0002 1119 IOM Editor

These days, there’s a lot of talk about “the millennials.” It must sometimes seem, especially to many in that age group, that they’re cast as some sort of mythical, other demographic with unprecedented workplace wants and needs. Really, though, millennials’ career wishes don’t deviate far from what anyone wants: to feel valued and engaged in important work.

A recent initiative the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce unveiled underscores this idea. The chamber launched the Fox Cities Employee-Friendly Workplace program at the end of October at an event held at Werner Electric Supply. The collaborative effort between businesses and community partners encourages employers to adopt employee-friendly workplace practices, policies and benefits.

The program includes four certification categories: paid leave and flexible work schedules; health and wellness support; financial support and perks. Participating employers can attain certification at the bronze, silver, gold or platinum level.

Jennifer Brown, director of existing industry and innovation at the Fox Cities Chamber and Regional Partnership, says in the face of record-low unemployment and changing demographics, employers must do more to differentiate themselves. It’s important to meet employees’ needs at any life stage, whether it’s parents of young children, those caring for aging parents or young professionals who are new to the area and don’t yet have a support network, she says.

What’s in it for employers? Employee-friendly benefits lead to increased productivity and a reduction in absenteeism, and a supportive work environment improves employee engagement and loyalty. “An employee-friendly workplace does provide a competitive advantage,” Brown says.

Employers including Werner Electric Supply, Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group and United Way Fox Cities have already become sponsors and partners of the program. The launch event included a panel discussion with participants from Werner Electric, Jewelers Mutual and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley.

Tiffany Schroeder, human resources manager for Werner Electric, took part in the panel and shared her own experiences as a new mom of twins. She says Werner listens to employee feedback on benefits and conducts focus groups. The company has begun implementing new benefits and continues to look at adding more.

The panelists, who also included Jenna Murphy of Jewelers Mutual and Bev Grabow of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley, agreed that it’s important for employers to collaborate and work together to lift the reputation of the Fox Cities.

As for generational needs, they’re not all that different, Schroeder says. “You’re a person. All people, for the most part, want the same things. They want to feel valued. They want to feel supported.”