Creating a Culture Where Millennials Can Thrive
You’ve probably heard it all already so we’ll cut to the chase. Millennials are important. They’re the future of the economy, and yes, of your organization too. However, generational change in organizations isn’t easy and there’s uneasiness about passing the baton to this group or welcoming them into the club.
Millennials and Your Organization’s Future
By reviewing the context and perspectives Millennials bring to the office, we can better understand what shifts are necessary in order to build a strong, sustainable culture that supports everyone.
The facts you probably already know (via the White House’s Economic Report):
- Millennials now represent the largest generation in the United States, comprising roughly one-third of the total population in 2013
- Millennials are the most diverse post-war population in the United States (15% were born in a foreign country, 14% identify as Black and 21% identify as Hispanic)
- When polled, Millennials rated quality of life, relationships and making a positive social impact as their biggest goals (other generations chose security, advancement, and earnings)
- Millennials represent more than one-third of the workforce, and it’s growing rapidly
Some you may not have considered:
- Many Millennials were in their most formative years during 9/11 and have been talking about culture, religion, and global economics since they were children
- Evidence shows that working Millennials are staying with their early-career employers longer than Generation X (despite the job hopping assumption)
- Millennials were raised in racially diverse and inclusive (working alongside those with disabilities) classrooms and see more people as equals than any generation before them
- Millennials watched the obesity epidemic dominate TV news their entire childhood – as they’ve come of age, they’re passionately invested in healthier lifestyles
- Millennials learned about the corporate world by watching major scandals unfold: Bernie Madoff, Lance Armstrong and Livestrong, Enron, Martha Stewart, BP’s oil spill, Barclay’s Libor-rate rigging, JP Morgan Chase, and more
- Millennials have grown up with unprecedented access to information, an answer is never far away and they know exactly where to look to find a solution to a problem
- Many Millennials were shown career opportunity, but faced a recession as soon as they were of age to join the workforce
The Culture Conversation
Research reports show that investing in your culture can directly correlate to profit. And, some of the momentum behind the culture movement is driven by the ideals Millennials have brought to the table. Based on the facts above, here are five ways that investing in your culture will positively affect the way you work with Millennials.
They’ll Thrive on Awareness
Transparency, transparency, transparency. Millennials have been able to Google almost their entire lives and are used to getting answers quickly. They’re also pre-disposed to disliking closed doors and have watched society demand honest communication. Now, not all business information is appropriate for the youngest members of your staff and that will never change. What has changed, however, is that you have a group of people that desire to see the bigger picture. They’re interested in supporting a cause bigger than themselves. Help make them aware of what drives decisions in your organization and of what role they can play in support of those decisions.
You’ll Inspire a Sense of Purpose and Belonging
Investing in your culture means taking an honest look at who you are, what you believe in, and where you want to be. Knowing these answers and sharing them with the Millennial team will keep them fighting for your cause. If the company history is rooted in the beliefs and morals of the founder, explain it to the new workers. Teach all employees that while the business has transformed and evolved in its modern state, the organization is still guided by a strong set of principles to live by. Even if the new generation of workers did not know the founder, they want to understand how the belief system drives their actions today. And more importantly, they want to be able to connect the work that they do now to the greater purpose of the company.
You’ll Invest in New Ideas
Consider that Millennials are trained to participate. Earning an A in K-12 or college classes usually meant working hard for a 25% participation credit. Teachers and professors encouraged them to speak up, ask questions, and be involved. And yes, it goes without saying this also led to “participation trophies.” But, while the trophies or grades may have created a false sense of accomplishment, they did build an impulsive, subconscious passion for being involved.
Give your Millennials an award to enter, the chance to plan a teambuilding event, or even just say, “I need ideas, what’cha got?” and you’ll have people volunteering left and right to please you…because yes, they want that recognition.
You’ll Grow an Accepting, Inclusive Team
Millennials grew up with a heightened sense of equality and diversity. Most of their parents shared work and family responsibilities at home. At their core, Millennials believe every voice should be heard. They also believe their voice carries the same weight as everyone else’s. And, their keen sense of inclusivity causes them to seek involvement through expressing opinions. So, as they enter the workplace, they may need a reminder that an opinion doesn’t equal authority or experience. The coaching opportunity to gain here far outweighs the difficulty or patience required to entertain new thoughts. For better or worse, this group is hard set to break down barriers. They’re fighting for equality, open communication, and clear pathways. While they may be advised on “knowing their place,” they can be the champions behind helping you move forward together, as a team.
You’ll Create Community
With Millennials in the room, definitions of success are changing. Younger workers see their job as a part of their whole life, not just as a paycheck. Therefore, they want to be employed in organizations that support community welfare; practice environmental sustainability; care about health and wellbeing; and give them the ability to balance job and life or childcare needs. “Take our children to work days” are expected. Today’s young families bring their work home quite often and they want their children to grow understanding they are part of an organization that cares about family as well as profit. Job for them can be an extension of family in the broader sense.
How to Change (or Shift) Organizational Culture
Creating a change or shift in your company culture to help this generation of workers thrive is a secret to longevity and sustained business. But, beginning this process without the correct starting point can create more challenges. An assessment of where your culture is today will provide the initial validation and build an awareness within your team to help lead you in the right direction. And, it will provide the groundwork for an engaged millennial workforce – one where new talent can develop to become your organization’s future. Start your culture assessment today and involve your millennials in the process and the outcomes.