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By Laime Vaitkus
June 6 — The influx of millennials into the workforce is pushing employers such as fitness retailer Finish Line to change their strategies so they can better attract, retain and motivate these younger workers.
Organizations should be concerned because the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that by 2020 millennials will comprise more than half of the U.S. workforce, Debbi Davidson, national practice leader at Willis Towers Watson, said June 6 at the WorldatWork conference in San Diego.
"Is there really something so different about the millennial generation, or is it a lifecycle phase? It's both," she said.
Finish Line has an employee demographic that is similar to its customer base, with an average age of 21 in the store and 35 in the corporate headquarters, Kim Kurtz, director of benefits and wellness at the company, said during the conference session.
Finish Line sought to improve its employee engagement and retention and become a "Best Places to Work," Kurtz said. The employer has a "committed leadership" and culture to support the theme of "Life's Biggest Possibilities," which helped the transition, she said.
Most companies struggle with attraction and retention issues and are especially concerned about retaining millennials as Baby Boomers retire, Davidson said. Finish Line worked with Willis Towers Watson, using survey data to examine what millennials and other workers value.
The Willis Towers Watson surveys found that employees of all ages value competitive pay, along with career paths, work/life balance and meaningful work. Based on the findings, Finish Line offered learning and development programs, ongoing performance feedback, mentoring and coaching, Kurtz said.
Performance ratings are no longer a once-a-year event, Kurtz said. It's a culture change to provide continuous feedback, she said. "You have to teach your managers how to have these coaching discussions on a regular basis," she added.
To create better work/life balance, Finish Line adopted parental leave, telecommuting and flexible work schedule programs. Further, the company allows flexible unlimited paid time off and requires a minimum of three weeks be taken each year, according to Kurtz. Finish Line also initiated health and wellness programs that reward employees with points or cash for healthy habits, such as exercising or scheduling a check-up with a doctor, she said.
All of these programs have helped to improve Finish Line's employee engagement scores, according to Kurtz. The work continues because "it's not a one-and-done kind of thing. It's a process and we will have to keep chipping away at it," she said.
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