Millennial Think Tank: What Makes a Productive, Happy Work Culture

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On our Think Tanks this month we are tackling the components of a productive, happy workplace. We are looking at the topic from each generation’s viewpoint in order to measure what challenges still exist and how to optimize your work environment.

Our Boomer Think Tank weighed in a few weeks ago, and now we hear from our Millennials.

Before I give you the overall insights, here are a few relevant statistics to be aware of.

A recent report by Workplace Research Foundation states that:

  • Increasing employee engagement investments by 10% can increase profits by $2,400 per employee, per year.
  • Highly engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above-average productivity.
  • Companies that foster engaged brand ambassadors in their workforce report an average of 2.69 sick days taken annually per employee, compared to companies with weak engagement efforts, reporting an average of 6.19 sick days.
  • Companies with engaged employees, outperform those without by 202%.
  • Companies who implement regular employee feedback have turnover rates that are 14.9% lower than for employees who receive no feedback.

Our panelists this week included:

 

What are the major components you need in a productive workplace?

There was a lot of synergy around this question for our panelists; the key elements for their best workplace are:

  • Autonomy and a degree of freedom; it is essential that they are given clear instructions on what the project goals are, but then they need to be left alone and empowered to execute.
  • Growth development opportunities are incredibly important for our younger workers; mentoring is a necessary part of this. Structured mentorship programs within the organization are hugely beneficial and inspire loyalty.
  • Adequate pay for the work our Millennials are doing is a must; interestingly, the majority of our panel thought they were being paid adequately. The issue of being honest about your value and the work you are doing was raised. Of course, we all want more money, but employees need to be.
  • Belief in leadership; employees way down the ladder are paying attention to the C-Suite, what you say publicly, and what you do privately. If you’re on social, your employees are following you and paying attention to what you say. Hypocrisy is the death knell for productive environments.

Mentorship’s Role at Work

All but one of our panelists had a mentor of some sort; most had a formal mentor they personally sought out and many had more than one. All agreed that a mentor must not only be able to hold you accountable to your goals, but be open enough that you can turn to them with any life problem.

  • A good mentor knows what your faults and strengths are, and is tough on you to keep you on track. They make you better because you know they’ll question your plans.
  • Vanessa participates in her company’s veteran’s mentorship and women’s leadership program and thinks that these specialized and targeted programs are incredibly important.
  • Daniel’s company (SAP) has a mentorship program in part because they realize that a huge portion of their workforce will be retiring within the next 5 years. Due to his experience, Daniel suggested that younger people looking to launch their careers should look for an enterprise that has a training and development program.

 

The Office Plan

There is a lot of talk about how ‘community oriented’ Millennials are; some companies have interpreted this as a directive to make all workspaces communal – literally tearing down the walls and creating one large and open office. What we found was that:

  • Our Millennials have a love / hate relationship with the open office environment; for collaboration it’s great, but there are times when a door and a peaceful office is a godsend.
  • The reality is that the individual personalities of the employees IN the open space really affect how functional it is; some people just don’t belong in that format. One person who cannot control their impulses to chatter constantly can ruin the entire environment. Chemistry matters.
  • A private space is essential – somewhere to go when it’s important work needs to be done.
  • All of our panelists agreed that “the hard work” requires privacy.

 

Communication with Supervisors

Much of the hype around Millennials suggests that they are so tech oriented that they require a new way of communicating; that’s not what we hear, repeatedly, from our Think Tank members. Here’s what they tell us about how they want to communicate with their supervisors:

  • Phone calls or in-person meetings are desired at least 3 times a week by our panel; email is not a preferred method for this important relationship.
  • One-on-ones are not as common as workers would like; mostly because all parties are too busy. With the overly productive American workforce, sometimes supervisors need to remember that simply checking in to make sure you’re both on the same page is helpful.
  • The immediacy of feedback, good or bad, is important. The traditional method of yearly or even quarterly performance reviews isn’t enough. Our Millennials were unafraid to ask for feedback, but they realized that it depends upon the person,  the supervisor, and on whether they want to stay within the company.

Conclusion:

For the most part, our Millennials want what the entire workforce wants: the ability to learn on the job, autonomy, and NOT to be micromanaged. They want clear, personal communication with their supervisors.

Mentorship is different for this generation in that they are at the beginning of their careers, and having an older, experienced mentor is incredibly important now. Most interestingly we suggest that companies stop making assumptions about the kind of physical workplace that younger people desire, and make sure there is ample space for them to have quiet and privacy to really get down to business.

Listen to the full podcast or watch the entire hangout below:

 

VP of Content & Strategy at ArCompany. She has an extensive background in Sales, and focuses on generational marketing and content. With Hessie Jones she founded ArCompany's Millnnnial, GenX and Boomer Think Tanks and writes and speaks on those topics from an insights/strategy perspective.

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