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How to Recruit and Retain Millennial Employees (Hint: Start by Building Community)

Written by Julie Dietz on May 11, 2017 at 8:30 AM

You don't need foosball to retain your millennial employees - or recruit new ones.

Some companies naturally attract millennials. They’re the cool ones with foosball tables in their break rooms. But for the rest of the businesses out there, convincing Gen Y that your organization is a great place to work isn’t so easy. If you can’t afford (or don’t want) distracting foosball tables, how do you appeal to young professionals?

The easy answer? Lean on research, including studies and surveys, that flat-out asks millennials what they want.

One such study, done by the Intelligence Group and reported on by Forbes, sheds light on how members of Gen Y, otherwise known as millennials, prefer to work. In the study, 88 percent of millennials polled preferred a collaborative work culture to that of a competitive one.

It makes sense that a generation raised on team projects would prefer collaboration to competition. It’s more comfortable and natural for them. It also means they’re not in this for themselves, they’re in it for the good of the team – in this case, your company. That’s a mindset businesses should encourage.

So if you want to recruit millennials, foster a collaborative environment that lets employees learn and build professional relationships.

What is a Culture of Collaboration in Business?

When people collaborate, they work together to accomplish a common goal, encouraging loyalty, trust, and cooperation. Collaborative businesses focus on solutions instead of which department oversees which project. Anyone can solve a problem because communication is open and people are receptive to new ideas.

In a collaborative culture, if one person succeeds, everyone succeeds.

How Online Communities Encourage Collaboration

Online communities and employee portals are one way to start fostering a collaborative environment. They break down barriers and let employees work together to share ideas, solve problems, and innovate. They’re the internet’s version of open workspaces – cubicle and wall free.

Best of all, an online community makes it easy for you to demonstrate a collaborative work environment to recruits. You don’t have to tell millennials how collaborative your organization is. Just show them the active discussions and ideas that are being generated in your community.

To show off your collaborative culture to new employees, do these four collaborative tasks in your online employee community.

1. Communicate Effectively

Communicating honestly and equally with all employees is critical to a collaborative environment. If anyone is left out of the loop they might not feel as valued as their peers.

An online community ensures everyone receives the same message at the same time. They might not read it at the exact same moment, but it will be available. You can publish written notes on your homepage, send emails, or post videos, giving everyone access to the same information.

Expert Tip: Even collaborative businesses will have information that needs to be released to some employees before others. If you need to update managers before employees, you can send audience-specific messages or change community permissions so only certain people get the update. Just remember to use these tools sparingly so you don’t undermine your collaborative culture.

2. Involve the Team in Decisions

A private employee community allows you to create closed groups where your team can have discussions and provide input into strategies and new ideas. To facilitate this, create areas for people who work together often so it’s easy for them to update one another on their work.

The best employee communities will also have tools that allow employees to collaborate on documents, making revisions, asking questions in comments, and downloading the information they need. These tools may even let you bring in staff from other areas of the company as needed to ensure there’s interaction between departments that encourages a fresh, open environment.

3. Take Time to Connect

A collaborative work environment makes time for engagement and team building. A collaborative online community helps you reach all employees through features like polls, surveys, and gamification. You can use discussions and reply to the community via email to discuss topics, as well as upload content to file libraries. Everyone stays connected and engaged with 24/7 access.

Encourage employees to connect not only with your company and its content, but with one another as well. Let employees upload their own documents, especially those others may find useful. Empower staff to write blogs that help new hires or reveal little-known knowledge that could improve other people’s jobs. The easier it is for staff to share knowledge with colleagues, the more likely they will be to connect.

4. Get to Know One Another

It’s difficult to collaborate in an environment where people don’t know one another. Give your employees the freedom to express their personality through profiles and personal bios. Each employee can upload a picture, share their educational background, and highlight unique skills. To take things up a notch, offer fun badges like “Coffee Snob” to highlight personal hobbies.

Employee profiles help people get past the job title and into common topics of interest. Employees may find out they have the same alma mater or love the sushi bar, making it easier for them to build positive relationships.

Profiles are especially helpful when you’re working with home-based employees or have offices scattered around the country or world. Your employee community will connect all these people through their profiles, staff posts and other networking opportunities.

Use Collaboration Tools to Better Serve Your Employees

Online communities are more than a recruiting tool for attracting Gen Y. They also provide data that helps you better understand your employees’ needs and goals. What resources are employees using? What departments are they connecting with? Find out what your employees like and dislike, as well as the skills they want to develop.

Use the insight you gain to help your employees hone their abilities and develop new skills. That professional development will build their loyalty to your company and, as employees succeed, they’ll help others improve as well. And that’s good for business.

Original research explains the impact online communities have on businesses.

Topics: Communications, Millennials, Engagement, Collaboration Tools

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