Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Middle-aged Millennials: Recruiting and retaining an experienced generation


Many Millennials are now more than a decade into their careers. Although the bookend birth years of the generation vary depending on the researcher and/or media outlet, 1980 to 1994 is the block we use at Tribe to define the Millennial generation. That means the first Millennials are turning 38 this year.

They’re no longer those fresh college grads hoping to get a foot in the door.  They’ve done stuff. They know things. They’ve maybe even learned how to manage others. They’re valuable employees, not just for their potential but for their experience.

They’re not kids anymore, and they’re not kidding around about what they have to offer. So what does your company have to offer them?

This is a good time to reexamine your employer brand and your employee value proposition. Since Millennial employees, especially those in the technology field, have plenty of job options, it’s worth investing time and money into making your company more competitive in the talent market.

What’s good for Millennials is often good for other generations too. For instance, Millennials value flexibility in terms of when and where they work. So do many Gen X and Boomer employees, whether they’re dealing with growing kids or aging parents or just the desire for work to accommodate the demands of their personal lives.

However, the most important element of the EVP for Millennials is the work they’re getting to do. Sure, they expect work-life balance and constant feedback and an ethical organization. As they begin having kids, they value solid benefits and competitive salaries even more than when they were younger. And they’re happy to have any extra perks, from a great coffee bar to mobile dental care that show s up on-site. But they care more about the work they’re doing and why.

The employer brand helps communicate that EVP, and that communication begins with recruitment. How are you building that brand with potential job candidates? What are you sharing about what it’s like to work for your company? Should they expect to be challenged with opportunities to grow their careers? Given the responsibility to run some projects of their own? Will they able to collaborate with other talented people? Will they work they do be recognized for contributing to the overall success of the company? And is the vision of this company something that makes them excited to get to work every day?

In terms of retention, it’s helpful to tell the stories of employees’ and their individual efforts. For instance, you might do a regular feature on your intranet or in your internal magazine or newsletter that interviews employees who are highly engaged in their work and excited about how it contributes to the company goals and vision. Or you can tell those stories through video or podcasts. Giving those concrete examples of real people thriving in their jobs is one of the best ways you can promote your employer brand.

Interested in defining your employer brand or EVP? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Middle-Aged Millennials: Recruiting and Retaining These Mid-Career Professionals

HiResMany Millennials are now more than a decade into their careers. Although the bookend birth years of the generation vary depending on the researcher and/or media outlet, 1980 to 1994 is the block we use at Tribe to define the Millennial generation. That means the first Millennials are now 36.

They’re no longer those fresh college grads expecting an entry-level CEO position. They’ve done stuff. They know things. They’ve maybe even learned how to manage others. They’re valuable employees, not just for their potential but for their experience.

Yet employers are still flummoxed by this generation. How to recruit them and how to retain them remain issues that companies struggle to solve. Now that they’re the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, employers can no longer reduce the issue to throwing up their hands and exclaiming, “These darn kids these days!”

They’re not kids anymore, and they’re not kidding around about what they have to offer. So what does your company have to offer them?

This is a good time to reexamine your employer brand and your employee value proposition. Since Millennial employees (as well as their older colleagues, come to think of it) have more job options than any of us did during the recession, it’s worth investing time and money into making your company more competitive in the talent market.

What’s good for Millennials is often good for other generations too. For instance, Millennials value flexibility in terms of when and where they work. So do many Gen X and Boomer employees, whether they’re dealing with growing kids or aging parents or just the desire for work to accommodate the demands of their personal lives.

However, the most important element of the EVP for Millennials is the work itself. Sure, they expect work-life balance and constant feedback and an ethical organization. They appreciate being able to bring their dogs to the office and having a break room fridge stocked with energy drinks.

But the reason they’re drawn to one organization over another, and the reason they will stay or go, is the work they’re getting to do. Are they being challenged with opportunities to grow their careers? Are they given responsibility to run some projects of their own? Are they able to collaborate with other talented people? Do they see the work they’re doing being recognized for contributing to the overall success of the company? And is the vision of this company something that makes them excited to get to work every day?

Interested in defining your employer brand or EVP? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Who wants what: Life stages and the EVP

The employee value proposition helps employees see beyond compensation and benefits to the larger picture. Although there are other elements of the EVP that attract top talent and keep your best employees in place, it’s safe to say all employees care about their pay and insurance.

Beyond that, many elements of the EVP will be different for each individual. Some people are looking for a company where they can enjoy a better work-life balance.  Other employees might secretly enjoy racking up air miles and staying in hotels all over the world. Some folks want to be able to wear T-shirts and flip flops to the office. Hourly workers in positions that don’t promise much career advancement might appreciate tuition assistance to get that college degree.

Although we can’t assume that diverse personalities will want the same things, people in certain life stages often want similar perks. New parents might particularly value the options of flex time or working from home. Those in the early stages of their careers will likely be looking for a company with a great deal of opportunity for growth. Although Gen Y employees often rank meaningful work high on their lists, that factor can also be a big deal to many Boomers.

The EVP provides answers to the employee’s question, “What’s in it for me?” It’s wise to remember, however, that the right answers will be different according to what any individual employee values most in life.

Ready to explore your employee value proposition? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The most important element of the EVP and engagement: the work itself

One of the key questions Tribe asks when measuring employee engagement is, “How do you feel when you’re on your way to work?” With most companies, the answers are mixed. In organizations like foundations fighting social injustice or world poverty, we tend to see more excitement and passion than we might in some other industries like retail or manufacturing.

You might not expect people to love going to work in a paper mill or box factory. Yet that’s exactly what we’ve been hearing in recent weeks, through countless interviews for a manufacturing company’s internal magazine.

How is that possible? Why are employees ranging from engineers to salespeople to mill managers so excited about getting to work in the morning?

There are a couple of interesting factors that may be clues. This company places a premium on innovation. They have several active projects that involve collaboration and sharing expertise across disciplines and functions. And the leadership seems to give people the autonomy to create solutions without a ton of interference from the top.

Engineers are not usually an emotionally effusive group. And true, when these guys say things like, “It’s really exciting work,” they may be speaking in a fairly flat monotone. But when they describe the challenges and puzzles and the freedom they’re provided to figure them out, it’s clear they are highly engaged in what they do.

Across the course of these interviews, I’ve been reminded over and over of the most powerful source of high employee engagement. Regardless of anything a company can do to create a great work environment, offer work-life balance, rewards, recognition and even generous benefits and competitive salaries, the most important factor is the work itself. And there is nothing more engaging than loving the actual work that you do.

Interested in raising employee engagement in your company? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Claiming the company treats employees like family can backfire

Does leadership at your company like to say the place is one big family? Although that can help employees feel they’re cared for and supported, sooner or later, it becomes painfully obvious that the company is actually a business.

Let’s say the company is forced by market conditions to reduce head count. That’s a business decision. By and large, people understand that sometimes companies have to restructure to remain profitable.

But it’s not something that typically happens in a family. When times are tough, you don’t expect parents to sit everybody down and announce that a few of the kids will no longer have roles in the family. They’ll be put out on the street, because there’s just not room for them at the table.

The irony is that employee reaction to bad news will likely be much worse if they’ve been sold on the family myth. It’s easy to understand how they would feel misled. They’ve been encouraged to believe something that just isn’t true. There’s an inherent contradiction in the promise and reality.

The intent behind claiming the company treats people like family is a good one. It implies respect and kindness and commitment, all of which are good ways to treat employees. But setting expectations that decisions will be made as if there were familial ties rather than a business relationship is unkind.

Interested in a more meaningful articulation of your employer brand? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Waffle House EVP: offering meaningful work by serving the community during disasters

How does your organization provide meaningful work? If your company is developing the cure for cancer or your non-profit is addressing world hunger, it’s easy to identify the higher purpose that’s part of your Employee Value Proposition. But for companies with less obvious contributions to making the world a better place, it’s sometimes a challenge to help employees feel that their work is truly making a difference.

Waffle House might not be the first company that comes to mind when you think of meaningful work. But their employees know customers depend on them 24/7. Sometimes all their customers need is eggs and bacon in the wee hours after some hard partying. Other times they turn to Waffle House for safe harbor in a storm.

So much so that FEMA has developed what they call the Waffle House Index. A recent story on NPR reports that FEMA uses Waffle House closings to track the impact of hurricanes and severe storms. If a Waffle House is not open, it’s a good indicator that things are pretty bad in that area. “It just doesn’t happen where Waffle House is normally shut down,” said Philip Strouse, FEMA’s private sector liaison for the Southeast. “They’re sort of the canary in the coal mine, if you will.”

It’s not by accident that Waffle House provides a refuge for the community. Company management has made disaster preparedness a part of their overall business strategy – and their employee culture.

There’s a Waffle House hurricane playbook, for instance. Pat Warner, VP of Culture at Waffle House, said the employees refer to the playbook when a disaster hits their community. Hurricanes and winter storms are also monitored at corporate, which will rent generators and send teams to areas where a storm is expected to hit.

Waffle House also has an emergency menu in place for such disasters. Developed by engineers, the menu makes the most of available electricity and other resources, while enabling the staff to dish up a lot of food fast for the overflowing crowds gathered there. Two items you won’t be able to order in an emergency are waffles (waffle makers use so much electricity they can tax the generators) and bacon (all those strips take up too much geography on the grill).

In Atlanta’s 2014 Snowpocalypse, commuters stranded on highways gathered at Waffle House restaurants all over the city. NPR interviewed William Palmer, manager of a Waffle House in Norcross, about that experience. “My day was pretty long,” he said. “Basically, make sure the customer area was safe, make sure we (de-)iced the road, and just make sure everything was great for the customers.”

Like emergency personnel from fire fighters to ER staffs, Waffle House employees put serving the community in an emergency ahead of being at home with their own families. That doesn’t happen without a culture that places a strong value on filling that role and creates employee pride in the community being able to count on them.

And like most defining elements of a company culture, that starts at the very top. “What we’ve found in discussions with Waffle house is that they really considered responding to emergencies part of their core mission to meet the needs of customers,” said Julie Swann, associate professor at Georgia Tech, who uses the example of Waffle House in her work.

 Interested in building your employee culture? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

One Size Does Not Fit All In An Employee Value Proposition

The employee value proposition helps employees see beyond compensation and benefits to the larger picture. Although there are other elements of the EVP that attract top talent and keep your best employees in place, it’s safe to say all employees care about their pay and insurance.

Beyond that, many elements of the EVP will be different for each individual. Some people are looking for a company where they can enjoy a better work-life balance.  Other employees might secretly enjoy racking up air miles and staying in hotels all over the world. Some folks want to be able to wear T-shirts and flip flops to the office. Hourly workers in positions that don’t promise much career advancement might appreciate tuition assistance to get that college degree.

Although we can’t assume that diverse personalities will want the same things, people in certain life stages often want similar perks. New parents might particularly value the options of flex time or working from home. Those in the early stages of their careers will likely be looking for a company with a great deal of opportunity for growth. Although Gen Y employees often rank meaningful work high on their lists, that factor can also be a big deal to many Boomers.

The EVP provides answers to the employee’s question, “What’s in it for me?” It’s wise to remember, however, that the right answers will be different according to what any individual employee values most in life.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Communicating Sustainability to Employees

Are you using sustainability to help drive employee engagement? Particularly for younger generation employees, corporate sustainability is an important element of the Employee Value Proposition and adds to their sense of having meaningful work. An Ernst & Young study, developed in cooperation with GreenBiz Group, found that large companies ranked employees as the second most important stakeholders in sustainability — behind customers but before investors. Sustainability is an area where employees can engage and feel a part of something larger.

One of the best ways to engage employees is simply to include them as a key audience for your sustainability communications. Make the sustainability report available to them and include a section for sustainability statistics and ratings on your employee intranet. But you also might give them less time-consuming communications that share sustainability goals and accomplishments — and keep sustainability top of mind.

For instance, not all employees will take the time to read the entire sustainability report. But they might like to see an article in the employee magazine about a recent river cleanup project the company sponsored. Or they might stop to read a poster in the break room that illustrates current resource usage and the company’s goals for reducing those numbers. They may appreciate seeing the latest numbers on progress made towards sustainability goals as a ticker scrolling across the homepage of the intranet.

Look for examples of sustainability that employees can visualize. For instance, most people’s eyes begin to glaze over when they start reading energy usage measured by MWh with numbers in the hundreds of thousands. Instead, look for something they can picture in their minds.

Like reducing pesticide use by installing birdhouses to attract mosquito-eating Purple Martins. When Tribe was working with Mannington Floors several years ago on their sustainability communications, this example struck me as a particularly good one. It’s something that immediately brings a visual image to mind, and is an example you can bet employees will repeat to friends and family, customers and vendors.

In fact, employees can be vocal supporters of the company’s sustainability programs. The Ernst & Young study mentions an earlier finding by GreenBiz Group that American employees tend to believe that their company is doing well at addressing environmental issues and to judge other companies’ sustainability efforts much more harshly than their own.

 

Year-End Recruiting Evaluation

It’s getting close to the end of the calendar year, a time to look back and take stock of all that has transpired over the past 11 or so months. Who did you hire this year? Have they blended well with the company? Would someone else have been a better fit?

Many companies don’t do a lot of hiring at this time of year, but it’s a great time to develop a plan for how (and who) you want to recruit in 2013. You’re obviously going to look for the candidate that has the talent to do the job. While skill set and aptitude are important, it’s equally as crucial to find someone that would fit within the culture of your organization.

Does your company offer an employee value proposition? A compelling vision that provides meaningful work is not just for non-profits, but it does have to be something more inspiring than the vision of selling more widgets. How does your company help make a better world? How does it improve human lives?

Additionally, what makes you stand out among other employers? At Tribe, we recommend including at least one or two shiny hooks in your EVP. These are the benefits that capture the imagination. They’re the things people will talk about, both inside and outside the company. It could be something big like offering a sabbatical after so many years of service or something small but unique, like bringing your dog to work on Fridays.

Do you look for employees that share your values? One of the goals of your recruiting process should be to find individuals that blend with the core values of your company. Your values are what define you as an organization and shape your day-to-day business decisions. Employees that miss the mark when it comes to identifying with your corporate message may have trouble fitting in.

If you need help coming up with ideas on ways to communicate your employee value proposition to potential new hires, give Tribe a call. We’d be happy to help!

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

For Retention, Loving the Work Itself Trumps Anything Else in the EVP

The Employee Value Proposition is a logical focus of retention strategies. At Tribe, we counsel clients to include not only the basics benefits, but also what we call Shiny Hooks. These are unusual benefits that capture the imagination and improve the quality of life for employees, such as allowing dogs in the office, offering on-site childcare or providing year-long sabbaticals after so many years of service.

But there’s no substitute for employees being truly engaged in the actual work they do. All the perks in the world can’t equal the power of being excited to get to the office in the morning, eager to dive into work that matters. That’s easy for an organization working to cure cancer or end world hunger, but what about those run-of-the-mill companies just selling an everyday product or service?

That’s where the company vision comes in. Any company can engage employees in their day-to-day work when company leadership communicates a powerful vision and the important roles individual employees play in achieving that vision.

Vision is different from a business goal. Objectives like “being more profitable each quarter than the one before” or “increasing our market share” are useful messages to communicate, but they don’t have the emotional power of a vision.

An inspiring vision is not achievable in one quarter or even one year. It generally involves some human benefit, some way that the company can improve lives.

Let’s say your company manufactures mattresses. Your vision might be to help more people get a good night’s sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation is a major issue for many people, impacting their work productivity, their family relationships, even their enjoyment of daily life. Better sleep improves lives in meaningful ways.

Every person in that mattress company can then play a role in improving lives. The research and development people are coming up with better products, the marketing people are helping more people find the right mattress, the people on the manufacturing line are building better lives one pillow-top after another.

This level of engagement, however, depends on management making two things a priority: developing a clear vision and communicating that vision. Not just once or twice, but through a comprehensive communication program involving multiple channels and long-range sustaining strategies.