Chief Investment Officer
BirdsEye Viewthe millennials are coming
Millennials are coming, and they are coming fast. In fact, they will become the largest generation in the US workforce this year. And as of now, the banking industry is losing the battle over hiring millennials. Although they represent an ever-growing segment of the workforce, the banking industry has seen a decline in the proportion of 25 to 34 year olds in their workforce. This is a critical time for senior management to implement cultural changes and align not only strategic goals and market segmentation but also to bring multiple generations together for a common purpose. In the next few articles, I will focus on this generation gap and rely on empirical data as well as personal experience to explore this new and exciting management environment – having three generations in the same work force for the first time ever.
In the past, the implicit contract between employees and employers was relatively simple. “Employees were willing to work their way up the corporate ladder slowly in return for the promise of a sufficiently high promotion in their middle age to allow them to live comfortably during their retirement years.” However, today this premise has changed for both sides. Millennials do not have the inherent loyalty towards their corporate employers as previous generations did, possibly because they have seen their parents laid off without the promised comfort during retirement age. But a company can certainly earn that loyalty and, given today’s labor pool, will most likely have to.
Apple, Facebook and Google are some of the most effective companies with respect to recruiting and retaining young talent. These three tech giants have different corporate cultures, and yet all have been successful in creating an atmosphere where employees feel that their employer truly cares about them. All three have invested heavily in the daily experience of the office work environment with the goal of boosting employee morale. While they have invested large amounts of capital to pay for this, there are some basic low-cost elements that banks can adopt from these tech giants.
Every banking office is a bit different, but they all have a common area; typically it is the kitchen, where the fridge is. These areas are the battlegrounds of workplace morale. Creating a comfortable place for your employees to gather can help foster an amiable atmosphere. If employees love where they work, work itself becomes less of a grind. Google is renowned for keeping their employees happy at work. Free haircuts, subsidized massages and video games are among the perks Google offers in its quest to ensure its employees are happy.
If you could increase the amount of time your employees spend at the office, improve employee health, and increase morale all in one fell swoop, wouldn’t it be worth it? Providing healthy food in a pleasant space can do all of the above. Budgets are tight throughout the banking industry but set aside some cap space to improve the breakroom. Google and Apple invest significant capital in their workplace and have been able to implement avant-garde strategies in their new buildings. Banks, on the other hand, have a large existent footprint that is currently being reduced. Why not take some of that space and put it to use?
So, let’s go back to the break room fridge. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love food? Food is not only necessary to sustain life, it is essential to happiness (although there have not necessarily been extensive studies to prove this, I strongly believe that it is true). By providing snacks in the common areas, banks can begin to facilitate a family atmosphere. The allure of fresh flakey croissants and crisp berries shimmering on the counter next to the stack of 12-month trailing revenue reports for all 3,000 customers in the region will increase break-room traffic and lead to more daily interactions between employees. Let’s use food to bring back the water-cooler talk!
In addition to snacks, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and others are well known for providing three full meals a day. While it may not be affordable to implement free meals daily, even taking the team out or providing meals in the office periodically can improve morale and increase interaction between employees, not to mention increasing time in the office.
Another brilliant thing that these giants do is to provide a variety of internal training programs of any kind – even some that don’t have to do with banking at all. “Google taps its own ranks to teach valuable career-building classes as well as “extracurriculars” like kick boxing.” By providing a medium for employees who have skills they wish to share, employers can foster creativity and leadership without many (if any) direct costs. Sports leagues can be run through a similar medium and would also provide opportunity for team building. You could even have someone teach a baking class and bring in fresh treats for their colleagues (which would be no cost to the bank). Millennials in particular place high importance on personal learning and development. By providing them with a place to explore and grow, employers can create better, deeper, longer-lasting relationships with their employees.
In addition to fostering loyalty to their employers, any of these practices will help increase the employees’ interaction with one another. This is a benefit in its own right, as each generation can learn much from the others. In the next article, I will focus on different ways to bring these diverse groups together and create common ground. We will also touch on the millennial women as an undervalued and ever growing resource.