FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Indiana is seeing record lows for unemployment across the state but many employers are still struggling to fill open positions. As hiring becomes more competitive, a local expert is weighing in on what those employers can do to retain the employees they do have.

Michael Kirchner, Assistant Professor of Organizational Leadership for Purdue Fort Wayne, said employees entering the workforce now are much different than the older generations.

“We would start with a company, and we’d stay with that organization for many years often until retirement,” Kirchner said. “These younger generations, Millennials, Gen Z-ers, there’s a much greater interest in career advancement opportunities, much greater interest in feeling like we’re supported.”

It is something he said has only been amplified as workers process the impact the pandemic has had on their lives.

“I think between the pandemic and politics, that social media, we are all under a level of stress and anxiety that we’ve never really had to manage before and deal with, and I do think one of the consequences is that we aren’t willing to tolerate a workplace that doesn’t care about us,” said Kirchner.

According to Kirchner, employers likely will need to adapt to the changing mindset if they want to keep their staff stable and dependable.

“We frequently hear employers talking about when working through this labor shortage that ‘I’m just looking for a warm body,’ and that really sets off a mindset of we don’t look at our employees as assets,” Kirchner said. “We get so entrenched in the day-to-day operations and meeting the quotas that exist, that we aren’t investing enough time into building up those relationships and having meaningful connections with our workforce.”

Without those meaningful connections, employers run the risk of their employees only meeting the bare minimum of responsibilities.

“If employees feel like the only reason they’re employed is because they’re there to get the job done, as opposed to, they’re truly valued as individuals, we show up to work, we do the minimum amount of work required and we get our paycheck. There isn’t a whole lot of investment on behalf of either party beyond just getting the job done.”

When it comes to high turnover some companies are seeing, Kirchner said it is normal for people to decide whether they like the job within the first three months of employment and that period is when companies see the most turnover. Training employees is one of the most costly parts of running a business, so Kirchner recommends managers are upfront of the less appealing parts of a job during the interview process.

“We talk about the pay the benefits, oh, it’s a fun work environment,” Kirchner said. “What we don’t talk about are the negatives, the challenges that employees have, whether it’s working a particular job within the organization, or issues that exist within the organization, as a whole. Essentially, we’ve lied to this new employee about what their employment experience is going to be like, and then that new employee starts, and very quickly, we put it on their shoulders to pick up the things that are not that great about working here.”