New work culture attracts Millennials

Cereal dispensers in a break room. Millennials have found work environments conducive to their needs are more inviting.

Jake Sorenson loves mini golf, movies and cereal, and his job is responsible for these newfound loves.

“I had been working at a doctor’s office, and work became very stressful,” said Sorenson, a student at Utah Valley University studying international business and an employee at Alliance Health. A friend posted a job listing for Alliance Health on Facebook, and Sorenson applied. He was hired four days after submitting his resume.

Sorenson learned about the job’s perks and the company culture in his first interview with Alliance Health. “I could tell that the interviewer was excited to tell me about the perks,” Sorenson said.

Sorenson works six-hour shifts at Alliance Health, with a 30-minute break. He enjoys perks such as indoor mini golf, free soda machines, unlimited amounts of cereal at the cereal bar and access to free pre-released showings at movie theaters. The conditions for such perks? None. They come with the job.

“They want it to be a comfortable place to work, and they want you to have energy,” Sorenson said. “They figure that we will sell more if they treat us better.”

Alliance Health is among other companies that provide commodities and extensive perks for employees.

“More and more companies are considering the well-being of their employees and are providing social opportunities and perks to help employees manage and cope with stress,” said Troy Nielson, associate teaching professor of management at the Marriott School of Management.

In Utah Valley, especially Provo, companies are moving toward a more casual culture. However, the culture of the company is more important than the ping-pong tables, free movies and free food, according to Nielson.

“(Those things) do not compensate for bad leadership,” Nielson said. “It is one piece of an employer’s brand.”

Nielson said companies that have perks combined with a foundational culture attract Millennials, who are coming into the work force. However, he warned, perks have potential to be a “window dressing for a lackluster culture.” If a company doesn’t have a strong culture to begin with, perks will not improve it.

In Sorenson’s case, the perks added to the whole package.

“Between the perks and the pay, it was aligned with the goals I had,” he said. Alliance Health is a billion-dollar company, and Sorenson saw opportunities for growth and potential within it. “I looked at the format of Google, and it was very similar.”

Sorenson went on to say that companies are trying to do more than attract Millennial employees more than by just trying to be “hip and cool” perks.

“Alliance Health was promoting a more productive generation. They want the values of hard work and honesty from the Baby Boomers combined with the charisma and outgoing traits from Millennials,” Sorenson said.

He said the quality of people also determines the success and culture of the company. “People enhance culture,” he said.

In an article published on the website Geek Wire, Chris Smith said, “Companies are social organisms, built around shared experiences and expectations,” including the expectation among employees to do good work.

Two employees play ping pong on a break. Playing games together can create new relationships between coworkers.

Nielson agreed and said people have a competitive nature. But this trending work culture puts emphasis on building collaborative relationships as well. “If you have an opportunity to take a break and go play ping pong, that accomplishes building relationships.”

David Lowe, founder of the company Uberpong, talked about the the advantages of ping pong tables and the speed in which relationships can be created by using them.

“We’d end up playing doubles and got to know each other,” Lowe said.

While some may jump all over the opportunity to work at a place with such great perks, others are concerned about the amount of time and money invested in such a work culture.

From a human resource perspective, Nielson said, a downside to the perks could be that if the company makes high-cost investments, it will want to make sure the employees use them enough to get a return on investment. Do the employees utilize the amenities — such as a gym or a ping pong table or food — before they expire?

Others may be concerned that the perks are being used too much.

Sorenson said that recently the benefits have started to be supervised at Alliance Health. Supervisors found that new people in the company were taking advantage of the perks and wasting time — they were socializing more than working. This went in opposition to the company’s culture, and the company took measures to remedy the situation.

Will Heath, human resources analyst at Alliance Health said they have seen tremendous growth. They have hired more than 300 new employees this year and have been able to retain about 80 percent. However, that isn’t just because of the perks.

“The structure of the work keeps people motivated,” he said.

An employee participates in playing Jenga during a break at work.

Heath said the culture of Alliance Health is centered on four pillars: All in, namaste, genchi and inspire. Each month they give awards to employees who are focused on their achievements within the four pillars.

“It becomes a part of us and our culture. It is who we are as a company,” Heath said.

Overall, Heath said, there has been an increase in productivity because of what employees do and how they structure the work.

“Aligning employees with the firm’s larger strategic goals is critical if organizations hope to manage their human capital effectively and ultimately attain strategic success,” said John Bingham, director of the MBA program and associate professor at the Marriott School.

He went on to say it requires not only that employees understand the strategy of the company but that they see tangible evidence of that strategy being realized.

Alisha Scott, employee at Clear Satellite, said they didn’t always have a break room with ping-pong tables, but since acquiring one they have been able to enhance their culture of competition and success.

“The perks have allowed us to get to know each other and become part of something bigger. We aren’t there just to earn money; we are there to be a part of the company and succeed as a team to meet our goals,” she said.

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