The pandemic changed everything overnight, including the way skilled millennials want to work. After a year of COVID anxiety and burnout, they are turning away from traditional well-paying jobs in pursuit of passion projects and pivoting to careers that let them live happier, more fulfilling lives now. This is the YOLO Economy. And it poses a challenge for employers: How can you attract this talented pool of workers?
Competing for these workers is about creating a personalized approach to work, but it has to make sense for both employers and employees. If you can hammer out the details up front, the relationship can work beautifully. But if you jump in without laying out expectations first, it can be endlessly frustrating for you and other employees.
The workplace has always been an arena of change and flux. But in the post-COVID era, it’s more important than ever to respond to disruptions and be willing to “flex.” If you stay nimble and ready to adapt, you can attract the best talent, including currently disillusioned YOLO workers. A few tips:
Consider the downsides of having a team of remote workers. For example, remote employees miss out on having a better connection with others, better collaboration, accelerated learning, cross training, mentorship, and more. All of these should factor into your decision as you measure the pros and cons of offering more flexible arrangements.
Know where you can really flex (and where you cannot). Some jobs can easily be performed remotely while others require an employee to be on-site. Ask yourself, “What makes sense for the job?” No matter how great a candidate seems, if they’re insistent on working virtually for a job that really needs to be on-site, you won’t do yourself any favors by hiring them. And you won’t be setting them up for success either.
Know what right looks like for the job. What metrics should the hire be able to meet? Do they have the skills needed to do the job well? Know what you are looking for ahead of time. Very often, high performers in the office are high performers in a virtual setting as well, and vice versa.
When negotiating, be very clear about what the job requires. Do you need a 9 to 5 requirement from your employees? Do they really need to work in the office? Must they live in the same city to do the job? How much face time is really required in your business? Candidly share your must-have requirements up front, but also listen carefully to their needs as well.
If they don’t want to work in the office, dig deeper to better understand their needs. Until you ask you cannot be sure of their reasoning and needs. Is it a long commute in heavy traffic? Or is it something else that you might be able to address? You may be able to find a solution that works for everyone. Just make sure you don’t inquire into areas that could create a perception of discrimination.
Keep their personal goals in mind. Millennials and Gen Z employees are seeking work-life integration, and they are very open about it. They may want the flexibility of working for you while also having time to pursue other goals such as running a side business or being more present for their family or having time to travel. A hybrid or flexible work model may allow you to help achieve everyone’s goals in tandem. You might discover that you need employees to start on-site during regular work hours, but they can later ease into a virtual or more flexible arrangement. Make that clear up front. But if you’re not sure this will work, be clear on that too. Be very careful not to mislead.
Be sensitive to your workers’ emotional wellbeing. The stress and trauma of COVID-19 has brought awareness to the issue of mental health. If possible, offer wellness and assistance programs. Design benefits, career tracks, and work arrangements with an eye toward meeting the needs of employees at different stages of life. Finally, destigmatize mental health issues so employees know it’s okay to ask for help.
A little compromise goes a long way. if you communicate and stay flexible you can find solutions that fulfill everyone’s needs. In the long run, it’s worth the extra effort, because you will gain talent that gives you a competitive edge, and your workforce will remain loyal because you work with them to achieve their career and life goals.
Rick Grimaldi is a workplace trends expert and the author of FLEX: A Leader’s Guide to Staying Nimble and Mastering Transformative Change in the American Workplace. Grimaldi's unique perspective comes from his diverse career in high-ranking public service positions, as a human resources and labor relations professional for an international high-tech company, and presently in private practice as a partner with Fisher Phillips LLP, one of America’s preeminent management side labor and employment law firms.