Making millennials happy is good for business

Jamie Broderick
A focus on employee wellness – including physical fitness – will boost the bottom line (Source: Getty)

I know what you’re thinking: another column about millennials. This one, I hope, strikes more of a chord because it’s about their impact on your business and how to respond.

This generation is shaking up the workforce in a way not seen for decades. Our research suggests that three quarters of managers see the challenge of a multi-generational workforce as a “significant issue”. Business owners who interpret and adapt to this shift will be the ones who profit.

Differences in attitudes between generations are not new, but they are starker than before. Baby Boomers and Generation X lead many of today’s companies and their management style has moulded the face of the modern workplace.

This model cannot last forever, though. Our research suggests the tech-savvy new generation holds a different view on what their role as employees, and as business owners, should be.

There are three areas that stand out:

1. A greater focus on flexibility

In the past, time spent at your desk was a sign of effort and dedication. Indeed, being in the office was often essential to get the work done.

As technology has advanced, so have workers’ expectations. Being outside the office is no longer a barrier. Today, being present for long hours of the day just to prove your worth is a source of frustration. This is not a new insight, but it is one that most companies have failed to act on. We need a volte-face on the concept of productivity.

Read more: Is this the future of the office?

Managers, HR departments and company boards have to make it clear that considering the quality of output is just as, if not more, important as measuring the input.

Remote working, flexible schedules and work-from-home schemes address this. Changing how employee performance is reviewed is another. Companies that do so will not only attract the best talent, but see it fulfil its potential.

2. Tackle “unconscious bias”

Unconscious bias affects many companies. However uncomfortable, we sub-consciously gravitate towards hiring and rewarding those who look and dress the same, and perform in a similar, predictable way.

The consequence is clear: companies guilty of group-think and a lack of ideas to accelerate or differentiate themselves.

Breaking the cycle is hard but we are starting to see signs of change. Some companies run training sessions on unconscious bias, including UBS. These firms should be the norm, not the exception.

If you suspect this is an issue, speak to your managers, examine your recruitment, and find out where the best ideas come from in your business.

3. Understand “wellness”

Every generation has a fondness for certain work perks. Pensions and health insurance were the gold standard. Then came the company phone.

Neither makes the same impact on the latest generation. In fact, in five years’ time, companies are just as likely to hand out Fitbits as they are phones.

The reason is the growing demand to take care not just of the financial, but the physical and mental aspects of worker health as well.

This notion of employee “wellness” will be the new gold standard for attracting talent. Medical screening, mental and physical health treatments, and healthy eating campaigns are early examples of this focus.

But this is not just about creature comforts. Wellness results in productivity – something every business owner cares about. Even a small improvement in wellness, boosting it from “low” to “moderate”, generates a 13 per cent increase in productivity. Just imagine what a jump from “low” to “excellent” could do in comparison.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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