You’ve seen it in every workplace commercial: Millennials, smiling and wearing nice clothes, hang out in a modern-looking office they clearly love to work in. Maybe they have an office dog or a pinball machine in the background. No matter the specifics, the message is clear: The culture here is perfect for young, hungry professionals.
Surface-level perks only go so far, though, and no set of perks can make up for a bad culture. Millennials want different things from the workplace than prior generations did. New research, broken down by Harvard Business Review, discovered that 50 percent of millennials have left a position for mental-health reasons, voluntarily or otherwise. Members of Gen-Z reported a rate of 75 percent. While workers of the past wanted to keep to themselves, millennials and younger want to talk it out.
Openness and vulnerability tie millennials together in unique ways. This generation entered the workforce during the worst of the late-2000s recession, and those experiences forced them to bond over their shared struggles. For startups and other small businesses, developing a millennial-friendly culture means understanding their priorities and motivations. Whether you want to develop a fun-first office or a team of no-nonsense professionals, keep these core millennial concerns in mind.
1. Forging financial security.
Other generations watched their parents climb the ranks and retire with gold watches. Millennials, on the other hand, watched their parents get fired in their 50s and 60s. Many of those parents ended up working jobs below their experience level. Some lost their pensions or saw their retirement savings stagnate. Millennials desperately want to avoid the same fate, so to create a culture in which they feel comfortable, you must first provide them with the financial resources they need to secure their futures.
Company stock options are nice, but small-business 401(k)s are best. Your millennial employees will appreciate plans with low investment fees. Match contributions up to a certain percentage to encourage employees to save. As their accounts grow, millennials will feel less anxiety about their financial needs in retirement. Once they know they won’t end up in the same situation their parents did, they’ll feel far more comfortable committing to the company and its culture.
2. Provide emotional outlets and access to treatment.
People aren’t machines, and AI won’t take over most jobs for decades to come. Give your millennial employees the human connections and resources they need to thrive. Sometimes, that means paying employees who aren’t in the building or adding extra perks to an already expensive healthcare package. Don’t shy away from the cost, though. Studies consistently show that investments in mental health correlate with increases in productivity.
Start with flexible work options to give employees a breather away from the office. Do the opposite with remote employees by inviting them to spend a few days at headquarters to get some social time with the rest of the team. Offer incentives for employees to lead healthy, active lifestyles. Many millennials are in the middle of building families, so offer parental leave to make that transition easier.
3. Solicit ideas and feedback from the bottom up.
You might think your office’s culture is perfect, but if your employees think otherwise, your bottom line (and your retention rate) will suffer the consequences. Regularly solicit employee feedback on your company culture through anonymous channels, such as surveys, to get your finger on the true pulse. You may discover that your culture is missing the mark for some or all of your workers.
Don’t settle for a simple open-door policy. Ideally, employees should feel empowered to speak their mind in such environments, but that’s not always the case. Some people may feel too intimidated to initiate a pertinent conversation. Once you receive feedback about your company culture, act quickly on that information to show workers that you take their concerns seriously. Not every complaint merits a change, but if enough people want something new, don’t let the old way of doing things prevent progress.
Great cultures inspire people to invest in one another’s success. Millennials got a rough start in the working world, but they’re here and eager to prove their value as top-level contributors, managers and executives. Instead of letting your culture develop by accident, use this opportunity to invest in your millennial employees and show them that you value their growth. Not everyone will stick with you for the long haul, but with the right benefits and mindset, you can create a culture in which all your employees feel respected and empowered.