Why More Bosses Should Have Surprise Meetings

Businessman and desk on lush lawn in cement courtyard
Photograph by Martin Barraud—Getty Images

The Fortune 500 Insiders Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Ron Guerrier, chief information officer of Farmers Insurance, has answered the question: “How do you attract millennial talent?

Attracting, and more importantly, retaining talent often leaves hiring managers and human resources departments aiming at a moving target.

What’s most important in a job for millennials may not be a consideration for Generation Xers or baby boomers. Further complicating the situation is that not all millennials (or other generations for that matter) approach the job search with the same priorities. While some millennials may seek potential employers based on workplace flexibility, others may prioritize an employer’s benefits or compensation.

In my many years of experience filling positions at every level within the technology space, I’ve found three areas stand out when it comes to attracting millennial talent:

Provide community service opportunities

Offering employees the chance to engage in community service can be instrumental in recruiting and retaining millennial talent. For instance, our employee volunteer program offers the opportunity to rebuild homes in Baton Rouge or give back to local teachers and their schools.

I believe employees today seek fulfillment, whether participating in the conference room or tutoring in the classroom. These community service opportunities provide a sense of purpose beyond an employee’s day-to-day work.

Comfort matters

Work-life balance, which has long been a central selling point for millennials, is simply smoke and mirrors in today’s increasingly technological world. More important is the transformation from work-life balance to work-life integration.

The smartphone—once a fancy gadget—is now an integral part of daily life from a business and personal perspective. Employees need to know that their manager trusts them to handle their workload and won’t be looking over their shoulder throughout the day, which to me defeats the whole premise of work-life integration.

Today we are no longer tethered to the office, and can access what we need at any time and place. For example, we have email systems agnostic of mobile device and collaboration tools accessible from smartphones and other mobile devices. I have signed contracts via e-signature at 32,000 feet en route to a family vacation. This is the epitome of work-life integration.


Open up your office

Millennials seek clearly defined expectations for their roles, and to know how their success will be measured. This should be clearly and concisely communicated both up front and throughout their careers.

To facilitate stronger communication, leaders should consider holding open office hours. I recently established a “flash open office,” where I set up a table in the courtyard of our office building and held impromptu meeting sessions with all employees, not just my direct reports. It was a great opportunity to walk employees through our company story and highlight how they fit in.

Not only does this demonstrate a commitment to open, transparent communications, it helps establish shared values and brings more meaning to employees’ day-to-day responsibilities.

At Farmers Insurance, our best recruitment strategy is to make sure current talent are engaged and truly enjoy their work. Anyone can roll out the red carpet with bells and whistles to get talent in the door. But if you can’t keep that talent from turning right around and heading for the exit, then you’ve lost the talent war before the battle’s even begun.

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