Guess what? Millennials are not as finicky as you think. In fact, there's something you can do to retain them, and it does not involve roasting coffee beans.
Many workers fresh out of college and up to their late 20s and 30s know a gambit from a mile away. They know when a carrot is dangling. Sure, companies try to retain them by providing expensive coffee in the break room, bouncy balls and workout rooms, free pizza delivery for lunch...and then asking them to work 80 hours per week at a low pay rate. There's a book about how dumb this is. And, it's a totally broken ploy.
There must be a better way to retain this age group, right?
A company called Blueboard told me some interesting stats about what actually works. A recent study by ClearCompany suggests what Millennials are really after. 86% said it was a lack of collaboration on a team that leads to workplace failure. 97% said collaboration made the difference in whether a project or task would reach full completion. 90% said leaders should seek team opinions more often.
What those stats reveal is that we should stop trying to give employees perks like a taco bar during the workday or a candy wall. Every "perk" should be designed to encourage team interaction. It's why Steve Jobs designed the elevators at the Pixar office in the center of the building to make sure people had to congregate physically in the building. It's why many companies have open work areas.
Blueboard would argue, of course, that teams should use their service, which is designed to create experiences such as a kayaking trip or tandem skydiving. I like the ideas--e.g., getting people to have fun together so they work together. I see it as an even deeper issue that taps into a fundamental need in Millennials to feel like they are part of a community. They want to have purpose beyond their job duties.
Do you foster that with free coffee and candy? Maybe. I'm a coffee-drinker, but I don't see how it is really a perk that encourages team collaboration. It's more of a personal perk. To create a real community, you have to make sure everyone in the company has a voice, that they are using their best skills, that they have an avenue to provide feedback, and they feel empowered. Teams germinate and start working together when everyone feels part of the solution. Perks sometimes spread people out more than bring them together. That said, it is all about your intention.
At an office in Minneapolis during a recent visit, I noticed how the coffee is situated in a place that's out in the open at the center of the work area. It functions as a Starbucks within the office space, and they intentionally only have one coffee-maker. You have to wait your turn. What do you do when you're waiting? You chat with other workers. I spent some time there and noticed how people were not as likely to sneak up when no one was looking. They viewed the open coffee-bar as a communal place.
It's an interesting idea to be that intentional in every area. If you are tempted to hand out perks like gift cards, it could have the opposite impact. It could encourage isolation from the group. The employee might feel good about that spa treatment or buying stuff at IKEA, but what if every perk somehow tied back to an overall mission to collaborate? Activities everyone does as a group, everyone can enjoy, or encourages more interactions (e.g., a ping pong table) seem smarter. And, according to the research, will help retain those who might be heading for the door.