In my early twenties, growing into the workforce, it always puzzled me that previous generations considered millennials (those of us born between 1982 and 2000, according the the US Census Bureau) to be "spoiled" and "entitled" because we, among other things, *wait for it* care about being happy in our jobs.
I've always felt like in the eyes of the older generations, unless the office looked like the place where sad adults worked in a Disney movie; then it wasn't work.
Apparently, our forefathers believe that if work doesn't slowly devour your soul and make you wish you were dead every day, then you're clearly slacking off.
Well, move over folks; this is our world now.
By 2025, Millennials will represent 75% of the workforce. Here are the things we millennials care about when it comes to work:
All of these points compose what is now called "Employee Experience". McKinsey defines EX as "companies and their people working together to create personalized, authentic experiences that ignite passion and tap into purpose to strengthen individual, team, and company performance."
I'd take it a step further and say that Employee Experience is everything perceived, felt, and remembered by an employee, empathetically related to both their social reality and personal (or professional) needs before, during, and after their tenure at a company.
This means 75% of ALL your employees won't only care about how good their benefits package is, or whether they have free snacks, and a ping-pong table in the lounge. They'll care about the social causes you get behind; whether the company has good ethical standards, how their social circle evaluates you as a brand, and most importantly, whether they'll form personal connections there.
So, if you or your company is lagging in investing in the experience you're offering your people, don't walk; run to fix it. The American economy is currently at a 3.6% unemployment rate (April, 2019), the lowest since 1969. Companies are practically waging war over headhunting and talent poaching. Believe me, it's a jungle out there.
At this point, decision makers all know that good workers are hard, and expensive to find. And if you already have skilled workers, the very last thing you want is to lose them to your competition. This workforce is going to chose the job that makes them happy, and you'd better make sure that's you.
Regardless of size or budget, there most probably isn't a company out there that is completely oblivious when it comes to employee benefits. Most likely there are quite a few active corporate programs and incentives that already have the right idea, such as the standard corporate benefit packages, bonus/discount programs, PTO/Paid vacations, etc.
But, all these things require an investment on a company's behalf, so how do you know if you're investing in the things that your employees actually value?
Well, unfortunately, companies and executives have long been making the same mistakes with employees that they've been making with customers: assuming they know what people want and need.
Have you considered that maybe your workers care more about flexible work hours than PTO? Or perhaps they'd prefer better health insurance, and zero corporate events? A lot of consultants and researchers have found that in many cases, employees value training and education over other benefits. The truth is that among the myriad of options, there is only one way to find out what your employees value: ask them.
The solution to improving your internal EX may be as simple as involving your employees in the experience design process, or even through continuous internal surveying. But in case you need practical ways to hit the ground running, here go a few.
One thing that can be used to companies' advantage is the advancements of technology. Instead of freaking out about Skynet, and wondering when T1000 is going to knock down the front door to corporate HQ, consider how tech can improve Employee Experience.
With A.I. and robotics taking over time-consuming, repetitive tasks, our human workers will have more time to focus on creative, mind-stimulating labor. At least in the foreseeable future (truly hope I don't bite my tongue on this one), technology won't steal our jobs, it'll improve them. I mean, we could also be less Orwellian about it, and just say systems and software, but where's the fun in that, amiright?
But seriously, investing in software and systems that make employees' tasks less tedious or daunting is also a huge way to improve their experience and make them feel valued.
On my podcast, Voices of Customer Experience, I had the opportunity to speak to Sammy Courtright, COO of Fitspot Wellness, a corporate wellness startup based in Atlanta.
Speaking to her and addressing how wellness affects Employee Experience opened my mind to the variety of wellness programs, going beyond fitness and yoga. There is therapy, support groups, mindfulness, nutritional consultation and even workshops on how to better manage finances.
These elements that go even slightly beyond the conventional notions of wellness help bring balance and stability to your workforce, forging an emotional connection between employee and employer.
The most heartfelt and touching stories we hear tend to narrate a way in which the company emotionally connected with the employee. A friend recently shared why he will give blood, sweat and tears for his organization. A couple years ago, he battled an aggressive cancer. Throughout the full extent of his treatment, his employer went above and beyond, not only assuring him that his job would be waiting for him upon his return, but also making sure he had all the support possible while he was getting better. They've got a promoter for life.
Of course this is an extreme case, but consistently showing your employees support during trying times, offering mental health days, promoting self-care, celebrating their victories, and being vocal about work/life balance initiatives help employees feel like they are a part of something greater than just another 9-5.
I've said this before, and I'll say it again, there are no such things as 'companies'. Companies are simply a collective of people working together toward a common goal.
Now, if there are no 'companies' and that goal is to deliver amazing experiences to your customers, who do you think is going to make that happen? That's right, people. Happy employees make happy customers. No rocket science here, folks.
So, take care of your money by taking care of your people. People are the secret to your profitability and success.