By Zsarlene B. Chua, Reporter

One BPO firm’s secret to making millennials stay

Posted on September 02, 2016

IN recent years, there’s not a word that is bandied about more often than “millennials,” or the generation that’s currently ruling the work force. For many, these people aged 18-34 are a curious set and are often described as the generation who “express little loyalty to their current employers and many are planning near-term exits” (this according Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s fifth annual Millennial Survey, released in 2016). Millennials are commonly perceived as lazy and entitled.

TaskUs’ office in Cavite is called “Lizzy’s Nook” and resembles the interiors of a coffee shop.
In the Philippines, around 45% of the total employed work force is aged 15-34 according to an October 2015 report by the Philippine Statistics Office.

But while many employers are struggling to adapt to this segment of the work force who only stay in their jobs for two years -- this according to a Forbes opinion article published last year -- there seem to be some who are bucking the trend and are managing to win over this generation.

“I think millennials get a bad rap: the generations past criticize them for wanting to be themselves and I don’t think that’s fair,” Bryce Maddock, CEO and cofounder of TaskUs, told BusinessWorld in an interview held in late July at his office in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

TaskUs is a Santa Monica, California-based company which started as a virtual personal assistant company in 2008 and has grown into one of the fastest-growing business process outsourcing (BPO) firms in the country, with more than 5,300 employees with offices in the Philippines, the US, and El Salvador.

The company, which serves clients such as mobile dating app Tinder and social media apps such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Whisper, prides itself in its high retention rates (“86% in 2014 and about the same in 2015”) mainly because it is investing heavily in its employees while knowing that it is important for these same people to spread their wings.

“While I think there’s a need for a certain degree of loyalty, I also think it’s okay for millennials try a couple of other things before deciding where they want to spend the rest of their career,” said Mr. Maddock.

“At a macro level, staying in the same office for your entire career probably doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t think it’s bad for people to work for three or four different companies throughout the course of their career -- I encourage that sort of exploration. I think a job at TaskUs is excellent for someone that’s just out of the university or maybe a second or third job but if we were working for people who’ve been with us for 30 or 40 years, will I be okay with that? I’d actually ask the question, ‘why not go off and experience something else?’” he added.

Mr. Maddock said that while their employees’ ages range from “20 to 70,” the majority are in “their 20s or early 30s” and some employees “have been with us since the start.”

In the Deloitte Millennial survey, where nearly 7,700 millennials from 29 countries were surveyed between September and October 2015,” it found that the millennials are value-driven individuals who sees work-life balance as “the most important drivers of employer choice -- excluding salary” at 16%, followed by opportunities to progress/be leaders (13.4%).

“Throughout history, if you look back at the beginning of the 20th century, the people at home were different [from the people they were] in the workplace, and today, people want to be the same person whether they are in the office or at home. So as a result, you’ve got people who really bring their personality to work... and it makes sense if you think about how much time we spend in the office -- the majority of our waking hours are spent in the office -- so the idea of being a different person in a professional setting, I don’t think resonates with our generation,” Mr. Maddock pointed out.

The 30-year-old CEO who founded the company alongside his friend Jasper Weir, are considered millennials themselves and it is because they are millennials that the bosses of TaskUs invested heavily in making their offices welcoming. TaskUs offices are decked out in varying themes: one of the floors of the Anonas, Quezon City office (called “Chateau Ridiculous”) is done in steampunk style with chain link fences and a rust/metal color palette, while the office in Cavite (“Lizzy’s Nook”) was designed to look like a coffee shop.

Mr. Maddock said the company invested around P250 million for the steampunk-themed office alone.

Aside from the offices, the company also boasts about perks including “Happy Hour Fridays,” “free flowing coffee and music,” gyms, and a relaxed dress code (smart casual), among others.

“We want our offices to feel like the first-class section of an airplane, not the economy class, and [the expense] is absolutely worth it. If you’re going to attract the best talent in the industry, they’re not going to go work in a cubicle farm, they’re not going to work in a place where they’re not going to see the light of day. If you’re going to attract that caliber of talent, you have to provide them with an experience and an environment that is much better than the typical BPOs are able to provide,” he said, before pointing out that TaskUs is still “very selective of the people we offer jobs to,” and that it hires fresh graduates who are “at the top of their class.”

And it seems that this investment in people and cool workplaces is doing very well for the company as Mr. Maddock said that TaskUs aims to exceed last year’s revenues of $53 million and targets $80 million by yearend.

Mr. Maddock added that the overall goal of the company is not to be “the biggest but the best” and as such will not take clients from the “telecom businesses or the financial businesses” because “we don’t want our teammates on the phone to be yelled at by angry, rude, American customers all night long,” and instead focuses on “innovative start-ups.”

The company has earmarked $15 million for expansion in the Philippines in 2017 and it is currently looking at a provincial office in Luzon.

“Right now, we want our next office to be in Luzon because we want to keep it within driving distance of all the offices we have today, but it’s likely we’re going to venture afoot in 2017,” he said before adding that they’ve looked at places like Cebu and Davao.

Outside the Philippines, he said that they would “most likely open in Colombia” and are looking at having “10 offices in five countries and over 10,000 employees.”