Company culture is important because it influences the way employees feel, behave, and work, and can impact individual as well as department performance. Entrepreneur.com describes company culture as: “A blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals and myths all companies develop over time.” If your company opposes marriage equality, for example, many Millennials who support it will have no interest in working for you, regardless of how well the job pays.
Millennials are generally defined as the generation born between 1982 and 2004. With a 61 percent , they are the most diverse and educated age group thus far, valuing learning, helping others, and a sense of purpose above all else.
What Do Millennials Want?
What this means, in terms of employment, is that what worked for previous generations, especially the Baby Boomers, does not work for Millennials. And since this generation will make up an astounding 50 percent of the workforce by 2020, if you want to succeed, it’s in your organization’s best interest to understand what they need in order to thrive—and give it to them.
People in their 20s, especially college students and recent graduates, have a whole new set of expectations for their career path, and it’s not the stable, corner-office, retire-at-65-with-a-gold-watch one of the older generations. This is a group of individuals who would choose purpose and happiness over six figures any day of the week. Between their high education level and expectations of job-hopping after just one year to find what they’re looking for, it’s going to take more than a fancy title and a placard on an office door to retain these valuable workers.
A Different Way of Working
For 90 percent of Millennials, the perfect place to work is at a startup rather than a huge corporation. This is because of the company culture that most startups invest in, which aligns with the Millennials’ values and beliefs. What are these values? Flexibility, sense of purpose in their work and their lives, helping others, collaboration, open-space working environment, IKEA office furniture, ability to exercise or nap in the middle of the day, and free food.
This is not to say that the typical Millennial worker is lazy or entitled, as many people have been quick to label them. It’s that they have a different way of working. This generation is the first to have grown up entirely in the digital age, which has not only shaped the way they use and think about technology, but also the fact that they expect to experience creativity and innovation in the jobs they perform. And it’s hard to be creative and innovative when you’re locked to a desk in a stuffy office for a solid eight hours every day. All the great thinkers, from da Vinci to Einstein to Steve Jobs, got some of their best ideas not while at their desk, but rather “goofing off” or relaxing. 53% of Millennials are willing to put in long hours or work weekends to complete the task or find the solution—as long as they feel valued.
Importance of Company Culture
Company culture goes beyond free snacks and in-office massages. This concept is so vital because statistics clearly show a correlation not only between employee happiness and productivity, but also between employee happiness and business profit. Happy employees are 12 percent more productive than unhappy ones because when you feel good, you’re automatically more engaged in the work. And a consequence of low engagement in the workplace is a 33 percent reduction in operating income as well as an 11 percent decline in earnings growth.
A positive, flexible, and creative environment makes Millennial employees feel valued, inspired, and like they’re part of a family. They want to feel like they’re an important component of an organization with a strong, purpose-driven mission. As Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO said, “No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”
Keeping Millennial Workers Happy
Just because your business is not a startup doesn’t mean you can’t provide that kind of environment. Try creating a “mini startup” floor or section of the office. This is exactly what MasterCard, Coca-Cola, GE, and IBM have done. These forward-thinking companies are training executives to think in new ways, like seeing “failure” as simply a step on the success ladder, holding innovation contests, and inviting investors to come speak at their organization.
So here are a few key points about how you can provide a company culture that keeps Millennials happy, engaged, and productive:
- Mentorship. It’s not just about the paycheck. 53% of millennials are looking for mentorship to help them improve their skills and be more productive. Encourage an open door policy where they can ask questions and get advice from the higher ups.
- Transparency. Remember, this is an entrepreneurial generation that doesn’t want to be just a worker bee; they are interested in how the company runs so that they can best help. Be open about the company’s purpose, structure, and future, and invite feedback.
- Flexibility. Millennials know that their best work doesn’t always fit into a traditional nine-to-five schedule. Being open to personalized hours or working from home can result in your employees becoming more creative, productive, and fulfilled.
- Volunteering. Wanting to help others and make a difference in the world is important to this generation. According to a study by Achieve, a company’s social consciousness policy (i.e. giving back to the community via volunteering) affects 55 percent of Millennials’ decision to take the job.
- Fun. It’s no secret that Google is known as one of the best places to work. Why? Because workers, managers, and CEOs have fun! Try offering free snacks, catered lunches, open spaces, game rooms to blow off steam, nap rooms to refresh during those long work days, massages, etc.
So rather than simply taking everything that you’ve heard about this generation at face value, understand it’s not that Millennials are unmotivated, it’s that they’re motivated by different things than previous generations. If you ensure that your organization has a company culture worth getting excited about, you’ll not only attract and retain valuable employees, you’ll also watch them flourish and change the world—starting with your business.