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Millennials stress community engagement, want flexibility at work

The spring and summer months typically bring about change—both simple and profound. High school and college graduates are entering a new phase of their lives, gardens are being planted and flowers are blooming, there are parties, showers, weddings—overall, a general sense of renewal.

What does this mean for workplaces? As team members take time to refresh and recharge, it presents an opportunity to examine goals and assess opportunities with current and prospective clients. Too often, workplaces wait until the end of the year—or the beginning of a new year—to review happenings with their employees and clients. In fact, no matter when your fiscal year falls, the midpoint of the calendar year offers an ideal moment to pause and reflect on next steps. Just as nature grows and renews at this time, great workplaces recognize the importance of refreshing goals.

Reflecting on the future not only makes good business sense—team members now demand it. A new Gallup Inc. report “How Millennials Want to Live and Work” provides insight into the workplace expectations and experiences of the 73 million millennials in the U.S., defined as those born between 1980 and 1996. The Gallup report surveyed more than 7,000 workers, and found that this powerful and vocal group sought feedback at work not to fix their weaknesses, but rather to maximize their strengths. Gallup found that workplaces must “transition to strengths-based cultures, or they won’t attract and keep their stars.” By looking forward to the future and to ways to harness existing capabilities, rather than fixating on the past and perceived weaknesses, millennials liked managers to provide positive, regular feedback rather than a single, annual review.

More than mere job satisfaction, this generation is keen on purpose and development—and they are incentivized to take better opportunities if they emerge. They are concerned and caring about their communities. As author Mary Karr told students at Syracuse University’s 2015 commencement, “May you leave more curious about the world and more open-hearted about your fellow citizens than when you showed up.” This is exactly what is happening—millennials are truly committed to their co-workers and communities—if not their specific employer. At Dixon Schwabl, we give all team members up to eight hours to volunteer at the non-profit of their choice—Make It Happen Day. Team members have helped Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, and the American Heart Association among other organizations. The opportunity to use time out of the regular workday and volunteer is a popular perk.

Gallup found that millennials and their perceived propensity to “job hop” was really more a reflection of their disengagement with employers rather than a pure tendency to frequently change jobs. The report concludes that “While millennials come across as wanting more and more, the reality is that they just want a job that feels worthwhile—and they will keep looking until they find it.”

Gallup estimated that millennial turnover due to lack of engagement costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually. To engage millennials, companies need to keep apprised of their concerns. Holding focus groups, weekly meetings and open forums helps to keep the channels of communication open. Taking natural breaks in the day to engage with team members is also helpful. Ice Cream Thursday is one of Dixon Schwabl’s most popular perks. The agency has a patio with picnic tables and umbrellas for employees to take a break or eat outside.

Sharing an ice cream treat or meal with co-workers is an opportunity to interact away from desks and conference rooms. Eating and sharing food is an intrinsic part of many cultures. Indeed, the French adhere to three meals a day, and spend an average of two hours and 22 minutes a day sitting and eating, according to a 2010 study. Ice Cream Thursday takes a fraction of that time—15-20 minutes at most, once a week during the summer—yet gives a fun and much-appreciated boost to the workday!

The Gallup report found that “millennials want to have high levels of well-being, which means more than being physically fit…they also want a purposeful life, active community and social ties, and financial stability.” Studies support the value of a healthy, purposeful life. In her new book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” psychologist Angela Duckworth details her learnings from the development of the Grit Scale, a test that measures the extent to which respondents approach life with grit. Rather than relying on dazzling talent or outside forces such as circumstance or luck, the idea is that people with grit demonstrate a resiliency, determination and direction that benefits them in a variety of ways.

Gallup reports that 53 percent of millennials who said that their manager responds to their messages within 24 hours say they plan to stay with their current organization for at least one year.

The new generation of American workers shares an interest in the community and leading a purposeful life—at work and at home. Great workplaces harness the strengths of this generation through engaging, meaningful opportunities.

Lauren Dixon is CEO of Dixon Schwabl Inc., a marketing communications firm, which has been honored as a best place to work.

5/27/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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