This morning I attended a session on attracting and retaining top talent with speakers from three very different types of companies: Melissa Leary, Recruiting Manager at Zappos, the online retailer with 4000 employees, 3000 of which are in Shepherdsville, KY; Dawn Geary, Business Development Director of Mediaura, a small award winning all-things-web and marketing firm in Louisville, KY; and Kelley Helegeson, Vice President of Human Resources at Signature HealthCARE, a long term care company now headquartered in Louisville. In discussing recruitment, each representative reflected some keys of new generational preferences in the workplace.
Zappos and Mediaura exude that of the younger worker, with a pronounced emphasis on the social and fun aspect of the workplace and its cultural identity, the value of the individual, and an organization’s trust in their employees to do the work with independence. Cultural fit is a high priority in both of these companies when considering a new hire. Zappos has a 10 point evaluation criteria on cultural fit in hiring, and potential hires must pass in this aspect as well as on the technical/skill side. They hold that if the person embodies the brand, it will strengthen the company and the business long term. If not, it will hurt the business in the long run. Mediaura leverages social networks to recruit from out of state, focusing on the positive aspects of the city, a hard working but hard playing workplace culture, and potential for freedom and self-determination within the company. They have a standing appointment on Fridays at 3 with the ping-pong table and some beers. Can you imagine that at your workplace?
Signature HealthCARE, with a workforce largely composed of direct care employees, scores high on valuing employees, markedly in embracing spirituality of all kinds, and valuing the wellbeing of the employees as well as that of their “customers”. Spirituality is one of their three organizational pillars along with Intra-preneurism and Learning. They intend to bring the whole person to the job, not asking them to check their religion or spirituality at the door. Impressively, the top level people go through CNA training and certification, not just paying lip service to “I know what you’re going through”. Theirs is an holistic culture, supported by a corporate structure that includes a VP of Spirituality, Dianne Timmering.
They all embrace what studies tell us that the emergent workforce values. Gone are the days of working a dreaded job for 40 years because, “that’s just what you do and that’s why they call it work”. I think back to Dr. Mark Taylor’s seminar on Generation NeXt. His work reveals that younger workers place value on having meaningful work, flexibility in terms of work conditions, having a positive work environment, mobility, uniquely individualized forms of reward, and that they see work as part of living, therefore it should be enjoyable. In contrast, baby boomers and traditionalists tend to value standards, adherence, hierarchy, and a clear separation between life and work.
None of these apply to every working person, but I have seen these demonstrated. Our main staff includes one Gen Xer, (guess who), one traditionalist, and four boomers. We are fortunate to have a traditionalist in our midst. She goes about her work in an organized and steady way. I admire her and aspire to be as vibrant and disciplined as she is. Our boomer Director is savvy to individualized reward, flexibility, valuing employee input, and ,meaningful work, among other things. Some love the plaque, some love the cake or celebratory lunch out.
These companies are on board with creating a culture to best utilize the strengths of the emerging workforce. Those companies who do not will pay a price. Near the end of today’s session a window washer appeared outside the window on the 20th floor. I wonder what he values in the workplace?