As younger generations enter the workforce, the office is shaped more and more by the norms and expectations belonging to Generation Y. In fact, a 2013 study predicted that Gen Y employees will make up 36 percent of the workforce this year, increasing to 75 percent by 2025. With a wave of younger employees comes the challenge of engaging and retaining them, since Millennials are known to leave their companies after being employed for a short time — 60 percent leave in less than three years.
To keep employees happy and engaged, companies are listening to what matters most to Millennials and are designing programs and initiatives to boost employee engagement. While many of these programs aren’t targeted just toward Millennials, they all seek to satisfy the needs of younger employees. Here’s a peek at what some companies are doing:
Create Gen-Y Specific Groups
Companies are targeting Millennial engagement by offering generation-specific career development opportunities. For example, Sodexo has an "i-Gen" group for Gen Y employees to network, receive training about social media and learn strategies to manage their careers. For social media-savvy employees, there’s a specific Twitter handle for the group, @SodexoiGen.
Offer a Customized Experience
Giving employees what they want starts with understanding what is important to them. GE launched a "Global New Directions" group to figure out what Millennials want as part of their strategy to attract and retain talent. One key takeaway is that the workforce is more global and diverse than ever — therefore, everyone has different needs. To address that, GE changed its benefits package to adopt a model that allows customization for each employee. Also, since younger generations are often noted for their use of technology, GE incorporated gaming technology into how it tells prospective employees about the company’s mission, values and culture.
Support Employees in Their Work and Personal Lives
Millennials mix their personal and work lives much more than previous generations, often becoming friends with their coworkers, notes Kim Cassady, senior director of talent at Cornerstone OnDemand. Therefore, companies are expanding what it means to support employees, not just in the workplace but in their personal endeavors too. Take Cornerstone OnDemand: the company dedicates one day each month to learning, whether by focusing on professional skills or personal development skills. Some opportunities include time management, project management, meditation, yoga and acupuncture. "We sponsor groups around fitness such as having folks train and prepare for a marathon," says Cassady. "We provide them with a coach, several lunch-and-learns [lunchtime talks] about nutrition, and we pay for their fee to participate in a marathon. In turn they’ll raise money for a non-profit."
Focus on Social Responsibility
Younger employees care about giving back to local and far-reaching communities, so companies are introducing volunteer programs, volunteer days and pro bono projects. Social responsibility is more important than professional recognition for 84 percent of Millennials, according to a study by Bentley University. Ford Motor Company employees get 16 hours of paid time off every year to volunteer. Since more than 50 percent of MTV’s employees are Millennials, volunteerism is an important part of its company culture. Employees at MTV had the opportunity to work on a pro bono project to help a non-profit that finds employment for former prisoners in 2013. "There were tons of people who wanted to be a part of this project because there’s such a hunger and desire to do meaningful work when you come to work [at MTV]," Jason Rzepka, MTV’s senior vice president of public affairs, told the Society for Human Resource Management.
Empower Employees to Start Groups
Whether an employee likes to play basketball or watch reality TV, employee groups formed around these hobbies are more likely to be successful when the employee takes the initiative to form the group, says Cassady. "When human resources pushes it or it’s a corporate initiative, it’s met with less enthusiasm," she adds. "We’ve seen greater success with employees coming to us and saying, ’I want to do this.’" For example, a Millennial came to Cornerstone’s HR team with a request to create a baking club. Another employee formed a women’s networking group. Around the Chinese New Year, a group of employees put together an event talking about what the holiday means from a cultural perspective. While many of these groups are started by Millennials, the drive to pursue passions at work extends to all employees and goes a long way toward keeping them highly engaged.