At 35, the oldest millennials have been punching a time clock for a while. But as the last of the generation prepares to graduate college, the group—54 million strong—will secure its stronghold on the workforce. As further evidence of this watershed moment, Fortune magazine published its first ever ranking of the “100 Best Workplaces for Millennials” last June.
Although trendy perks such as free lunches and pet-friendly offices get attention, surveys confirm that what millennial employees really value is open communication, collaboration and support, Fortune reports.
So, while much ado was made of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to offer free food to corporate employees at the tech company three years ago, the real focus in implementing the program since has been on “creating a stronger community through food,” says Spencer Plaut, Yahoo’s senior manager of culinary experience.
What does that mean in practice? For Plaut, whose position was created slightly less than a year ago to improve and enhance the employee dining experience, it means turning feedback into action, almost instantaneously.
Yahoo employees are able to submit feedback electronically. In turn, that information is funneled into a tool that Plaut uses to collaborate with foodservice vendors and his team to respond to requests and make adjustments to the menu. “It’s a great tool to improve morale, but more importantly Yahoos’ [i.e., employees’] voices are heard,” says Plaut. “They’re having a huge play in the creativity [of the menu].”
To meet millennials’ desire for innovative flavors and dishes, Yahoo’s menus change every day. “Many other corporate-dining accounts will serve Mexican food every Monday and Asian food every Tuesday, cycle for two weeks and redo that cycle,” says Plaut. “We don’t have any menu-rotation cycles.” One day’s offering of Simmered Nopales Cactus with Fragrant Shiitake Mushroom or Spiced Lap-xuong Sausage with Wrinkly Long Beans and Sriracha Garlic Glaze—two examples from a recent Yahoo menu—may be different the next.
Equally important to the variety and creativity of the menu is the story behind it. “I’m really trying to push the ‘why.’ We need to have a reason for every single thing we do, because millennials are vocal and they will question, ‘Why we are serving this on this day?’ or 'why we are menu engineering that?'” says Plaut. “So I’m really pushing the team to be very well educated for everything that we menu at Yahoo.”