6. Figure out what your employees want Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2009

Peter H. Griffith understands his employees today live in a different world than he did when he was starting his career at Ernst & Young LLP. As vice chair and managing partner of the Pacific Southwest region, Griffith has spent a good portion of his 28-year career thinking about the environment in which people work.

“Ask anyone at the firm why they stay here, and they all say the same thing: our people and the culture that they’ve created,” he says.

Griffith has taken a close look at the 2,200 people in his region and learned that flexibility is a key component of retention. He communicates to Gen Y employees on their level and has created systems to promote flexibility.

“I try to understand what they’re looking for,” he says. “I speak to our new-hire groups and have a two-way dialogue (to learn) what are they trying to get out of their experience and their career at Ernst & Young.

The firm has partner-Gen Y panels, which pair younger employees with senior executives for conversations about the work atmosphere. The key is realizing the best way to get more from your younger employees is to start a dialogue about what they expect from you.

Griffith also likes to “play on their field” and created the company’s first Facebook page. He texts potential job candidates and created a blog that he uses to foster a two-way forum for real-time feedback on issues that employees see in the firm. He pushes this with things like Starbucks gift cards to the first five or 10 responders who respond to posts with viable ideas or suggestions, giving him fodder for ongoing dialogue.

It is through these communications that Griffith realized what many leaders today fail to see: Younger employees want to work hard, but the old rules are out.