Workplace Culture

Surveys Show Millennials Seeking Out-of-Office Options

By Sarah Fister Gale

Jul. 16, 2015

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

If you don’t have a flextime or remote work policy and you plan to do any hiring in the near future, you should be concerned — especially if your recruiting plan includes hiring millennials.

Virtually every workplace survey conducted in recent years says flexibility is important to this generation. The AfterCollege 2015 Career Insight survey found that 68 percent of recent grads said the ability to work remotely at least some of the time would affect their likelihood to accept a position; Deep Focus' “Cassandra Report” shows that 74 percent of millennials expect flexible schedules in the workplace; and the Center for Generational Kinetics found that 73 percent of the “Best Places to Work for Millennials” offer flextime or compressed workweeks as a standard practice. And those are just some of the studies that came out this year.

“Millennials came of age in a time when schedules were built around them, and they are taking that expectation into the workforce,” said Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer at the Center for Generational Kinetics. They have access to technology that lets them work anywhere at any time, and employers who trust them to get work done in whatever way makes the most sense for their lives. “It is something millennials prize across virtually every industry,” he added.

If companies want to attract the top performers from this generation, they have got to figure out how to accommodate this demand for flexibility or risk losing them to their more adaptable competitors.

Polycom Inc., the audio- and video conferencing technology company in San Jose, California, is one of those competitors. The company has long offered its people a variety of flexible work arrangements, including occasional and full-time remote work arrangements, summer hours, and early or late start schedules. “With the BYOD revolution, employees can connect from anywhere,” said Laura Owen, the company’s chief human resources officer. So as long as the position doesn’t require them to be on-site and their managers approve, employees are free to take advantage of any of the remote options available.

“Our philosophy is that work is about what you do, not where you do it,” she said. “Once you think about work in that way, it is easy to embrace these kinds of policies.”

This workplace approach has proven to be a valuable part of the company’s business strategy. In employee surveys, flexible work arrangements always land among the top five reasons people like working at Polycom, and turnover among nonsales remote workers is 3.8 percent lower than the rest of the population. “Our flextime options have demonstrated a significant cost benefit to the company.”

Giving employees such flexibility can go a long way toward keeping them happy and engaged in the workplace. But to make the most of these benefits, you also need to tout them prominently (and early) in your recruiting efforts, Dorsey said. “Millennials will rarely read an entire job post, so make sure you put it front and center, or they will miss it.”

And don’t just rely on the written word to make your case, said Brett Belding, director of mobile strategy at MobileIron, a mobile technology company based in Atlanta. “Video is the most powerful way to engage millennials, and it gives you a great platform to tell your story.”

Let Employees Recruit

Pan Communications, a Boston-based public relations firm, makes sure its flexible work options are front and center in all of its recruiting messages. “Our flextime policy is part of what differentiates us, especially for young recruits,” said Elizabeth Famiglietti, senior vice president of human resources. “So we make sure they hear about it.”

Employees at Pan can work at home on Fridays, choose a four-fifths schedule, set early or late start times, and take time off for important events with the understanding that they will make up that time later on. “It makes our people feel respected and independent,” she said, “and it’s a great story to tell to new recruits.”

Famiglietti, however, isn’t the one who tells it. Instead she engages “Pan Ambassadors” – young employees who write blogs and create videos about life at Pan that highlight the company’s longstanding flextime options and other perks. These messages are shared in job postings, on social media and at the company’s career page, which also features “fun facts” about Pan, and testimonials from employees about why they love working there. “It’s easy for HR to talk about the company’s benefits, but it is much more impactful to hear it from other people in the organization,” she said.

Showcasing cultural benefits that appeal to young workers in simple and engaging ways and using employees to voice that message can be a powerful recruiting strategy for this generation, Dorsey said. “Millennials trust millennials, and they want to hear from each other.”

Regardless of who is telling your culture story, you have to make sure the message is authentic. “It’s about more than highlighting your work-at-home Fridays,” Belding said. “You want to let recruits know that work-life balance is an important part of your culture, and that flextime is one way to make that work for everyone.”

Sarah Fister Gale is a writer in Chicago.

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