The first time I walked into Boise State University’s new business building, I saw an environment I wasn’t expecting.
Tables and chairs were on wheels and could easily be moved wherever. The halls were lined with private team rooms with flat screen TVs, easy to use computer-hook up and dry-erase walls. There was even a cardboard cut-out, taller than me, of Austin Powers and Chewbacca.
What the heck was going on here? And why was Chewy in my classroom? This environment was so drastic from the building I spent my undergraduate years in, a mere two years ago.
Throughout my graduate studies I discovered this was not a weird experiment. This was an intentional innovational change catering to a new way of thinking, working, and living. Many generations are now seeing the benefits of collaborative, fun, movable workplaces. While the Baby Boomers and Gen X appreciate the uniqueness, millennials expect a different environment.
Millennials are taking over the workplace. A millennial is a person between the ages of 18 and 35 years and, according to Pew Research, there are 79.2 million in the United States.
With these numbers entering the workplace, it’s no wonder companies are shifting the workplace environments to accommodate this unique workforce.
But what do millennials really want?
As a millennial myself, I had a feeling about what most of my friends and colleagues value in their career environment. I also asked Bodybuilding.com CEO Ryan DeLuca to tell me what he has learned about the millennials. He told me that millennials care more than people from previous generations about finding meaning in their careers. They want life satisfaction, not just fair pay, training, and opportunities to advance. And they want to change the world – not just at work, but at home, in their free time, and through their purchases.
Like workers of every age, millennials also value flexible schedules, so they can schedule doctor appointments during standard work hours. They want to be able to work from outside the office. They value tuition reimbursement, and they would like their employers to treat them with respect, as an individual, not as a cog in the machine.
Sure, everybody wants a more flexible, comfortable workspace and space to do good in the world. But millennials are the people who are willing to choose their job based on these qualities. Here are some ways to attract these workers to your company.
• Show respect. Millennials appreciate being respected and valued. They like being heard, sharing ideas, and even being recognized for accomplishments.
• Offer flexibility. Let employees occasionally work from a coffee shop, or home. If your workplace has a sitting areas outside, consider turning that into a shared common area. Being outside can be a big enough change in the day-to-day monotony to help spark innovation.
• Encourage healthy behavior. Provide employees the option to schedule a doctor appointment during the standard 9 to 5 hours. Encourage them to take walks during their workday. Show them you care about their well-being.
• Share information. Transparency is key to building a trusting company culture. Constantly share stories, benchmarks, and company vision with employees and show them how their work is a piece of the puzzle. Sharing information is another way of telling a person he or she matters.
• Be open. Open-door office environments are a great way to show colleagues you value their opinions and are willing to talk with them at any point.
Before you spend the money remodeling the office installing sleep-pods, coffee bars, and kegs, try showing your team they are valuable and appreciated. I would suggest spending the money on installing dry-erase walls. They are inexpensive and effective for brainstorming.
Whitney Hansen is a personal finance coach and entrepreneur in Boise.