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Launchbox CEO: Solution Providers That Don't Leverage Millennial Employees Will Lose

Dan Negroni, CEO of a company focused on helping businesses bridge the millennial gap, tells an audience at XChange how to tap into the unique strengths of these employees.

In nine years, millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce from today's 40 percent, according to Dan Negroni, founder and CEO of Launchbox, during his keynote at the XChange Solution Provider conference. Companies that want to stay successful will push aside the myths associated with these employees and leverage the unique strengths they bring to the workplace, he said.

Defining a "millennial" as a person between the ages of 20 and 37, attracting, retaining and investing in these employees is critical because the disconnect between them and other generations is costing companies money, Negroni said during his keynote at the conference, which is being hosted this week in National Harbor, Md., by CRN parent The Channel Company.

"We need to find a way to connect with [millennials] or our businesses will die," said Negroni, whose company focuses on helping businesses bridge that gap.

[Related: DLT's Alan Marc Smith: Solution Providers Must Prepare For The Inevitable Rise Of Subscription Services ]

Approximately 71 percent of millennials are disengaged at the workplace, which adds up to $40 billion to $50 billion a year in lost productivity, according to Negroni. At the same time, only 22 percent of businesses have a plan to improve the high percentage of disengaged or unhappy employees and actively work to keep them.

Millennials make up the majority of Salinas, Calif.- based solution provider Alvarez Technology Group, at about 60 percent, with the remaining 40 percent compromised of Baby Boomers and Generation X – those in their late 30s to early 50s. The main difference between the two groups is that millennials want frequent coaching and they like change, said Luis Alvarez, president and CEO.

With these characteristics in mind, Alvarez put a rotation program in place four years ago to help with employee retention, specifically for millennials. After a year and a half of working in a particular role, Alvarez and his team make it a point to reach out to younger employees to see how they are enjoying their job, and if they'd like to try something different within the company.

Companies shouldn't expect younger employees to stay within the same role for longer than five years, Alvarez said, and he's gathered a lot of feedback by implementing this program and listening to his millennial-aged employees.

"Give [millennials] that new experience, but within your own company. If you don't give them change, they will go get change somewhere else," he said.

Despite the stereotypes surrounding millennials, business leaders need to start assuming positive intent, Negroni said.

Alvarez said that while his company has had success attracting and retaining younger talent, he'd like to see less of the "the blame game" within his company.

"We have a tendency to say, 'Why aren't [millennials] doing this or that?' and in today's market, finding new people is tough and expensive so we need to do a better job of coaching, engaging, and we need to have a plan. That's one of the first things I'm going to do when I get back," he said.

Companies need to start changing their perspective by connecting with and understanding millennials, Negroni said.

"You're connecting with people every day, so if you're not getting answers, you need to be asking better questions," Negroni said. "Millennials may have different goals than you, so you need to understand what they want."

Most of all, people are people, Negroni reminded the audience of solution providers.

"Yes, we grew up in different times, and yes, there are things that are similar about our groups, but we are in the people business."

Negroni also reminded the audience that millennials are not only employees, they are potential IT buyers and decision-makers too.

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