Balancing Act: Keeping millennials happy is smart business

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Each morning, Michelle Introsso, 22, huddles with her co-workers at Cirle, brainstorms with them on a blackboard and chats with them online as the day unfolds. When the workday ends nine hours later, she often heads with them to dinner or for drinks.

The camaraderie, she says, is what she looks for from the people she works with and allows her to do a better job. "I'm not just an employee; I'm part of a team."

Today, millennials like Ms. Introsso want to integrate their work and personal lives even more than previous generations. They want their workplaces to be like second homes, their co-workers to be their friends, and their bosses to be their workplace parents or mentors.

While the big push in creating social workplaces has centered on ice cream-making contests and costume competitions, experts say the future is going to require a more strategic approach to building a "fun" culture that encourages camaraderie, loyalty and dedication.

Researchers say millennials' expectations for social connections at work set them apart. A survey by Millennial Branding shows this young generation has a team-oriented focus and enjoys collaboration.

"They were on sports teams growing up where the teams were rewarded and want the same feeling in the workplace," said Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. "If they are able to make friends at work, they are more likely to stay with your company and be happy doing so."

There are significant business reasons why employers should want millennials to stay and be happy. The millennial generation -- people born between 1982 and 1993 -- numbers about 80 million in America, slightly larger than the baby-boomer generation. By 2025, millennials, also known as Gen Y, will account for more than 75 percent of the global workforce.

Employee engagement, particularly when it comes to millennials, is a top priority for businesses, such as accounting firm Ernst & Young, where 60 percent of its employees are young workers. Karyn Twaronite, EY Americas inclusiveness officer, says her organization has taken a proactive approach to managing its increasing millennial population.

"We try to put in more formalized opportunities for networking and teaming inside and outside of the office," Ms. Twaronite said.

Nikolai De Leo, 25 and a staff member in the transaction advisory services practice at EY in Miami, said the payoff is big when companies foster more social interaction. "If you get to know someone on a personal level, you're more open to their ideas or anything they would teach you on the professional side."

Those deeper relationships, he says, are what will keep him at the firm. "Liking the people you work with is huge." He finds getting to know a manager on a personal level also allows him more opportunity to earn trust, and that pays off, too.

Through research, EY learned that its millennial workers want to be themselves at work, have their voices heard, and have give-and-take relationships that are not just work-focused with managers. Now, the firm is training its managers to respond and give more guidance, like a parent would, and show young workers a path to upward mobility. The firm also is coaching its Gen Y workers to ask for specific feedback.

At the heart of all successful millennial workplaces is communication. Today's 20-somethings want to be able to candidly speak their minds.

businessnews

Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life; balancegal@gmail.com. First Published October 12, 2013 8:00 PM


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