How to attract and retain younger workers is one of the top objectives of companies today, especially now as millennials, the largest generational cohort, are firmly embedded in the American workplace. A tight labor market means that companies have to be at the top of their game to hold onto young talent.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, fast-growing tech company, General Informatics, has made workplace culture one of its main organizational concerns. From its hip new physical space and innovative employee policies, to its green culture and sense of fun, it’s clear that the company takes younger workers’ workplace priorities seriously.
Situated in a new, company-owned office park, GI has worked hard to create a vibe on par with its competitors in well-known technology hubs. Its conference room is called the “Ideation Room” because employees are expected to bring ideas. The Huddle Room is for employee teams working together on strategies. The “Skunkworks” (a World War II-era Lockheed Martin term) is an S-shaped row of desks occupied by employees at work on radical innovation – like the current drone project GI is working on to support municipal law enforcement agencies. The Studio is for sketching solutions to client problems, and The Club is a large conference room where ideas are presented and celebrated. It’s also the site of a new theater installed specifically for employee movie night. A sleek breakroom holds limitless snacks, and outside, there’s a sandpit volleyball court. The building itself is located on a lane the company had named One Smart Way, an address inspired by Facebook’s Hacker Way and Apple’s Infinite Loop.
“We wanted to do things like tech companies on the West Coast to appeal to the best and brightest younger workers,” says CEO Mohit Vij. “And we match up pretty evenly.”
In fact, the new headquarters, which opened in 2018, was built as part of a commitment to attracting and retaining younger workers. GI’s meeting and presentation rooms are outfitted with voice-command technology. The building’s technological “nervous system” can sense light, temperature, pressure, time and facial recognition. Its electrical and HVAC systems are controlled by in-house designed software to conserve energy usage. And most appealing of all, GI’s stunning channel glass exterior was designed to prevent migratory birds from flying into the building’s path. Instead, they enjoy perching in the eight historic Live Oak trees around the property, which GI has taken great pains to preserve and protect.
“GI’s commitment to both creating an innovative workplace culture and demonstrating a commitment to the environment is meaningful to millennials,” says Gena Champagne, Louisiana state director for the Society for Human Resource Management.
“That’s definitely a trend we’re seeing in the workplace,” Champagne says. “People want to believe in the company they’re working for. They want to work for companies that value quality work, people and community and that aren’t afraid to show it.”
GI has also created special incentives aimed at younger workers, including interest-free down payments for first time home buyers. It’s an easy way for a younger buyer to gain access to ready capital, while also helping GI retain employees by helping them put down roots. Twelve employees have already taken advantage of the new incentive, says Vij. The company also offers free health memberships to both employees and their domestic partners, and it holds regular social events, including board game nights and a large annual holiday party complete with sushi and kebab bars and a DJ.
Flexibility, says Champagne, is also the watchword of millennial workers, who don’t mind working long hours as long as they have access to a flexible schedule when they need it.
“That’s definitely something we accommodate,” says Vij.
General Informatics, which has grown from a start-up in 2004 to a multi-million dollar 60-plus employee company, is also planning to build a stylish, sustainable residential development on the same parcel of land, a nine-acre swath in the heart of south Baton Rouge. The development will be aimed squarely young professionals and will feature green-design lofts and apartments, a fitness center, jogging path and community gathering space.
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