The Rise of Fancy Friday: Why Experiences at Work Matter

In today’s “pictures or it didn’t happen” world, millennials are all about experiences. In fact, three-quarters of young people would choose to spend their money on an experience rather than buying something, according to a study by Eventbrite and Harris.

That doesn’t seem surprising when you consider other data we know about millennials – that they value a company’s culture over its compensation, for example.

This quest for meaningful involvement has important implications for today’s employers.

Here are three areas where companies should make sure to up their “experience” game.

“Experience is the new swag” at recruiting events.

Forget the generic T-shirts and water bottles, staid recruiting dinners and dull company information sessions.

To really stand out when you’re courting Gen Y employees, plan an experience they’ll remember. As I’ve written about before, “Experience is the new swag.” If your company has a cool R&D lab, take potential employees on a tour and let them get hands-on with what you do. People of all generations identify with companies that have a clear mission, so let prospects see and experience yours firsthand.

One company plans a day-long “Super Saturday” where they roll out the (literal) red carpet for potential recruits and invite them to experience the company and culture. Of course, the bonus is that hiring managers get to “experience” the candidates, too, leading to a better fit for everyone.

And make sure you let your young talent play a starring role in any recruiting activity. “My millennial employees are my greatest recruitment and retention tool,” entrepreneur Carey Smith has said. Seeing first-hand what their peers are doing can help millennials decide if your company will be a good fit.

Encourage experience hopping rather than job hopping.

Variety is critical to millennials’ job satisfaction, and any employer can provide some. Whether it’s a formal rotational program or an organic “micro-rotation,” make sure you offer millennials exposure to different clients, projects and job functions.

Not only do rotations satisfy the variety bug, they allow employees to find their own right fit and see what area best suits their skill set. And, seeing how their work fits into the whole by getting to know other teams and divisions will make them a better employee.

Here’s my favorite example of variety. The baby boomers brought us Casual Friday, but now that rocking a hoodie is appropriate at most workplaces, some startups have introduced “Fancy Friday,” where millennials can bust out their formal clothes for a change. (Oracle and other tech companies like Rustici Software, Bottle Rocket and Influitive have jumped on the Fancy Friday train.)

End on a high note.

At some point, most millennials will move on from your organization. It used to be that when you left a job, companies would wipe your phone, lock your computer and have security escort you on the walk of shame out the door. (And, in some traditional industries, those practices are still common.)
But today, savvy companies know that that it’s wise to put the “good” back in goodbye by leaving a departing colleague with a positive impression.

Instead of leaving them with the feeling that your relationship is over, hook them up with the company’s alumni network or otherwise let them know you’ll keep in touch. Chances are good they will cross your path again as an employee, a client – or your future boss. Creating a better goodbye experience leaves the door ajar, which is always positive in today’s interconnected world.

How have you incorporated “experience” into your workplace culture? Do you participate in Fancy Friday? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

Lindsey Pollak is the leading voice on millennials in the workplace, trusted by global companies, universities, the world’s top media outlets — and, most importantly, by millennials themselves. A New York Times bestselling author, Lindsey began her career as a dorm RA in college and has been mentoring millennials — and explaining them to other generations — ever since. Her keynote speeches have audiences so engaged that, in the words of one attendee, “I didn’t check my phone once!” Contact Lindsey to discuss a speaking engagement for your organization.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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