Talent Management
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To attract and retain the best people, you need to stay up to date with employees’ evolving needs

By Darwyne Lang

Millennials aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow – they’re increasingly the leaders of today. They now outnumber Generation X as the most populous group in the workforce, according to Statistics Canada. Since Millennials will represent 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025, understanding what

they deem important is vital to attracting and motivating a strong workforce.

The notion that Millennials are from Mars and Baby Boomers are from Venus is problematic – Millennials aren’t from a different planet. In fact, they want many of the same things their parents did. According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, Millennials want their own homes, partners for life and the financial security to save for retirement.

It’s the way they think about work that’s different from previous generations.

The way to attract talent has changed. Millennials don’t judge a company’s success by its financial performance, but by what it does, its higher purpose and how people are valued. They choose employers whose values reflect their own. What are some of these values?

Higher purpose

A company’s higher purpose can be defined by what it believes it does beyond making money. How is the company changing or improving the world? How do employees’ roles fit into that movement and can they feel the impact they personally make? Are their own values aligned with the company’s higher purpose?

Millennials don’t judge a company’s success by its financial performance, but by what it does, its higher purpose and how people are valued.

Work-life fit

Aside from salary and other financial benefits, work-life balance is the priority for Millennials when evaluating job opportunities. They’re even willing to take a pay cut or pass up a promotion to better manage their work-life demands.

The best way to attract young talent isn’t by offering beer on tap and Ping-Pong tables. The benefits you offer need to represent your company’s deeper values. Your benefit strategy is a key tool that affirms the culture and value of your people. Your benefit plan can work even harder if you give decision-making back to employees, enabling them to feel the direct value of your investment in them. Empower employees by offering flexible benefit options that allow for choice based on age, health goals and life priorities, as well as by offering culture support that empowers a healthy work-life balance.

Many employers hear “less work” when they hear “work-life balance.” But the focus Millennials place on work-life balance doesn’t mean they’re lazy or unambitious – the opposite is true.

Work-life “fit” is a positive term that ensures the values of the organization are demonstrated via its culture, and the belief structure of senior management is felt at all levels of the organization. The Society for Human Resources Management, the American Psychological Association and Deloitte have all adopted this terminology.

“The word ‘balance’ is something you want but can never have,” said Cali Williams Yost, a flexible work culture strategist, in a New York Times article. The term “balance” makes it sound like all employee needs are the same, when in fact, there’s no perfect 50-50 split between work and life.

Work-life fit embraces diversity, acknowledging everyone has a unique work-life fit that allows them to get their work done and manage life in a productive way.

Flexible work

Flexible work was vital for Millennials in both the 2016 and 2017 Deloitte Millennial surveys. In fact, 34 per cent of Millennials have quit their jobs because work flexibility wasn’t an option, according to a FlexJobs survey.

Sixty-four per cent of employees now have “flexible locations” – up 21 per cent from 2016. This reflects how quickly technology is facilitating mobile working and how employers are becoming more comfortable with flexible options.

Not all companies, though, are on board with it. Yahoo, IBM and other big companies recently eliminated their telecommuting programs. This move has been seen as an attempt to improve creative collaboration and compete with innovative, younger start-ups, that, ironically, see telecommuting as a given.

Despite the pushback from some companies, offering flexible work remains a crucial way to attract and retain top talent. Companies that do so give their employees the opportunity to find their ideal work-life fit.

The Millennial mindset

This new flexible attitude towards work is not limited to Millennials. Adam Henderson, founder of Millennial Mindset, points out that technology has caused this dramatic shift in behaviour.

Technology has had a massive impact on our everyday personal and work lives – affecting people of all ages. Millennials grew up with technology so they saw early on how it frees them to work productively from anywhere, while older generations may be slower to realize the benefits.

There’s a gap between how modern employees want to work, compared to how they’re being asked to work. To bridge that gap and attract and retain talent, companies need to understand the Millennial mindset and create the ideal work environment.

Focus on mental health

One in five Canadians experiences a mental health problem in a given year, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. There’s no denying anxiety and depression are much more prevalent today than in previous eras. Managers are thus increasingly expected to take an active role when it comes to mental health in the workplace.

For example, an email exchange between Madelyn Parker, a web developer from Olark Live Chat, and her company’s CEO recently went viral. Parker let her coworkers know she needed some time off to focus on her mental health, and her CEO Ben Congleton thanked her.

“You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work every day,” he wrote.

It’s more important than ever to enable your employees to bring their best selves – physically and emotionally – to work every day. And not all mental health issues are disabilities – some are just conditions that individuals live with and need to manage.

“Mental health isn’t just mental illness – it’s part of being human,” said Julia Nguyen, a software engineer at Indiegogo in San Francisco, in a Global News article.

In supporting employees’ mental health, the main question to ask is, “What do my employees need to remain productive?”

The need to adapt

It’s only going to get harder to attract and retain young talent. To survive in this competitive landscape, companies need to adapt.

When it comes to total compensation management, customization is the answer. Millennials especially want control over their compensation – offering customization shows you care enough about your employees to treat them as individuals.

No matter their age, today’s modern employees embrace technology as it allows them to work whenever and wherever they’re most productive.

Likewise, employers should focus less on free beer and Ping-Pong, and more on using technology to offer flexible work arrangements and compensation packages. 

Darwyne Lang is the president and CEO of Apri Insurance Services Inc.

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