At Clarus Commerce, we receive hundreds of job applications every year, many of them from Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1997). This should come as no surprise. As older workers retire, Millennials are next in line for open positions.
In fact, 2015 marked a tipping point: Millennials comprised a plurality of the United States labor force for the first time, exceeding the number of workers from Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) and the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964). Companies need to take note of this and adjust their hiring plans accordingly. Indeed, Millennials are so crucial to Clarus’s future that we’ve modified our approach to improve our ability to attract and retain them.
Unfortunately, some negative stereotypes of Millennials have made companies wary about hiring them. Here are two characteristics I commonly hear when discussing the Millennial workforce:
- They’re job-hoppers. While the current generation doesn’t stay put as long as other generations do, their situation is different. First of all, pension plans are being phased out, so Millennials don’t have the same incentive to stick around. In my experience, they also have less tolerance for stunted career paths, flawed or uninspiring bosses, and unchallenging jobs. They need to feel wanted, and they crave mentoring from visionary leaders who value their contributions.
- They’re lazy, entitled, and unwilling to work hard to get ahead. This simply isn’t true. Millennials at Clarus are universally bright, hard-working employees. However, their generation is one of the most educated but debt-laden generations in history. Their belief in working smarter rather than harder can sometimes be misconstrued as undesirable behavior by older generations. Working with Millennials, though, I’ve learned that they’re constantly striving to improve themselves.
When Clarus considers candidates, we go far beyond confirming their backgrounds and qualifications. We want to know, for example, why they left their previous jobs; what they value most, personally and professionally; and whether their character traits distinguish them from other applicants. Top prospects also meet with a variety of employees, who determine whether they’re a good fit and uncover those coveted intangibles that résumés can’t reveal. This ensures that we find the cream of the crop.
Our culture sets Clarus apart from the pack, and that emanates directly from the top. Our CEO, Tom Caporaso, has made it a priority to create an environment in which every employee feels like they’re part of a family. It’s important that everyone, including Millennials, knows that they’re valued, they’re part of something bigger, and they’re rewarded for their efforts.
Another thing we do well is listen and adapt. When someone offers a suggestion, we carefully weigh its pros and cons, and if it’s a good idea, we implement it. Here are two examples:
Working from home. This was one of the most frequent suggestions we received. Cellphones, laptops, and instant messaging make it easy for employees to stay connected to the office from practically anywhere, so we soon realized that telecommuting made sense — provided it didn’t reduce productivity. We wrote stipulations into our employee policy to address that issue, and initial results show that employees are just as productive, if not more so, when working from home.
Affordable benefits. Many companies prioritize low operational costs, often at the expense of employee morale. We could have chosen a similar path, but we believe our employees are worth investing in. When they told us our benefit plans were too expensive, our CEO listened to them and decided to help reduce their financial burdens by having Clarus absorb more of those costs.
To reinforce our nurturing, positive culture, we also engage in a variety of activities:
Clarus Classrooms. Once a month, an employee will teach a class on his or her area of expertise. This helps attendees better understand the contributions and capabilities of their peers, demystifies the work of other departments, and gives the presenter useful experience in public speaking and teaching.
Company outings. Every quarter, we hold entertaining, inclusive events — e.g., bowling, Whirlyball, happy hours — to break down interdepartmental walls and foster camaraderie.
Summer Fridays. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, anyone who’s completed their assignments for the week, and has worked 40 hours, can leave at 2:00 on Fridays and enjoy more free time.
Clarus Cares. At least once a quarter, we do something to bring our employees together and benefit the community. For example, we’ve helped a YMCA camp prepare for opening day; raised money and run 5K races for worthy causes; and donated over 180 pounds of food to a local pantry.
Goal-based incentives. Employees set annual goals designed to improve their job performances and contribute to the company’s success. They receive a nice bonus for reaching their goals, and when Clarus achieves its corporate goals, we increase their bonuses.
Open-office layout. There are no walled-in offices here, not even for our CEO. Each department, from its senior leadership on down, is situated together, which promotes easy, ongoing communications across the entire group.
Casual dress code. Employees are welcome to wear comfortable clothes or traditional business attire; it’s their choice. At Clarus, we care about the work, not the wardrobe.
Financial gain isn’t necessarily the top priority for job-seeking Millennials. Many of them focus on a company’s culture and finding a place that will nurture them. Indeed, when salary concerns are set aside, the things that matter most to Millennials are (in order of importance):
- Good work/life balance
- Opportunities to progress/be leaders
- Flexibility (working from home and flexible hours)
- Sense of meaning from their work
Satisfying these desires won’t guarantee that companies will win Millennials’ hearts, but they’re useful guidelines. Incorporating them into our hiring approach has helped Clarus Commerce achieve low turnover; we’ve also been named one of the “Top Workplaces” in Connecticut for four straight years.
All employees, be they Millennials, Gen X-ers, or Baby Boomers, need to feel fulfilled, want a sense of connection, and crave a good work/life balance. The sooner that companies realize how important their culture is to Millennials, the more effectively they’ll be able to recruit and retain them.