Making Company Culture Accessible To Millennials

March 25, 2016
Written by Bloomfire Admin

As millennials become a larger part of the workforce, many employers are struggling with how to attract and keep millennials happy in the workplace. According to Pew Research Center, in 2015, millennials surpassed gen X in numbers and now makeup the largest share of the American workforce. In 2020, people ages 18-33 will account for approximately 50 percent of the workforce, with numbers growing in years to come. Although most companies are acknowledging this influx, many are unsure about how to handle these changes. I think many organizations are overthinking this.

Millennials aren’t that different than the rest of your organization. Sure, we may have a higher standard when it comes to modern business tools, but at the end of the day, we want to work in a place where we feel secure in our jobs, valued, informed, and connected.

According to this IBM study, there are many myths and exaggerations when it comes to millennials. In fact, millennials and older generations have many of the same workplace desires as the rest of your workforce, like job security and stability. Due to living through times of economics fragility, millennials actually want assurance of a long-term career, rather than just a “job.” With many companies facing a retention crisis, catering to that desire can prove effective. Companies can help employees feel more stable and connected by encouraging them to seek mentors who can help widen their professional networks and deepen their skills. Providing the opportunity for mentoring and training along with regular feedback, builds a much more transparent and trust-filled culture.

Obviously, company culture is important. At its peak, it energizes your employees. It gives value to work and drives up productivity. A positive, inviting, and collaborative environment encourages employees to love their jobs. Everyone knows happy employees make productive employees. And, the reality is, your employees are most likely millennials who are increasingly the key decision-makers in a job. Unfortunately, so many companies fall short of this kind of inclusive company culture.

However, building a rich corporate community that inspires and engages a multi-generational workforce can be challenging. For one, each generation is assumed to have its key traits and values. It’s easy to assume that millennials expect a completely different work environment than previous generations or that they will leave a company the first chance given or that they are glued to their smartphones. But is all that necessarily true?

One of the exaggerations IBM discovered was the myth that millennials are digital zombies with little regard to non-virtual communication. While there’s no doubt that millennials are a more tech-connected generation, it turns out they are actually overwhelmed with all this information. According to CornerSD 38 percent of U.S. millennial employees say they struggle with technology overload compared to 20 percent of the older generations. A solution to this information overload could be a central hub, think of it as a “collective brain,” where all this information could be easily stored and searchable on command.

But perhaps the most overlooked insight to millennials is that they feel disconnected from their employers because they don’t understand their employer’s mission and key business strategy. In fact, this issue affects everyone. A majority of the multigeneration employees IBM surveyed don’t entirely understand key elements in their organization’s business strategy, and their leaders are partly to blame. This means that within organizations, communication is poor, leaving room for disorder and unproductivity. If the core of your business processes are unaligned, how can you expect employees to communicate and see eye-to-eye?

Everyone, across all generations, values collaboration and wants it engrained in company culture. Yet, 38 percent of employees say there isn’t enough collaboration in their workplace. Not all hope is lost, however. There lies a hidden opportunity in all this commotion. According to Forbes, the key to implementing a fantastic company culture is to create sustainable, day-to-day collaboration that allows younger employees to use their connectedness to enrich their work to share new ideas to solve problems. Digital tools need to achieve this goal by empowering employees to increase engagement across functional areas. Social learning increases collaboration by making it easier to share information and have an open communication between management and the whole team. Don’t be stumped by your organization’s culture, let it flourish and enable your employees to thrive.

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  • Sean Whitfield

    A company I used to work for had a millenial workforce and communication issues were a common topic in meetings. Open communication was highly encouraged. This often led us to evaluate business practices and decisions by management and give our input. Instead of cohesiveness, it caused tension between employees and their bosses. Instead of a lasting and happy conscientious workplace, people were afraid to speak out for fear of backlash. Constant turnover and firings stemmed from dissent between employees and managers. How can we encourage open communication without questioning current processes? How do managers make decisions and encourage input while not having everything questioned?

    • Unfortunately this is a very common problem in communication. Leaders ask employees to give honest feedback and be transparent but as it turns out they can’t handle the truth. And who could blame them. Accepting feedback is a skill that takes lots of practice. The best leaders bring in a third party to assist with 360 reviews. An impartial party assists leaders through the feedback so they can determine what to take away and apply. “How can we encourage open communication without questioning current processes?” The answer as you suspect is you can’t. Creating a transparent culture means leaders are open to all topics. Leaders can certainly try and guide the conversation but if employees go rogue to a topic such as “bad” processes that subject needs to be addressed. If employees are being held back by a truely bad process or don’t understand a good process or it’s meaning in the bigger picture, that needs to be addressed.

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