Ping pong tables, latte machines, free kale smoothies, a nap room — sounds like a paradise workplace for Millennials, right? Maybe — but maybe not.
It turns out that “perks” like this do not make young professionals feel fulfilled at work for the long term.
The first Millennials were graduating college and entering the workforce just a few years after the dot-com bubble burst. Even after that economic collapse, however, many companies were trying to attract young, tech-savvy employees with Silicon Valley-style perks from free food to activities designed to make work “fun”. But these things aren’t what Millennial employees really want at work.
1. Millennials want to work for organizations that offer ways for them to feel engaged and emotionally connected to their jobs, according to research from Gallup. They want to feel good about the impact their role has on their workplace and on the community.
Managers can do this by talking more about why the company’s mission is meaningful to the community and the world at large, and by communicating how the employee fits into that mission. Volunteer opportunities can also make employees feel more connected and engaged at work. (See “3 Ways Millennials are Changing the Workplace” for more on this.)
2. Millennials want to work for companies that have an open and honest communication culture, including frequent check-ins, constructive feedback, defined responsibilities and goals that are achievable with proper support.
Managers can do this by focusing on being authentic, approachable coaches, being a role model and setting up Millennials with a structured and productive mentoring program.
3. Millennials want to work for companies that offer them professional challenges, opportunities for growth and show an interest in their short- and long-term success.
Managers can do this by talking about long-term goals, career path and development and future opportunities. “They want to get on the perfect career track right away, despite their job-hopping reputation, data show that most would prefer to stay with one company that will help them achieve their professional goals,” according to Neil Howe.
4. Millennials will be attracted to companies that integrate their work and their life. This does not mean they want to work 80 hours per week. They don’t want work to become their life, but they do like working hard and taking on professional challenges.
The way they do this is different than previous generations. For Millennials, being chained to a desk can be frustrating, and many Millennials want the flexibility to work outside the standard 9-to-5 schedule. “When Millennials say they want ‘balance,’ they don’t mean work less. They mean work differently and more flexibly. There’s a big difference,” mentioned Cali Williams Yost in a piece for Fast Company.
Managers can do this by allowing some telecommuting and alternative work schedules, while keeping expectations high and communication frequent.
5. Millennials will want to work for companies that offer stability and job security. The oldest members of the Millennial generation were just starting to look for their first full-time jobs when the Great Recession happened and they witnessed (and experienced) high unemployment rates.
Managers should emphasize the long-term prospects of the company’s success and the sustainability of their business model. Millennials have long-term horizons when thinking about their career goals. They would rather have a meaningful career with a sold, stable company, rather than hop from job to job. In fact, the idea that Millennial employees “job hop” more than previous generations is a myth. To the extent that they do job hop, it’s because they are working to gain skills to advance themselves in their career. You don’t want to be that company where they are gaining skills so they can move on to the next company. Managers should be clear that their company provides opportunities for professional growth and development.
Overall, Millennials are looking for good coaches in the workplace who are honest, say one thing and do that thing (not do another); they want CEOs who admit mistakes and are open about the company’s health; they want to understand their role with a company that is making a positive difference in the community and in the world.
The way to attract and keep the best Millennial employees is not with free food.