Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, are the largest living generation in the United States, which makes expanding your millennial union membership an important part of strengthening the union for the future.
Getting their attention requires understanding what millennials want in a job and, by extension, why they've gained a reputation as chronic job-hoppers. In reality, millennials want job security just as much as previous generations. That's something unions can use to their advantage.
How you communicate the union's ability to offer job security — and what exactly that means to millennials — is critical for recruiting and retaining millennial members.
Millennials Seek Security
Millennials' reputation for changing jobs is driven in part by the job market they encountered upon joining the workforce. Millennials may have found themselves forced into part-time roles, gig work or other positions with low pay and few, if any, benefits. This makes regularly looking for a new job a necessity more than a desire.
Almost 90% of millennials consider job security their No. 1 priority when hunting for a job. That may contribute to why 77% of millennials reported that they'd be willing to take a pay cut if it meant they'd gain long-term job security.
A nationwide survey of millennials found that they overwhelmingly want stable, long-term careers, but only around one-third believe their current job constitutes a career. "They are forced because of the structure of the economy to take job after job. … But if given a choice, they'd like the idea of having [a] stable salary and benefits and one long career," said University of Chicago political scientist Cathy Cohen, founder of the survey.
Job Security for Millennials
It's already recognized that union members typically stay in their jobs longer than their nonunion counterparts. To bolster millennial union membership, promote this fact. Be explicit, though, about why exactly this holds true. Tell millennials that while unions negotiate on behalf of their members for decent pay, benefits, time off and safe working conditions, they also work to ensure job security, such as by protecting members from arbitrary dismissal.
Additionally, think about job security as something larger than just the opportunity to remain with the same employer. It also entails developing new skills needed to advance in the workplace. Let millennials know that through negotiation with employers and internal union offerings, the union can connect members with skills they need for their current work and encourage the ongoing learning that opens doors to new positions.
Advertising Union Job Security Benefits
As you communicate your dedication to job security to millennials, try to maintain a personal approach that takes into account where they prefer to be reached: online and on their phones.
Don't simply list the ways a union boosts job security. Instead, share first-person stories about how being a union member has helped workers achieve job security and enjoy a fulfilling career, or how a member was able to forge a career path and move through the ranks after taking advantage of training opportunities within the union. These stories can be featured on your website as a blog post, included in a newsletter article or posted on social media with a picture of the member.
Attracting and retaining millennial members doesn't have to involve negotiating for new benefits. Rather, shape the messaging around what you already offer to help millennials understand how membership in a union can help them reach their goals. Job security isn't likely to go out of fashion anytime soon, so consider making it a focal point of your membership campaign.
Heather Kerrigan started her career in journalism at Governing magazine, reporting on state and local politics and policy, with a specific focus on public workforce, environment, health care, education and technology issues. Prior to co-founding River Horse Communications, Heather offered freelance editorial services to a variety of outlets, including serving as volume editor and lead author for SAGE Publications' Historic Documents series and editor-in-chief of The Kanter Journal. Heather also blogs for two government-focused publications, GovLoop and NEOGOV, covering issues of importance to federal employees. Heather is the author of the book Retire Rich With Your 401(k) Plan. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The George Washington University.