Creating a Millennial-Friendly Workplace: Tips from Kimberly-Clark

May 16, 2017
The good news: it’s not all about the money. 

Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce today, making up 50% of the candidates for open positions. Manufacturing employers are competing for top talent against technology giants and startups. To attract the best candidates in a tightening job market, businesses must demonstrate they understand their values and needs.

The good news: it’s not all about the money. A 2015 survey by Accenture found 59% of recent graduates said they would rather work in a company with a positive social atmosphere than a place with a higher salary, and 52% said they would forego some compensation to work at a company with a strong commitment to the environment or the social impact of its products and services. 

Come to think of it, wouldn’t we all like to work for an organization that offers a positive work environment and believes in doing right in addition to doing well?  I expect most of us do. And that’s why emphasizing organizational values and policies that appeal to millennials entering the labor market can help businesses attract and retain a diverse range of top talent.

What are millennials looking for in a workplace? Dig down and you’ll discover factors that should appeal to top performers in any generational group. Eighty-seven percent of millennials in a recent Gallup poll rated "professional or career growth and development opportunities” as an important factor in their jobs.  That’s why it’s critical for manufacturers to let employees know how they're doing by providing honest feedback in real time and highlighting positive contributions or improvements on key competencies.  

One of the most effective ways employers can do this is by creating or enhancing training and development programs. These programs may include on-the-job training, continuing education, and workshops that help employees develop themselves even further. Implementing structured systems will keep millennial employees satisfied and they will be more likely to stay with their employer.

For example, Kimberly-Clark’s Paris, Texas mill offers a three-month certificate  program with the local junior college, which enables equipment  operators to gain mechanical problem solving skills, positioning them for promotion to more senior level positions once the course is complete.

Another way employers can attract and retain millennials is by creating a work environment that encourages healthy work/life integration. At Kimberly-Clark, in addition to flexible and work-from-home schedules for our corporate office employees, we provide wellness programs and onsite fitness facilities for all employees. Our Live Well program includes quarterly lunch-and-learns with health professionals from local communities, free health assessments, and sponsoring employees in local fitness events like 5Ks, marathons and triathlons. The company operates exercise facilities at many of its locations, including manufacturing sites, and offers group exercise classes, personal training and massage therapy.

Kimberly-Clark also participates in the National Bike Challenge to encourage people to bike to work. We offer bike parking at our locations, a fleet of loaner bikes employees can use, bike paths at our facilities, showers, and bicycle commuter tax benefits where they are available.

To engage potential millennial recruits, it’s important for employers to convey that they’re open to new ideas and approaches. Kimberly-Clark recently launched the “Welcome Original Thinkers” program designed to spotlight the value we place on innovative ideas and our openness to different thinking styles to build our businesses and brands.  Aimed at attracting talented candidates to our company, the program includes an online quiz that helps people discover their individual thinking styles and apply this knowledge to career success.

Your organization’s social impact and commitment is an important factor. Millennials want to take on missions bigger than themselves. In your recruiting efforts and day-to-day communications, emphasize how your business is making a difference and operating in a socially responsible way. 

On our recruiting website and in our corporate sustainability report, we celebrate how we deliver essentials like Huggies diapers and Kleenex facial tissue to make lives better for millions of people around the world.  And we talk about how we do it sustainably and responsibly, by respecting the environment as well as the communities we serve.

Remember that millennials don’t work for you—they work with you. Millennials expect their workplace to be collaborative and to embrace their values and idealism. They want to contribute and feel their contributions are valued and recognized. Understanding the factors that are important to them will help employers attract, retain and keep the millennial talent that continues to shape the future of the business world.

And it works for us Baby Boomers as well.

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