Friday, February 6, 2015

Wanted: Millennials

By Katie Thomas, Project Associate.

In nearly every community we work in, the challenge with workforce dynamics and millennials inevitably comes up when talking to employers. Millennials are one of the most studied, sought-after, and resented generations in modern day. There are countless reports, surveys, and articles about millennials, and they have been called everything from lazy and entitled to innovative and brilliant. Millennials are quickly taking over the workplace; the Census projects that millennials will make up about half of the workforce by 2020, and by 2025, they are expected to account for three fourths. 

While it’s a little comforting knowing that your business community isn’t the only one facing this challenge, the task of successfully overcoming it still remains very real. There’s the old adage that a tree that does not bend with the wind will break. In the fierce competition to attract the best and brightest to replace employees nearing retirement, past recruitment strategies and traditional work environments may have to change in order to recruit and retain talent. 

The December 2014 Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey stated that approximately 60 percent of the U.S. chief financial officers surveyed reported that their firms have not made any changes in an effort to attract millennials. Of those that had made changes to appeal to the millennials, 21 percent adopted flexible work hours, 17 percent allowed work from home, 16 percent increased training, 13 percent implemented a new mentoring program, and 10 percent had altered the corporate culture. 

Every aspect that may appeal to millennials in a workplace won’t work in every business sector, so some companies modify certain aspects that do work with their business model to increase their attractiveness to millennials. Below are a few companies, some of which have landed on Best Companies to Work for and Best Workplaces lists, and examples of the actions they have taken to attracting workers.

  • NetApp is a large, international provider of data management and storage. The company provides an environment that encourages personal and professional development. NetApp provides tuition reimbursement and averages 56 hours of annual training for full-time salaried employees. Also, they have a program, NetApp University, that provides additional professional, technical, sales, and management development courses and mentorship opportunities for employees to continue to learn new things and feel challenged.

  • USAA allows employees to work flexible hours and/or remotely. Approximately 25 percent of employees take advantage of the opportunity to work compressed schedules, varying start- and stop-times, and remotely. There were an average of 56 applicants per job opening and the total voluntary turnover rate was 8 percent for the previous year. Nationally, the annual quit rate for companies in finance and insurance was 13.5 percent in 2013.

  • Zappos implemented a “skills set” system to replace annual raises. The company developed a program with around 20 skills that employees could acquire, and once mastered, would receive a small pay increase. The transparency enables its employees to have more control over their pay and challenges the employees to develop new and useful skills that benefit both the employee and the company.

  • The information technology company, Squarespace, which specializes in website design and development, provides stock options for every employee to receive shares of the company. The work environment is a “no door” workplace, casual dress attire, stocked kitchen for employees, and a flexible work schedule that enables employees to get the work done wherever and in whatever time period they need. The company averages over 100 applicants per job opening.

  • Allied Wallet, a payment processing company headquarter in Los Angeles, shows its appreciation for employees by handing out gift cards or cash each month to top performers. When surveyed, 96 percent of employees reported that managers recognize and appreciate the good work and extra effort put forth by employees.

  • At the grocery store, Wegmans, the majority of the jobs are low-skilled with minimal education requirements and pay hourly wages, yet the company has created an environment where each employee feels part of a family. Employees reported that managers encourage people to maintain a work/life balance and are able to take time off for work, show appreciation of each employee through handwritten thank you notes and gift cards, and hosts employee appreciation festivities. Wegmans boasts an incredibly low turnover rate at 3.6 percent. In comparison, companies with business activities in retail trade averaged a 29.4 percent turnover rate in 2013.
  • The Container Store’s efforts to create a great atmosphere for employers includes a wellness room, a lending library, and a variety of celebrations, including adopting February 14th as “National We Love Our Employees Day” where the company showers employees with love in the form of balloons, treats, and notes of appreciation. Roughly 40 percent of new hires come from employee referrals.

  • In Indianapolis at Roche Diagnostics, employees participate in company sponsored sports teams for rec-leagues that include basketball and softball, among others, and there is a comradery among its employees. They also have an on-site garden available for employees to use while at work to grow produce.
  • Snagajob’s office includes an indoor soccer venue, an outdoor volleyball court, a fitness center, and breakfast for employees. Additionally, it hosts outings for employees which have included a trip to the Washington Nationals game, go-kart racing, and a wine tour.

Providing an attractive total package not only helps employers to get more applicants, it also cuts down on the costly training expenses incurred by companies that have high turnover by creating an environment where employees feel like family, are challenged, and receive appreciation, which contributes to the reduction in the percentage of employees that quit working for the company. Flexibility, appreciation, a collaborative environment, and opportunities to advance and develop skills are all among some of the cited workplace characteristics desired by the next generation of workers. The challenge for employers will be to adopt policies that will be competitive against other companies through whichever avenue is most compatible with their business activities to remain competitive in an evolving work environment.