Free Lunch Does Not a Culture Make



Low-Cost Employee Engagement Inspiration For Millennials, By Millennials!


Breaking up is hard to do – or so the song says – for both employees and employers. As HR professionals, many of us have seen the oft-quoted skyrocketing costs to an employer to replace an employee between recruiting and training replacements.  Quite plainly, it is in every employer’s interest to strive for an effective employee engagement plan – but how is an employer with limited financial resources able to compete with napping pods, endless paid time off, or kitchens stocked to the brim with organic specialty snacks? As young HR professionals, many of my peers have found themselves facing these same questions while accepting entry-level positions in companies with less than a Google Nap Pod budget. Between their fiery streak of creativity, a determination to develop a truly engaging employee retention plan, and reducing costs wherever possible, the following points of inspiration are drawn from the real-life solutions developed by my fellow young HR professionals and can serve as a road map forward in recruiting, retaining, and most importantly, engaging your up and coming millennial work force!

Coffee with the Chief

The key here isn’t rewarding your employee with a cup of coffee and a blueberry scone. The true element of recognition and opportunity to engage the employee is giving them the opportunity to speak freely with a member of leadership – whether that’s John Smith, CEO or John Doe, Company Owner. This gives the employee a chance to have their ideas and feedback be truly heard in a one-on-one setting – all for the cost of a cup of joe.

Volunteerism – Paid time off OR volunteering as a team

If there is one commonality I hear among my fellow young professionals it is a commitment to bettering our environment and the lives of those walking in the world with us. Encouraging this desire to make a difference for the better in the world speaks more than donating a few hours of pay for an employee to volunteer on a crisis line, plant trees, or contribute time and efforts to the cause they connect with. This not only speaks to the company’s commitment to the future and our world, but to the importance of building strong relationships if you can get your entire team involved.

Wellness Hour

My most recent employer provides this benefit that professionals of all ages across our company truly treasure. For the employer cost of one extra paid hour per week, employees can pursue a health and wellness related activity at their choosing. Whether that means taking in some fresh air on a walk outside or meditatively clearing the mind during a yoga class, this method of engagement not only communicates to employees the genuine concern for the mental, physical, and emotional well-being, but also is more likely to yield happier, more productive employees when they take time to step away, refocus, and reenergize.

Many, many, many young professionals that I’ve worked with, connected with, and discussed engagement with are not focused on how many hours they schedule into a nap pod. While everyone loves a free lunch, on the average millennials are most engaged when their employers have a mission and a vision that purposefully and intentionally want to improve and grow. Not every company has the freedom to try and tackle world hunger as part of their mission, but every company can approach developing a company culture where their employees understand how what they contribute makes a difference to more than just the bottom line. Step one in engaging your employees? Time to start re-evaluating your company culture and assessing how you think about engaging your team. Perhaps it is even time to, in the words of Steve Jobs, think different:

““Here's to the crazy ones — the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they're not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things.”

Are you ready to think different?


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