The lack of employee engagement is a real issue in today’s workforce. Smart companies are finding unique ways to drive engagement and reinforce culture. In three short years millennials will make up 51% of the workforce. Millennials have different expectations about the world of work, and their workplace. And by 2025, the group will make up 75% of the workforce.
Millennials want a sense of purpose in their work. They crave autonomy, flexibility, transparency, and empowerment. They also value time away from the office. As their numbers grow, the culture they create will permeate the everyday office.
When faced with the challenge of attracting millennial talent in the budding tech city of Indianapolis, social media research firm Fizziology came up with a novel solution called FYI. The program, created by founders Ben and Jen Handley, lets each employee travel through “Find Your Inspiration – FYI” trips. Every employee at Fizziology receives a yearly stipend to take a non-meeting trip anywhere in the world. The catch? The chosen locale should be somewhere that will “inspire” them.
FYI taps into a different type of travel. It’s different than travel for conferences or client meetings. Employees pitch the founders on where they’d like to go to work remotely. According to founder Jen Handley, “They have to sell it in – the why and the how.” Employees typically travel alone and stay at AirBnB’s instead of hotels. They tend to work from community co-work locations. It allows them to experience the local culture and escape the regular day to day.
The company is tapping into concept of wanderlust. According to Merriam-Webster, wanderlust is defined as the strong longing for or impulse toward wandering. The interest in experiential travel among millennials is real. Author Robert Louis Stevenson speaks to the concept in his book Travels with a Donkey, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” Fizziology’s understand this as 85 percent of their staff is under the age of 30.
The first year of the program, domestic destinations like Boulder, New Orleans, and Portland were popular. Now global destinations are becoming prevalent. Trips to Iceland and Canada are in the works. International Account Manager Karen Woods recently did her to trip to Mexico, “As one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, Mexico City was full of life and experience. The people were incredibly kind and welcoming. The food was outstanding. The history and culture were eye-opening. I found inspiration in ways I wasn’t expecting.”
Upon returning from an FYI trip, employees are required to do a short presentation at an all staff meeting where they share pictures and recap their experience. In the first year of the program, co-founders Ben and Jen Handley tried to manage their expectations on job performance during FYI trips. Given the new surroundings and temptations to wander, they expected 75% productivity. What they’ve gotten is 100% with the benefit of an inspired employee upon return. “FYI trips force me to work in a new environment that creates a breeding place for creativity and problem-solving. I come back from my trip with an open mind and new solutions on how to handle my work.” says Kimberly Gerhart, account manager for brands.
Fizziology team members were a bit skeptical when the program was rolled out. It then caught on. All but one of the team took advantage of the program in the first year. The results have been encouraging. It has engendered loyalty and a sense of gratitude amongst the team. Audience Specialist Vanessa Jennette sums up the benefit of FYI, “It’s pretty awesome to work for a company that not only gives me uncapped vacation time, but will also pay me to work from a locale of my choosing. My bosses understand that everyone has a different work style and that sitting in the same chair and staring at the same screen everyday is not a sustainable source of inspiration.”
Is the program working? If the criteria is engagement and retention, it would be considered a success. Over the last 2.5 years no one has left the company.
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Source: Forbes.com (http://www.forbes.com/)