Workplace design is important to millennials

It’s an undeniable fact, companies need to successfully recruit and retain millennials to drive desired business results.

As of 2015, millennials make up the largest generation in the workforce and that number will continue to rise in the immediate years ahead. Millennials are no longer a sub-group of employees on the horizon, they are the people leading teams, redefining corporate goals and contributing business ideas for the future.

One constant amidst this shift in our workforce is that employee recruitment, compensation and training remains organizations’ largest expense. Successfully hiring and keeping strong employees is directly correlated to profit. It is estimated the cost of replacing a millennial employee ranges from $15-20K on average.

Attracting and keeping employees comes down to many factors, but leadership must not overlook the workplace as a tool. According to a 2015 report from The Millennial Impact, office environment is the fourth most important factor for millennials when they’re choosing an employer. Moreover, other top five factors like work culture and having a mission can be directly impacted by the workplace.

Our Corporate/Commercial team has identified four key ways the workplace influences millennial recruitment and ideas for strengthening your office environment.

1. Workplaces Must Empower Collaboration and Innovation

The millennial generation essentially demands a corporate culture anchored in collaboration. Recent studies show 82 percent of millennials believe collaboration is the key to innovation and aspire to work in companies that agree. This means organizations should invest in technology and spaces that encourage and drive collaboration while also enabling the type of work their people need to get done.

Ultimately, collaborative cultures can be strengthened through the strategic introduction of a variety of spaces from team zones, enclaves, relaxed social settings and even outdoor spaces. These spaces create workplace well-being essential to a happy and productive workforce. Creating these spaces and then infusing them with the necessary digital and mobile technology that allow employees to be productive and connected with the world is critical to shaping a collaborative culture.

Employees at Zurich test workplace environments as part of the company's workplace pilot efforts.

Employees at Zurich test workplace environments as part of the company’s workplace pilot efforts.

2. Workplaces Must Be Flexible

When it comes to where and how work gets done, the millennial generation loves freedom of choice. Able to get work done on laptops, smartphones and tablets, employees are no longer tethered to their desks as they were a decade ago. This means employers need to offer flexible workspaces that allow people to move, change positions and work in different areas throughout the day. Organizations at the forefront of responding to this demand are introducing “hubs” of flexible space that can offer up to 10 different types of work settings. These hubs then allow employees to sit, stand, lean, gain privacy and move around throughout the day as they feel necessary.

Zurich North America recently executed a workplace pilot that allowed employees to test out a variety of flexible workspaces to help inform the company’s new headquarters in 2016. While there were mild differences in the preferred flexible areas, overall satisfaction with the ability to use different spaces over the course of a work day increased by 64 percent.

graphicWorkplace flexibility is a key way to gain and retain generation X and Y talent. Studies have found that flexibility in the workplace or lack of it can sway the decision to stay or leave a company. As the baby boomer generation continues to leave the workforce this is going to be an even more important trend. Millennials consistently want to have freedom to make decisions about when and where they work to be most productive.

3. Workplaces Should Support Your Mission

The millennial generation believes business should do more than generate profit, it should also change the world. The 2014 Millennial Impact survey indicates that 97% of millennials want to use their skills to help a cause. This means organizations must do more than simply draft new values and mission statements, they should also consider aligning their workspace around their mission.

If a company says it is committed to being a steward for the environment, then millennials will expect its workspaces to reflect that with numerous sustainability features and a focus on energy conservation. If improving health around the world is a company’s focus, then its workspace better welcome natural light, encourage movement, offer healthy food and help its employees live healthier lives. Other ideas include investing in powerful interior graphics that keep employees immersed in the company’s mission and goals and/or creating spaces that allow community nonprofits to visit. Failing to align workspaces with organizational missions will be recognized by millennials and weaken recruitment and retention over time. The sooner organizations can take steps to strengthen the connection, the better.

4. Not sure where to start? Listen to Millennials.

The millennial generation believes it can and will drive change, and its members are very willing to step up, share ideas and help companies evolve their culture. Organizations not sure exactly how to reshape their work environment can consider strategic workplace pilots (testing environments that serve as key research tools in the creation of new work areas), internal focus groups and brainstorm sessions. Leadership teams may be surprised by the vision millennials can bring to workspaces. What one person sees as a tired conference room, another might see as a place for stand-up meetings. The small green space out back that nobody ever uses…maybe it can become a company garden. These are just some of the possibilities organizations might discover when they engage their millennials in the creation of better work environments.

Moving forward, workspaces must meet the needs of the millennial generation as they will continue to be the largest population in the workforce for the next decade. Failing to align corporate offices with the needs of employees could potentially have significant negative effects on company revenue and profit over time. There are numerous steps organizations can take to make their workplace an asset in recruitment and retention and the time to start is now.

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