A Millennial Perspective: What Makes a GREAT Workplace

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I work as a Branch Manager for a Credit Union in Pennsylvania where I have been employed for over 5 years; a bit unusual in the current work environment where on average, millennials are leaving their companies in less than 3 years. My experience in Management, Information Technology Services, Branch Operations, Project Management, and Process Efficiency, has allowed me to experience our culture from a lot of angles. While there are some small differences, the vision, mission, and core values have always been consistent as everyone works together to complete a common goal.

Training & Development

You know development is a part of our organization’s culture from the moment you step foot into our offices. I was actually hired as an intern / scholarship winner and I never left. Over 5 years later, I’ve been through every one of our mentor training programs.

Our scholarship program is designed not just to hand out money to college students, but to provide them with an 11-week work experience to help train and develop crucial business skills you cannot learn from sitting in a classroom. I attended orientation, training, shadowing, job rotation, meetings, etc. The experience was invaluable to me in learning the foundations of our culture and how it functions today.

Annually all of our employees must complete training requirements specifically geared toward our core values. They are installed in us and we fulfill them each and every day. Beyond those core values training requirements, we have elective training to help our employees grow. There are shorter classroom programs, and longer programs (6 month, 1 year, and 2 year programs) with different purposes. Some of them are structured, some are freer.

Regardless of the programs, by design, you will only get out of them what you put into them – continuing our culture of employee learning.

Management Support

There are three different perspectives to look at in terms of management support: how your manager supports you, how you support your manager, and how you support your team as their manager. In my organization, this culture is aligned; this is a significant part of what makes it great.

My managers support me:

I have been blessed to have consistent support in each area within the Credit Union. One of my very first managers pushed through an exception to get me into a mentoring program that I was not eligible for at my level. Anything I asked for that make sense, he made happen.

How I support my manager:

This one is extremely important because if you’re not supporting your manager, how can you expect them to support you? Know what makes your boss tick. For example, my boss is extremely competitive and does not like to lose. This trickles down to her team of managers and therefore none of us likes to lose either.

We work hard so we can play hard. I know my boss would do in most situations, so I can think like her and make similar decisions. This means I have to bother her less often and can have the freedom to do my own thing.

Supporting your team as their manager:

If you’re a manager this is more important than anything else. I take this to an extreme; whenever my team makes a request, I will bend over backward to ensure we can make it happen. Whether it is a random Saturday off, or teaching them something beyond their job description – I support them.

And I support them immediately. Sitting on something for weeks or months to slow roll the idea/inspiration will damage the morale of your entire team.

I am for them personally too. You spend more time with your co-workers than you do your own family; treat them like your 2nd family and they will respect you even after you’re no longer their manager.

Freedom to Do My Own Thing

I manage a team of 7, including myself. We have fun, and we work hard to earn the right to have that fun.

As a manager, I have a budget that I am responsible for. When I make purchase decisions, I always look at 2 things:

  1. Is this purchase a necessity.
  2. Will this purchase benefit my team (directly or indirectly)?

For example, did you know it’s possible to purchase Pillsbury Ready to Bake chocolate chip cookie dough under a supply budget? The supply budget may be intended for pens and paper, but my team enjoys when I bake warm chocolate chip cookies in our toaster oven on a slow afternoon. The fact that I have the freedom to do something that may seem insignificant is actually very powerful.

With  freedom comes responsibility. In the book It’s Your Ship by Capt. D Michael Abrashoff, he says his decisions need to pass what he calls is “the New York Times test.” If he makes a decision, would he be proud or ashamed if the story ran on the front page of the New York Times the next morning?

If he would be proud of his decision, he moves forward. I tend to follow this same philosophy in my decision making. Remember, even if you fail, if you’re supporting your manager they should support you in return chalk the failure up to the cost of trying to be better. Just do not ever repeat the same mistake and you will continue to have autonomy.

Conclusion

Culture is extremely hard to define verbally; most of the elements of culture are grown organically, and can be very difficult to change. Always remember, you control your own attitude – chose to be happy. If you’re happy, it will become contagious and infect the people immediately surrounding. Remain aware that each and very little thing you do and touch within your workplace can impact your work culture.

Photo credit: five via photopin (license).

T.J. Adkinson is a manager of a Credit Union branch, and a member of ARCOMPANY’s Millennial Think Tank.

3 thoughts on “A Millennial Perspective: What Makes a GREAT Workplace

  1. Joe says:

    A very well written article that shows that Teamwork on all levels makes a business stronger.

  2. Susan Silver says:

    TJ, this is a great post. Culture is hard to define, but so important to how the company functions. A bad culture will be reflected in everything the company creates. Particularly in customer service. How companies treat employees will impact how employees treat customers.

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