Creating A Company Culture That Maximizes Millennial Engagement

Think back to a typical office in the United States during the last 20 years and what do you visualize? A majority of employees in business attire working in cubicles or dark offices with a desktop computer and a palpable sense of stress and anxiety swirling around them. There was less collaboration and a lot of time spent on formalities and protocol. These are outdated hallmarks of American industry that are no longer conducive to modern productivity.

The era of the millennial professional is upon us and too often I hear about the lack of respect and entitlement attitudes that others observe of this generation. Perhaps it’s the business leaders of the world that need to wake up and embrace change. I believe we need to meet in the middle to help the new generation understand how to be effective in growing a business while also understanding how the new work environment should be more enjoyable and collaborative. It truly can be both work and play together to get a much better combined outcome than either extreme.

One roadblock to creating a positive work environment is that companies are making a point to improve diversity within their organization for public perception or to appease shareholders, but fail to offer a workplace culture tailored for a diverse workforce. They don’t realize improvements in hiring and promotion need to be equally balanced with an inclusive and empowering workplace environment.

The reason that our organization has been so successful in maintaining a diverse workforce and empowering culture is because we haven’t needed to force programs to improve diversity. Women traditionally have made up half of our executive team and we take a bottom-up approach to both work-related brainstorming and in organizing fun events and volunteer opportunities. Each and every member of our team is respected, and their ideas are celebrated.

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There is no magic formula to create a positive culture. The culture simply needs to be genuinely inclusive and embrace each individual, no matter what their background is. Employees of any race, gender or age need to be valued and feel that leadership is listening. If organizations can focus on this, they will learn that a diverse workforce becomes an outstanding atmosphere for great ideas, new perspectives and great productivity.

The goal of any organization should no longer be improving diversity statistics, the goal should be to celebrate a diverse culture and empower people. A culture that allows each and every member of your company to succeed and feel supported by peers and management.

Although it may be a partial myth that millennials aren’t motivated by money, it’s clear they prefer a laid-back work environment. Ping-pong tables, yoga classes, fit bikes and interactive Wii video games can not only provide work-life integration, they can build collaborative skills.

Perks can also boost a company culture from being faceless to one that speaks directly to employee values. Free lunch one Friday a month, time off to work for a charity, pet insurance and flexible work schedules are more in line with what millennial employees really want.

Sound like too much f-u-n (gasp)?  Progressive culture can also include a “whatever it takes” mindset. One program that I’ve found particularly effective is having employees nominate their co-workers for an award, oftentimes based on positive feedback from clients who they’ve seen do whatever it takes in their jobs. Several winners are chosen each month and they receive $250, a trophy and a chance at a prime parking spot.  They also get a chance to join a new and improved version of the old sales “President’s Club” trips. Including top performing team members from all departments in an annual all-expenses paid trip not only rewards and encourages individual excellence but it helps to further foster a team approach to growing your business.

Rewards and perks aren’t the only things that make a young staffer feel valued. Having a purpose can both excite them and give them the freedom to innovate. On-the ground experience in a project that is of strategic importance provides them with gratification and opportunities to learn directly from senior staff. Lay out a challenge and clearly communicate the goals and what it will look like when the mission has been accomplished. Help them learn new skills and feel appreciated for a job well done.  And also show them a career path both within and outside your company. If they see there is a path to progress and advance their skills they will be more open to actively participating in your company’s growth. Tap into what matters to them and don’t just assume they will accept a prior generation’s values such as “blind work ethic” without clearly articulating how the job and work will benefit them and our society.

I’ve found that many millennials are full of innovative, fresh ideas but may not feel empowered enough to voice them publicly. They may not have had prior experience in a corporate setting and just need some coaching on how to feel empowered and given a more open environment in which to do so. Create a comfortable culture where they can let their creativity shine, ask them what they are thinking and encourage them to think outside the box. Think of new ways to reinvent the old “suggestion box” through team brainstorming sessions and awards for innovation that include rewards for actually implementing the ideas. If they truly believe that you value the ideas they bring to the table, they’ll develop a sense of confidence and feel more invested in the company. And clearly explain why or why not around “next steps” as it relates to their ideas, plans as well as any direction the company is following.

The truth is, no generation can be defined by any one thing. When trying to engage millennials give them the opportunities to show just what they’re made of. In order to get them on board, we have to create the environment in which to do so as well as help them understand why we are doing what we are doing to benefit not only our employees, but also our clients and communities.




Alexi Venneri is the co-founder and CEO of Digital Air Strike, a leading social media and digital engagement company. 

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.


Diversity, Management & Leadership, Workforce Development,
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