Jenna Gaudio (second from left) with her former intern Lauren Masterson (at left) and Leann Burns and Albert Holguin, current Vydia Interns. Masterson was one of Gaudio's first interns at Yashi who rose through the ranks and is now head of marketing at video production company Postcreatives in Asbury Park.
You’ve heard the stereotypes of Millennials, that can’t use a land line, that they need prizes for showing up. Tough to manage, difficult to to motivate, and lacking in loyalty, just a few claims against them. But are they accurate? And now that this generational workforce has flooded the office, how do you get them to be productive? Bean bag chairs? A French bulldog for the office?
For expert Millennial advice we turned to Jenna Gaudio, director of marketing at Vydia,a high tech startup located at Bell Works, and a member of vi Collaboration Hub the coworking space here. Vydia provides musicians the ability to monetize, promote, and distribute their music video content. It’s also home to Millennials whom Gaudio hires, trains and manages with success. She doesn’t just deal with this generation in the workforce, she embraces it.
“Don’t discredit the potential of your entry level workers, including your interns,” Gaudio said who previously worked for the ad tech company Yashi, where curating young talent was key to helping build (and sell) the company.
“I quickly learned after onboarding my first ‘dream team’ of interns that they had a lot to offer and could contribute in big ways if presented with the right opportunity. Given the right training and attention, they successfully converted to full time employees upon graduation and quickly rose through the ranks. Those that put in the extra work and showed outstanding performance even took on management positions within the span of a year or two.”
Here are Gaudio’s insights on how to hire, retain and motivate Millennials:
Every single employee is an investment. Aside from salary, the cost of each team member is increased by the price tag of recruitment, onboarding, training, equipment, team perks and ongoing industry education. To minimize that cost, turnover clearly must become the enemy.
But retention tactics aren’t going to improve by blaming a misunderstood generation, but rather tapping into what actually motivates them to stay. To continue to benefit from the allstars you handpicked to work for you, there are a few things you need to understand about this generation.
What they want: creative comfortable collaborative work environment
What will make them leave: confinement and segregation from the action
Look around. Do you feel inspired at work, or do you feel like you’re in jail? Setting up an work environment that makes people happy will yield many desirable results with your employees. Bright, motivating surroundings trigger inspired work output. Comfortable chairs encourage endurance for those that produce results in front of a phone or computer all day. Coffee and tea make the afternoon slump more productive and healthy snacks will prevent your staff from conceding to a empty stomach in lieu of staying late to get ahead of a few projects.
Seating arrangements are important to. There’s nothing worse then being out of the loop and having zero pulse on what’s going on with the company because your workstation is isolated. Collaborative setups stimulate conversation and a collaborative culture. When everyone is more accessible problems get figured out faster, brainstorming adds insight in making better decisions, and a couple minutes of football talk Monday morning, or watching the latest viral video helps decompress the stress of powering through the week. Maybe private cubicles and fluorescent lights were the standard for previous generations, but with modern companies iterating on the work environments of Google and Apple, it’s not hard to find a place you look forward to spending your 9-5.
As Vydia’s CEO plans out the design of our new office, he’s mindfully designed an office that gives the illusion of being outside (you should see our floor to ceiling windows) with collaborative work stations on grass-like flooring, rustic furniture made of wood and lots of bright, creative colors. The office will have Silicon Valley-like supplies like walls covered in idea paint and a variety of seating and workspace options to fit the project and position that makes you feel most productive. Put some thought into making your workplace more welcoming and you’re on your way to welcoming a loyal Millennial workforce.
What they want: efficient time management
What will make them leave: boredom
Millennials get criticized for their never ending multitasking, but it's a premium quality that employers search for when hiring new talent. The number one way to kill multitasking momentum is lack of purpose and boredom. Analyze the capability and competency of each person and make sure you are maximizing it. This doesn’t mean fill their time with busy work. There is a stigma that Millennials think they are too good for small tasks or they deserve more than they’ve earned, but give your employees a fair and balanced workload of necessary tedious tasks and assignments that challenge and require personal input, and you’ll be amazing at how well they perform.
Vydia is growing quickly in all departments so everyone needs to be a self-starter, including the interns. We communicate ideas, progress and completed tasks through Trello boards. First thing in the morning, I’ll set the interns up with several tasks, prioritize them and check back in when I get notified that they’ve made progress or completed a task or two. I make sure that they have a well-balanced plate of responsibilities and that they understand the importance and impact of each project they work on. If you’re not giving them enough interesting responsibilities at work, you can guarantee they spend their days dreaming of their next job.
What they want: updated technology
What will make them leave: resistance to optimization
You set goals and benchmarks for your employees and you hire the people you think can achieve them. Your employees choose to accept this mission with the understanding that you will set them up for success. Providing the right tools and technology are an absolute MUST DO if you plan on keeping Millennial talent. If you don’t know what the latest technology is then it’s time you utilize your new Millennial talent to show you.
I thought I was well read and connected on the latest technology, but it was my interns that pointed out my lack of perspective when Snapchat broke onto the scene. I joked about the juvenile concept at first, but once they explained the upside of video as a fast and dataless communication medium, inclusive of video moments and messages from friends and family, nearly in real-time, I began to see it as tool, not just a Millennial novelty.
That opened me up to its potential as a platform for professional and amature journalism. Now I was getting a front row experience of political debates and exotic vacations. Snapchat’s use of video is a perfect example of how video disrupted the digital landscape and we (the over 25 crowd) didn’t even see its full potential. It was our interns who educated us.
Distributing old, dirty computers with easily infected operating systems, riddled with out-of-date software that lack proper easy interoffice communication won’t just hurt your Millennials’ motivation. It will hamper your profitability by self sabotaging your chance to optimize your entire team. Simply asking new employees what kind of technology they prefer and fulfilling their reasonable requests shows that your support and motivates them to give you their best work.
What they want: a boss who is a respectable mentor
What will make them leave: negligence and lack of growth opportunity
Offering a job and starting salary isn’t enough to have this generation’s workers churn increasing workloads week after week. The stereotype that Millennials think they deserve a promotion before putting in the work is false, and a clear indication that you’re not managing their expectations and needs properly.
Millennials are educated, motivated young people that want to know where they stand, how they can improve and what it will take for them to grab onto that next rung on the ladder. Giving them a job function and disappearing will make Millennials feel like they lack visibility in the company. Micromanaging them makes them feel like you don’t trust their judgement and capabilities. Providing timely feedback on projects and honest performance tips keep Millennials on the right track and feeling like the job you’ve given them is helping them grow personally and professionally.
As a manager, I like to earn the trust of my employees by showing them that I can relate to them and that I was once in their shoes. I illustrate mistakes I’ve already made so they don’t have to. I make myself accessible if they have questions that are stalling their work progress and make sure they know that I care about their personal and professional growth.
If they don’t feel the magic and are lacking motivation, I let them know I’m willing to help them find their purpose, but if they don’t see it here then they should chase those dreams. No need to hold on to something that’s not a win-win for everyone.
What they want: transparency and credibility
What will make them leave: empty incentives
Incentives are a great way to yield better results, but empty promises equal high turnover. No one wants to work for someone they don’t trust. An enjoyable environment and proper perks are great, but making sure your staff feels valued and respected is the only way to keep them long term. The internet exists, which means your employees know what the average salary is, they also know what kind of perks and benefits other companies provide.
Each company is different so you don’t have to offer everything that everyone does, but figure out what your value proposition is to your employees. Communicate what is important, explain your expectations, and be honest when you have issues with them. Also, make sure you compensate them for the amount of work they churn out, which can include a combination of salary, benefits, equity, education and fitness programs, flexible hours, catered meals, etc.
The most important part of your offerings is follow through. If the company falls on tough times and culture activities have to get rolled back until revenue efforts come through, be transparent with your team and they will respect you more for it.
What they want: like-minded colleagues
What will make them leave: company culture that doesn't align with their personal values
Working for a company that has the right culture is one of the most important factors assessed when a Millennial picks a job. We will spend over a third of our life at work and no one wants to spend that much time avoiding crude colleagues and and cringing at a lack of company guidelines. The company you work for is an extension of who you are as a person, the same way your employees are brand ambassadors for your company. Morals and values matter and vary person to person. Make sure your team works well together. Don’t hold on to bad seeds that breed a toxic, negative environment.
I’ve found that both big and small companies will put you in a position that ask you to do something outside the scope of work that was on your offer letter. Having a workforce that enjoys the team win more than the personal win is an important mantra embedded in Vydia’s culture up front. If someone ever tries to say, “That’s not my job” to a task they’ve been handed, you better believe we’re going to have a sidebar. If you were asked to do something, you’re the right person. Make sure to always lead by example too. When I set up team building events and the workshop is underway, I don’t make the intern's pick up lunch and miss out on activities.
There’s plenty of tedious tasks for them to do, but don’t do it at the expense of their growth with the company. Set your expectations up front and reward the ones that work to exceed your standards. You’re only as strong as your weakest Millennial so make sure they’ve got a good attitude and good intentions on elevating your brand.
We talk a lot about how Millennials can add or detract from a company, but let’s not overlook that they are shopping employers as well. Each candidate is also analyzing their investment of their time spent working for an employer. In order to get your money’s worth of each Millennial, you have to start by treating them like individuals instead of assets. Every employee brings a different perspective to your company, adding depth and value to your workforce. Millennials are ready to show you a new and improved definition of loyalty, if you learn what makes them feel fulfilled.
Jenna Gaudio is director of marketing at Vydia. Jenna's love for video technology started while studying Communication & Film Studies at Monmouth University where she remains an active mentor. Click here to learn about Vydia job openings.