As the economy shifts and the millennial generation takes its place in leadership positions across the world, snack delivery service SnackNation CEO and millennial Sean Kelly says one thing is clear: Cash will not always be king. I interviewed Kelly to find out how companies can better optimize their perks and benefits to attract and retain millennial workers, and how these tactics differ from generations before. Below are edited excerpts from our interview.
What kinds of perks attract and retain millennial workers?
Kelly: The most effective way to leverage perks and benefits to attract and retain millennial workers is to illustrate the underlying element of your corporate culture; that you care about the worker as individuals outside of their production and workflow within your company. This genuine, thoughtful approach to managing perks is the most organic method available and will pay large dividends over time.
Keeping a stock of food and beverages on campus promotes optimal productivity levels, with bonus points if the refreshments are healthy or better for you. Not only does healthy snacking keep up energy levels throughout the day, resulting in higher productivity, but also snacks on hand will carry weight with millennials, who place a critical importance on balanced eating and enjoy the beneficial impact of nutrition on their performance, feelings and overall experiences. A delivery service or on-campus convenience store is the ideal option for employers looking for an easy, convenient method to increase the availability of better-for-you products.
Millennials place a greater value on personal time than previous generations have. Flexible work hours that measure success by productivity and results rather than the amount of time spent at a desk is preferable than the tired 40-hour workweek.
Invest time in planning into the millennial just as you have invested the time into your own company. Put together a professional and personal growth plan for each employee, and use it as a yardstick for development and progress. Checking weekly, biweekly or monthly assessments against this plan will inspire and lay out growth plans and processes. Allowing millennials to achieve a higher level of self-actualization and better experiences will make them more well-rounded people and employees who are engaged within your organization.
Create a sense of community within the staff and across teams and departments by hosting team activities. With a longing to feel a sense of belonging and strong community, millennials feel confident in knowing that they have a unique connection unavailable at other companies. From weekly self-development seminars to dance classes or scavenger hunts, there is unlimited potential for unique culture-driven team activities.
What is it about these that interest Gen Y?
Kelly: For the millennial generation, it all comes back to a sense of community and connection. Millennials are interested in the collective nature of corporate culture, whereas previous generations have a deeply engrained sense of self-importance and self-preservation. This drastic cultural shift changes the focus from individual-based benefits and perks to a more collective, community-based platform of benefits.
In addition to a sense of community and collective culture, millennials desire to work in an environment that inspires team members to work together toward a common, worthwhile goal or cause. The sense of accomplishment in being an agent of change or a positive force for a cause that means something to a millennial instills a deep sense of tangible authenticity, and pride in being a part of a special community.
Perks and benefits that put a premium on the group overall, weaving culture and pride throughout the office, and allow millennials the flexibility and freedom to work within their own patterns and preferences are consistently top-of-list among this generation.
Are these the same perks that interest other generations?
Kelly: There are absolutely universal similarities across generations as far as what qualities they are looking for in a company’s benefits package. The differences are found nestled in the subtle nuances of the cultural shift from an individualistic “me” to a collective “we” culture.
The desire for a personal, human connection is present across generation, gender and age group, but is much lower in the baby boomer and Gen X groups compared with the millennial group. As the older generations sense this workplace culture change, they generally perceive a positive, enlightened change. Ultimately, proper culture hinges on the underlying necessity to treat employees as individuals as well as a team. Finding the balance between personalization, authenticity and collective importance is the sweet spot for a productive work environment.
Specifically, how do wellness initiatives and employee development fit into this? Is that something you find millennials are interested in at work? Something they see as a perk or just required HR protocol?
Kelly: Wellness initiatives and employee development are vital components to the overall package and appeal a company provides to an employee. No longer is it adequate to offer bare-bones benefits and personal perks. Millennials expect much more out of the companies they devote the majority of their time to; using quality of culture and available perks as filters when deciding where to work. Creating a lasting, palpable culture and community within an organization is an engaging, driving force behind the success of businesses growing in this new economic landscape.