearly to provide solutions to their particular issues. With dedicated and proper maintenance, the only reason a customer should want to replace their flooring is because they don’t like how it looks anymore.
Kristin: Occupied Renovations is penetrating new market segments for P&I, and I believe this will be the same for floor care. We have really seen growth in our Multi-Family floor care business.
Carlos: The floor care industry is one that is rapidly growing. We realize that it is constantly changing and improving its methods and chemistry. This is important to accept and adapt to in order to stay ahead of the game. There is still a lot for me to learn from our vendors and competition but I strongly believe that we have the right team and tools here at Higgins to remain extremely competitive.
Spencer: Right now, I am keeping my head down and plugging away. I don’t want to look too far ahead because I know that I have a long way to go in building a knowledge base in the flooring industry. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.
Kal: Within my own company I see myself further improving our processes and my employees’ livelihood by obtaining more work and field practices that continue to focus on safety and production. Growth for myself and the company will come naturally as we continue to grow our brand while staying true to our SOPs and results. I see my company being very involved in implementing process improvements to help streamline and other companies in our industry while maintaining standards and customer satisfaction.
What would you tell other people your age about the floor care industry? What are some misconceptions about floor care that you find amongst Millennials/Gen Z?
Devon: A big misunderstanding I’ve seen outside of the industry is that it is as much smaller than it actually is, and younger people don’t think they can make a career out of anything specifically related to floor care. Alongside this, when I tell a lot of people what I do, they typically associate it with janitorial work until I explain the differences. In my experience, the friends I explain the industry to are a lot more open to the field after the realize the incredible amount of opportunity and knowledge within it.
Kristin: The biggest misconception regarding floor are is that is more of a “janitorial” type business, but it is much more than that. We are providing solutions for our customer’s pain points when it comes to maintaining their investment.
Carlos: The first thing I would tell people my age about this industry is that it keeps you on your toes. It isn’t just throwing soap on a floor and scrubbing like a lot of people think. You have to evaluate each project and determine what kind of chemistry and cleaning method you will use to get the best results. There is a lot to be learned about how different chemicals react to different types of flooring and it gets very interesting once you start digging in.
Spencer: I would tell them that not only is the flooring industry dying for younger people but the floor care side has a lot of money in it.
Kal: Lots of people in my age group would look at the floor care industry as “boring” or “mundane” when compared to other growing industries, especially with regards to technology. To those people, I would say the opportunities are endless and really come down to how far you’re willing to push yourself and your peers. When I joined FSG I knew that I wanted to incorporate some tech advancements I’ve seen Fortune 500 companies incorporating to streamline efficiencies and performance. We are incomparable in size to these companies, but the processes and ideologies remain the same. You need to be willing to challenge standards and (not re-invent) but “innovate” the “wheel” in this industry in order to make lasting change. You will face many people set in their ways that think you’re “crazy”, but the success is worth the challenge. When thinking about the future of your company, don’t hold yourself back to where you currently stand. Think globally, act locally.
What advice do you have for floor care companies wanting to hire Millennials/Gen Z? How can they capture the attention of your generation?
Devon: While looking for part-time helpers, I use the term “critical thinkers”, and I think a problem-solving mindset is almost mandatory in this industry. No customer’s floor is the same as the last, and everyone involved in the maintenance process should be able to determine the best solution for the customer for it to be the most effective. Being self-driven is another very important quality in the industry. You aren’t going to do good work if you don’t want to do the work in the first place.
I feel that the easiest way to find candidates is honestly through education, especially in the environmental and sustainability sides of the industry. There’s a plethora of young people looking for careers, many of whom would probably love the industry, but I think false beliefs of the floor care industry coupled with the lack of desire to research it lead them to choose different paths.
Kristin: When I first started at Occupied Renovations, I was one of two Millennials that worked for the company, and within 4 years now almost half the company is from the Millennial generation. I think one of the best qualities of this generation is finding more ways to be efficient and innovative. Just because something has been done a certain way for generations doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for the company. Occupied Renovations has done an amazing job in transitioning the culture and learning how to hire and manage this generation. We hire self- motivators – there is no middle management and no one looking over your shoulder. If you aren’t doing your job, the entire company feels it. We all rely heavily on each other, and that’s one of the most attractive things about this company. You really feel like a team!
Carlos: I believe that some of the most important qualities to look for in a candidate are being self-motivated, optimistic, and ambitious. These are things that are very hard to teach. Everything else can be taught if you have these traits.
Spencer: Those are great questions that I don’t know if I know the answer to. Because I have been so involved in the flooring industry, I don’t really know because it was so natural for me and nothing jumped off of the page to say “Yes, I want to have a career in that”.
Kal: I would say you REALLY need to find people with an entrepreneurial/small business mindset. This is definitely not a 9-5 corporate job. Every day you will face new questions and challenges which will require research and experimentation. There’s a very special feeling that comes from knowing you worked hard to solve an issue, and now a client or co-worker is ecstatic due to your results. People who are results driven would do well in this industry.
A PDF version of this article is available to share. Download it here today!