Turning Your Employees Into Owners
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In a January 2015 article, Forbes outlined the premise that as we approach full employment, employees will have more options and employers will have fewer. The economic realities I discussed in a previous article have created a society of free agents. Millennials especially have adapted to an uncertain job market by becoming much more mobile; if today’s young people do not like their employer, they can and will vote with their feet.

As I have discussed before, Baby Boomers, like me, sometimes have trouble understanding how people in younger generations approach professional life—nevertheless, we, as business leaders, have to learn to adapt to the changing needs of the workforce. We have to focus on how we can create the work-place cultures we need to attract the best of the best.

Putting Our Knowledge to Work

So, now that we understand what many Millennials are looking for in an employer and how their perspective developed, how can we use that knowledge to keep our businesses successful? There are three main areas we can focus on when we think about attracting and retaining talent: work expectations; strong working relationships; and the cause.

  1. Work Expectations

In the old days, there was that 9-5, working five days a week, two-week vacation, a very ridged structure. That is no longer attractive. Millennials want to be trusted to meet their responsibilities at the time and place that works for them.

One of the things we can do is to stop thinking about blocks of vacation time and start thinking about flexible paid time off. We can also look for ways to give people even more time through unpaid time off, without hurting the company.

But with the blended lifestyle, it’s not uncommon for people to be Facebooking at work and sending professional emails from home at midnight. Now, I’m that Baby-Boomer, I’m used to looking for face-time, assessing productivity by how many hours I see somebody in the office–but with the rise of the Internet, that old time-card approach isn’t going to work anymore.

Now, obviously we need to maintain some kind of standard, we need to know who is actually pulling their weight. So we, as business leaders, need to be thinking about how we can measure output, not time. We need to redefine the metrics of a successful employee—we need to find ways to measure their contribution to the company directly.

  1. Strong Working Relationships

When younger professionals decide who they want to work for, they’re not necessarily thinking “which job will get me a McMansion.” No, many of them are thinking about which job will help most with their professional development.

Gen Xers and especially Millennials want to protect themselves against the downsizing they saw their parents go through—they want constant investment in their skillset so they can always land on their feet. They’re looking for that great boss who’s going to mentor them, help them continue to develop professionally, and they’re looking for a workplace culture where they can create networks both in the company and outside it.

Our challenge is to be the employer who can help the talented people we need to invest in themselves.

  1. The Cause

Millennials especially don’t just want to develop themselves. They also want to belong to something bigger, to help make the world a better place. There are a couple of things we can do to respond to that need.

We can think about ways to help our employees pursue their own causes, such as offering paid time off for volunteering. Or, we can think about how our company actually does make the world a better place—if we can’t think of anything, maybe it’s time to think about doing things a little differently.

Measuring Success                    

Are we getting this right? One way to find out is to measure retention rates and patterns—not just are people leaving, but are they following each other out? If one person leaves and their friends all quit at the same time, then we know we’ve got a problem—on the other hand, if a person leaves and everyone says “good riddance,” that’s not good, either. We can also look at the demographics of who is leaving and who is staying, make sure we’re not causing a problem for some specific group. Of course, you need to consult with someone on labor law before you use that kind of information, so you don’t get yourself in trouble.

In the end, as Baby Boomer managers, we don’t have to change—but we also don’t have to survive in business. So my challenge to you is to find ways to adapt to the ongoing changes in the workforce so you can continue to find success in the years to come.

Key Takeaways

  • Success in business depends on adapting to the changing needs of the workforce
  • Look for ways to measure employees’ output directly, rather than number of hours on the job
  • Look for ways to help employees develop themselves professionally
  • Consider whether your company makes the world a better place. Perhaps it should?
  • Assess how well you’re adapting to the needs of your workforce by looking at retention rates and patterns.

This is the third blog in a three part series.  The are links to the other posts:

I Practice Age Discrimination; I Don’t Hire Anyone Under 40

Why Millennials Work Differently