For some time now, money is no longer the main criterion when choosing one’s employer.
The last 20 years were in many ways a turning point for humanity, mainly thanks to technology, which has completely changed the world. It is precisely these changes that have also changed the demand for labour, which is increasingly focused on information technology (IT). Simpler work has largely been replaced by robots and the optimisation of other work processes which do not require any major mental effort and are less appreciated because they do not generate much added value.
Many of those belonging to the so-called Millennial generation (aged somewhere between 18 and 34 years) are looking for a job in the workplace, where the emphasis is on intellectual tasks which, due to rapid technological advances, represent a challenge. For some time now, money is no longer the main criterion when choosing one’s employer. It is much more important that the employee feels that his or her contribution to the company is an important part of the company’s success story.
As the director of a successful company with annual average growth of 80%, and where most of the workforce belongs to the Millennial generation, I was faced with the question of how to attract members of Generation Y to my company, unleash their full potential and retain them in the company?
The answer to the question is perhaps more complicated than it sounds.
Optiweb is built on the Millennial generation
At Optiweb, the average age of employees varies between 25 and 26 years. We are a team of young, capable people, who quickly adapt and respond to changes, which are more and more common in today’s business world.
Through the years we have established many successful and also some less successful processes. Some were then abandoned, others kept, while the rest have been upgraded slightly. None of these processes is by any means set in stone; any one can be changed at any time. We never say “this is it” and then rest on our laurels. Since we spend most of the day at the workplace, it is very important to feel good at work. With this article, I would like to add my contribution to raising the working culture in Slovenia, and if it encourages positive change at least at some employers, the article will have achieved its purpose.
It means a lot to employees if they are part of the company’s success story.
The working environment is the employees’ second home
A crucial time for our company came in September 2015, when we moved to our new premises, which we spent a good part of the year developing and renovating.
The final product reflects every minute of work and consultations with various experts in the field of office desing. Our offices are designed to give the employees a sense of relaxation, comfort and convenience, while encouraging their productivity. They are extremely bright, of vivid colours and varied shapes. It probably goes without saying that this project was a big challenge for me, as I invested a lot of my time and reviewed thousands of images and articles in order to gather as many ideas as possible. The things I am extremely proud of include a specific area for relaxing and talking, a bright kitchen with a semi-professional coffee machine, flowers which bring employees a small part of nature into their workplace every working day, special arrangements for computer cables and a high open ceiling, which allows the offices to breathe. You are cordially invited to view the photos and video of the opening and the final product.
The main elements of our relationship are honesty, transparency and trust
In other people, I have always appreciated honesty and transparency the most. I also expect these two virtues from my employees, as I also strive to maintain these two values both with regards to myself and my company. I expect employees to tell me what bothers them in the company and, ultimately, what bothers them in me. Constructive criticism is always welcome, as it encourages positive change, and there is always at least a little room for improvement.
The company’s income, expenses and profit are publicly available for the employees and can be viewed at any time, and I am always available to discuss the figures if needed. We discuss what was done correctly and where there is room for improvement since we believe communication is key. I want to give my employees clear insight into the business because I do not want to hide anything from them. If the numbers are satisfactory, I also reward them financially and thus motivate them to keep up the good work. For me, the most important part of the company’s success story are its satisfied employees, who know that their efforts are noticed and especially appreciated.
Optiweb does not require its employees to “punch-out” for meals and breaks.
Trust is a cornerstone of our company’s success. Optiweb does not require its employees to “punch-out” for meals and breaks. Each employee is thus free to decide when it is time to relax and clear their mind. It is precisely because of the open and healthy relationship between the management and employees that nobody takes advantage of this trust.
Friday is the time for Wazzup meetings. These meetings take place in a relaxed atmosphere, with Nerf Guns in hand. First, of course, we discuss all matters of interest over the past week, and financial data is an integral part of these meetings. Then, team leaders present relevant and also less important events that marked the week that is coming to an end. When the schedule has been covered, it is time for more pleasant things. We never skip the more enjoyable part of the meetings. We commend all of the individuals who in any way accomplished something important that week, which has repeatedly proven to be a great source of motivation for further work. With the weekend just around the corner, it is time to drink a beer or two!
Fringe benefits – small, but important
Fringe benefits are a crucial part of our company, since I believe that it is quite normal for employee motivation to drop occasionally. It is, however, important to realise that as the company’s director, I can make their day nicer with fringe benefits, and thus show them that I care about their well-being and understand that the quality of the work process must be consciously maintained.
These are things that cost the company some EUR 100 per month, but their effect on the atmosphere within the office is priceless.
A kitchen that smells of freshly ground coffee, sweet and snacks savoury and, of course, some healthy options. A high-quality coffee maker with freshly roasted coffee is a “must have” in our office. In addition, of course, we have a corner where one can always find something sweet, savoury and also some healthy options. From time to time, at the beginning of the week, we enjoy breakfast together, which helps us better meet the challenges of the working week ahead. I often ask employees to tell me what they would like to snack on and try to accommodate their wishes, and thus show them that they are truly an important part of the company and that their voice counts. Such things cost the company some EUR 100 per month, but their effect on the atmosphere within the office is priceless.
Small treats in the form of prizes. As in one’s private life, it is also important to show people that you appreciate them and that you are grateful for all their effort in business life. We may not be aware of this, but even the smallest treats and prizes can mean a lot. Recently, I found an excellent source on this topic, where you can find great ideas of what to buy a colleague as a token of thanks (costing less than EUR 30). I strongly recommend this article; it is really worth reading. In this context, on the Slack app for communication, we recently introduced the #hvalilnik channel, where anyone can express their appreciation for the special merit that an employee deserves. And believe me, our #hvalilnik channel is bursting at the seams!
A training budget each employee can spend on the way they want. Years ago, people trained for a particular occupation and performed the same job all their life. There was no need for additional training as some areas saw no changes for several years. In contrast, our generation wants more and more knowledge, while today’s jobs require more flexibility since changes are part of everyday life. In an online environment, changes are extremely frequent, so constant training is crucial. Each employee is allocated an annual budget of at least EUR 300 and a few extra days off work. Each employee decides which training course to take since everyone knows best what they are interested in and in which fields they want upgrade their knowledge further. They can choose one long or several short training courses.
Accessories making the job easier and optimisation of personal expenses. Business phones, mobile phone packages and computers are the companions of all those who work in offices, and we are no different. However, I believe that we are different from others in that employees are every so often given the opportunity to freely choose their favourite “gadgets” to assist them in their work, thus allowing them to optimise their job according to their preferences. An additional monitor, high-quality mouse and keyboard are all “must haves”.
Small surprises during workdays. Massages during working hours? You read it right. Such small pleasures enrich the working day and help the employees relax, which quickly raises motivation and replenishes enthusiasm for work. Small surprises bring great joy.
A paid day off on one’s birthday. Have you ever been angry about the fact that you had to spend your birthday at work? There is no better gift than being free for your birthday so you can go shopping, socialise with friends or simply do nothing. Spend it as you heart desires – Optiweb has given you the day off.
We also socialise outside of working hours
Our colleagues are also our friends and for us, Optiweb is not just a job, but time well spent.
Coffee with the managing director and effective communication
In conclusion, I would like to once again emphasise the importance of open communication within the company. Even though certain processes are well-established, this does not mean that change is impossible. On the contrary, all employee proposals and opinions are very welcome. This is a sign that they care about the company and wish to be actively involved in any improvements. Another process that always bears fruit is so-called coffee with the managing director. Coffee with the managing director is organised twice a year, and takes place in a really relaxed atmosphere, without any tension. All cards are laid on the table. Such events have proven to be very successful, as both sides gain momentum and motivation to continue. As well as a few smiles and laughs. :)
What have I learned from working with the Millennial generation?
The Millennial generation is definitely a specific “type” of employee, because they bring major changes to the way of work and the perception of their jobs. They are much more creative, resourceful and ambitious. Since they grew up in a world saturated with information, they can work excellently with a huge amount of data and complex tasks. However, due to constant “multi-tasking”, they have much shorter attention spans, which can sometimes be a problem at work. At work, they always need feedback, be it positive or negative, as improving and adapting are a part of their daily lives. It is precisely because of their characteristics that my managing style is quite different from the traditional: despite the fact that I am still partially involved in business processes, I give them complete freedom in a lot of things and the ability to take decisions, as well as the responsibility for any positive or negative consequences. In most cases, this has proven to be very successful, since my Millennials feel a very strong personal commitment to the company and recognise that they are an important part of the story.
I feel satisfaction despite all the hard work when at the end of the year I take note of the growth and success of the company, see the happy faces of my colleagues and toast with them to a long and successful cooperation.
Based on my experience, I can confirm that managing directors of companies often find ourselves in the difficult situation of understanding employees when we ourselves have no longer been in their role for several years. In our company, it certainly helps that I am the same age as them and thus find it easier to relate to their expectations and needs. I would like to stress, however, that this is not an easy process in any case and that I am still continuously learning in this regard, and talk with them on a daily basis. I frequently encounter problems, make mistakes, but I always learn something new from them. I feel satisfaction despite all the hard work when at the end of the year I take note of the growth and success of the company, see the happy faces of my colleagues and toast with them to a long and successful cooperation.