Creating a Thriving Long-term Culture to capture the Millennial Talent
There is a “ Google gimmicky” culture that is believed to be the answer to hiring millennial talent. Segways, free lunch bar with organic and sustainable this and that, open office space and beanbags have become somewhat of a standard in the tech industry. I’ll admit – These offices do appear inviting but I have heard rumblings where employees wouldn’t mind a traditional space. Shocker! In reality, these on-site office benefits do not actually matter when it comes to engaging and retaining employees.
According to several studies of millennials in the workplace, respondents ranked “free food” as one of the least important elements of company culture. Sure, catered lunches might boost employee morale once in a while, but it’s a losing strategy if you’re trying to help your employees feel like they’re an integral part of a thriving organization. If you really want to establish a company culture that facilitates higher engagement and retention, unlimited snacks and an on-site gym aren’t the answers. A greater good is more desirable! According to Harvard Business Review, millennials, roughly 50% of the global work force, want work that connects to a larger purpose. According to Hewitt Associates, companies with higher levels of employee engagement outperformed the stock market by nearly 20%. B Corp certification demonstrates to employees that their company walks its talk and gives them tools to set goals for continuous improvement. Perhaps it’s time to consider joining the many ccompanies that has made the switch, Patagonia, Google, Zappos, Starbucks, Sas Instiute and many, many more!
Here are three key ways to establish a culture that will keep your employees thriving over the long-term:
- Show the opportunities for career growth
The best employees want to be challenged. If you don’t give your employees the chance to do hard things, they’ll stop trying and they’ll stop engaging. Even though this might be easier said than done, as a leader it would benefit you to see that it is your job to help people do things they didn’t know they could. This means clearing the career path to let them shine, which is why putting out the message that you do not hire for “today.” Look for employees who not only do their core job well, but those people who are also able to take on the responsibilities for the next five years. In other words, look for employees that have a long shelf life. The day of the “set” job description is dead. That puts employees in a box and tells them to only operate within those boundaries. Job descriptions kill innovation and stifle creativity, leaving employees feeling trapped.
You would want employees to feel comfortable searching for answers on their own. Remember this is a generation that has grown up learning a lot from the internet and YouTube videos, searching for answers is at their fingertips and in their make-up. This not only facilitates individual employee growth, it also gives people a way to demonstrate their talents and move up within the organization. Having said this, employees also need to see tangible examples that they have this freedom to grow. Build people, give them opportunity and then hold them up as examples so other employees know that they can do the same thing if they’re creative and take advantage of doing “hard things.”
- Focus on good management
If you want to keep your best employees, you need good leaders. The best leaders are the people that step away from the traditional management model and focus on being mentors and team players. A leader’s primary role is to create an environment that encourages employees to teach and learn from each other so that everyone can achieve extraordinary things. Good managers aren’t overseers or solo performers, instead they set the stage so their entire team can perform.
In same studies on millennials I’ve found that the quality they desired most in a boss was a willingness to be a mentor or a coach. They wanted that almost twice as much as they wanted someone who was kind, trustworthy, or even an expert in their field. Nobody wants an overseer. If you want to keep your best employees, be a mentor yourself and model that kind of “in the trenches” leadership you want to see from the people who work for you.
- The organization must be fluid, not static
Part of creating a strong culture is realizing that most people don’t know exactly what they want to do. Figuring out what you want in your career is a process, and that’s okay. As CEO, I think the job is also to focus on creating a fluid environment where people have opportunities to move throughout the organization and find the job that best fulfills their passions. When hiring, try to look for the potential and passion vs. a “somebody” to fill the position because they look great on paper and would fit the job description. Instead, always hire “potential”. Potential who would be defined as smart, talented people who can pivot to take on a number of different roles within the organization, who have the fire to stand by the brand/ company/product through ups and downs, the one that is excited about more than the available job but also what it stands for, the one that can truly see themselves here. This “potential” will not only be your talent that fits in but also a great “brand ambassador” and recruiter for future open positions. When hiring potential over perfect fit, you’ll hire someone who is eager to develop a variety of skills. When you can give them the flexibility to do that, everyone wins.
Establishing a fluid culture also means that company leaders need to decide what percent of talent they want to grow from the inside and what percent they want to hire from the outside. Organizations will have to do both, but we’ve learned from experience that giving existing employees the chance to grow and take on leadership roles much more inspiring than hiring from the outside.