This week was my four-year anniversary with Chief Learning Officer magazine, and because my friends are willing to celebrate every and any milestone in each other’s lives, we celebrated. As we discussed life since college (when do you stop reminiscing about college? Never?), we realized in our group of eight, only another friend and I have stayed with an employer this long since graduating four years ago. We discussed how rare it is for our generation to commit to a company (even for “just” four years).
Because I had interviewed the chief learning officer of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Tom Evans, who has been with his firm for 37 years, earlier that day, I began to wonder how true the stereotype of millennials job hoping is and how that’s impacting business’ bottom lines. It certainly doesn’t seem like other generations moved around as much, and although there’s research that negates it, I wanted to investigate.
I interviewed Karen Miller, vice president of people at GrubHub Inc. and human resources and corporate culture expert for Seamless Corporate Accounts, to find out what trends she’s seen and how learning leaders can help prevent top talent from leaving.
Is there a millennial retention problem?
There has been a lot of conversation about the retention of millennials in the workplace. Research from Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, and Beyond.com found that 30 percent of companies lost 15 percent or more of their millennial employees in the past year resulting in rising recruiting expenses. Of those companies, 87 percent reported spending between $15,000 and $25,000 to replace each millennial employee. Millennials are a unique group, often caring more about pursuing their passions than a high salary. If they don’t find their work meaningful and the corporate culture isn’t a fit, they are more willing to leave in pursuit of new opportunities.
How is it different from generations before them?
Millennials have unique characteristics — just as every generation does. They were the first generation born with technology; it is like breathing air to them. As a result, they are able to easily adapt to and apply new technologies.
Having come of age in an era of crowdsourcing, collaboration and community are highly valued, and they are comfortable sharing their opinions freely and very adept at teaming. Millennials are also well aware that it is not easy to find great jobs and that our economy has led companies to increase layoffs and frequently restructure. For these reasons, they are willing to work hard to prove themselves as valuable team members and know that job security is not a given. Additionally, they are also less prone to long-term careers with one employer and frequently change jobs.
PayScale’s annual Generations at Work survey found that average tenure for millennials with an employer is two years. This is compared to five years for Gen X, seven years for baby boomers and 10 years for the silent generation.
What can HR leaders do to prevent it? What do Millennials need to stay?
HR leaders can help retain millennials and all workers by leveraging these strengths and making each employee feel valued and engaged. PwC found in their NextGen Study that millennials value community and want a work environment that emphasizes teamwork. They also crave a flexible work culture that allows them to decide where and when they work and to be rewarded and recognized on a regular basis.
One way HR leaders can do this is through workplace perks. Our Seamless Corporate Accounts’ recent Food in the Workplace survey shows perks are a way for employers to enhance engagement, build community and drive employee satisfaction and retention. Respondents noted flexible vacation policies (52 percent), gym or yoga memberships (42 percent) and food perks (38 percent) as the top three perks that would make them more inclined to rate their company highly in a “Best Places to Work” survey.
We also asked respondents which perks would influence their decision to select one company over another if they had received competing job offers. A majority (70 percent) chose flexible vacation policies as a leading factor, however food perks (49 percent) and a casual dress code (47 percent) are also highly valued. Half of survey respondents noted that food-based perks specifically would make them feel more satisfied with their employers and that sharing meals with colleagues fosters a better working relationship.
What would you say to critics who say it’s ridiculous to cater to young people? Or those that say it’s unnecessary because so many of them are unemployed?
Millennials have surpassed the baby boomer generation to become the largest population in the United States. This group is quickly becoming the majority of human capital in the workforce, making them impossible to ignore. Given the negative impact of turnover on operational budgets, if employers do not engage all employees, including millennials, retention rates will continue to rise.
Additionally, millennials will soon be stepping into leadership roles in many organizations. Baby boomers are beginning to retire, and according to PwC, 63.3 percent of U.S. executives will be eligible to retire in the next five years. Since there are significantly fewer Gen X employees in the workforce, millennials will need to fill leadership roles five to 10 years sooner than previous generations. Clearly, investing in millennials today will have lasting impact on organizations’ future success.
Lastly, despite the influx into the workforce, companies continue to struggle to find the top talent that they need. There is intense competition for specialized skill sets, and creating an engaging workplace is critical to attracting and retaining the best performers.
What are you doing at GrubHub Inc.?
As senior vice president of people at GrubHub Inc., I help our organization focus on creating a culture that inspires the best work from all employees — including millennials. By actively fostering a workplace that values community, culture and collaboration, we are able to attract, retain and — perhaps most importantly — engage great people.
Providing food perks is just one of the many ways we demonstrate our commitment in this area. We also offer flexible work schedules, casual dress code, frequent training and development opportunities for all levels of staff, creative social experiences and much more. We monitor engagement closely with semi-annual employee surveys and use the data to guide our people strategy and investments. The results have clearly shown a direct correlation between our investment in our workplace culture and increased employee engagement, satisfaction and retention.
This concept of creating an environment in which people love coming to work and employees feel empowered to succeed is core to the service our Seamless Corporate Accounts provide to clients. Whether it’s a service like ours that makes it cost-efficient to offer food perks while helping drive employee productivity, or other services focused on proving easy to access benefits for employees, there are many ways to engage employees of all ages, including millennials. I encourage all companies to do what they can to get the most out of their most valuable resource.