Gen Y demands a flexible culture. Read how one marketing agency is providing it.
by Ladan Nikravan
May 21, 2015
As workplaces change their strategies, benefits and workplace policies to adhere to the changing working world, I’m always intrigued by companies that are doing this and putting a strong emphasis on their millennial employees’ wants.
Take Raidious for example,a marketing agency in Indianapolis, Indiana. The company has a young staff full of social millennials, and as a result has used a number of methods to keep them on board. This includes recognizing them for their accomplishments, making sure they not only feel like part of a team but also part of a culture and giving them a lot of freedom. For example, a creative meeting might start with them biking to an art museum where the meeting is then held, and employees are free to work from wherever they want.
All of this caters to what millennials want — or what Raidious thinks they want— but what about those that other generations and millennials who aren’t as mesmerized by this type of culture? How does Raidious know what employees want? What benefits has the company seen? Is catering so much to millennials worth it? I interviewed the company’s president, Ryan Smith, to find out.
Tell me about your workplace culture. I know you have a lot of millennials — what methods have you employed to keep them on board?
Smith: Our culture is built on trust. We treat our people like adult professionals. That means we trust them to make the right decisions for our business each and every day without looking over everyone’s shoulder all the time. We’ve built our culture on freedom, autonomy and individual accountability. I believe it’s these core values that keep our team happy, productive and profitable all at the same time.
It all starts with hiring, though. We have a hiring process that includes multiple stages and highly effective tools like Predictive Index to assess behaviors before an interview is conducted, let alone an offer. The PI helps us gain a view of an individual’s motivating needs and behavioral drives so we can accurately and quickly determine job, team and organizational fit. This insight also tells us how to position our employees for success and keep them engaged over the long term. The behavioral data is also helpful for structuring teams. In some scenarios, we purposely put certain types of behavioral profiles on a project, because we know the employees will make an effective combination.
How do you know what they want? Do you conduct any sort of surveys/analytics?
Smith: The PI assessment helps us understand what will motivate and drive our employees. We have candidates complete the 10-minute survey during the hiring process (as noted above), but we continue to use the talent data for onboarding and development. All of our employees have completed the PI including the executive team, and we openly share the results. This helps us tap into our employees’ needs and engage with them in ways that are consistent with their preferred work styles.
Additionally, I conduct a weekly survey using a software product called 15five. These surveys only take 5-10 minutes to complete. Each week, we have two questions. One question is usually about their week. For instance, “Do you have any frustrations or concerns this week?” or “Did you have any big wins this week?’
The second question is a recurring question each week: “Who was the Raidious MVP this week?” Each week, I tally up the votes for everyone’s MVP and we reward the staff member with the most votes for the first and second half of the year.
These surveys keep me in touch with each staff member even when we have hectic weeks that may include travel, multiple events or just heavy workload week that keeps everyone heads down. It also gives each staff member a chance to have a hand in rewarding our top performers, which adds a little more meaning than a typical employee of the month setup.
What have you done as a result of finding out what millennials want? Have you added any policies/benefits?
Smith: Millennials seem to crave freedom in the workplace. They seem to be more concerned with being able to work the way they want to work, or when they want to work over dollars. Allowing the kind of freedom and autonomy that millennials want means you have to have a rock-solid hiring process. There are a large number of millennials out there that will come in and be rock star talents right off the bat, and there will be no concerns whatsoever about letting them off the leash. The same cannot be said about all millennials, so setting up a process to earn more freedom is essential.
At Raidious, we have a “work from anywhere” policy, along with an unlimited vacation policy. These policies/benefits put trust and faith in our people to be accountable to their clients and to their team. We are a small company with serious clients. If one person isn’t pulling their weight, it doesn’t take weeks or days to figure it out. It takes hours. We have had very few situations where abuse of the policies has happened.
Have you seen any measurable benefits as a result?
Smith: For the first four years of our company’s existence, we had 100 percent employee retention. We have had very little turnover as a business to this day. We have only seen a few employees leave Raidious, and the majority of those employees have returned as freelancers at this point.
What about your nonmillennial staff? How do they react to all of this? Are they bothered that so much emphasis is placed on what Gen Y wants?
Smith: Our nonmillennial staff definitely has some trouble at times with the amount of freedom and flexibility that we offer. A no-proximity policy requires our team to be creative when it comes to collaborative sessions. We typically have several video calls each day, and some have close to 10 people in different locations.
Our nonmillennial staff has trouble getting comfortable with the more modern approach to collaboration. Most would prefer to have everyone in the same room or office where impromptu conversations can lead to new ideas and solutions. That said, when they need the freedom and flexibility themselves, the policy is gold.