Millennials And Workplace Culture: Do They Have To Match?

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As much as we talk about workplace culture, is it really necessary for it to fit a specific age demographic? It may depend on the industry. Some fields are innovative and fluidly structured by their very nature; others function on a more conservative social order by necessity. Equity management may depend on a stricter hierarchy than software development; retail has an entirely different mindset than robotics. And in an industry where mentorship has been a longstanding tradition, traditions are going to be part and parcel of corporate tutelage.

Still, there has to be some intersection. And given that GenY and GenZ is a larger and larger wave of the employee populations — as well as the new leadership — better at least to understand some of the differences. Giant qualifier here: I don’t believe millennials are a separate species, and in many ways, the blended workforce has far more in common than not. But given that the engagement of the new generations is critical to success going forward, here are three key characteristics:

Transparent transparency.

Not surprisingly, Millennials like transparency — including a sense of the total company story well before joining. But they don’t like insincerity. Do any of us? In a workplace looking to recalibrate its culture, a veneer of change, rather than a drilled down cultural shift, is a universal red flag.

Best to check your motives: if a major corporate tenet is “be quiet, sit down and get your work done,” then a decision to foster more creative participation may be a difficult

adjustment, though the resulting greater engagement is well worth the effort. But if an invitation for more collaboration turns out to be a smokescreen, the result may be the opposite.

Allowable informalities.

While some Boomers may bridle at informalities, it is part of the new workplace. It’s generally true that Millennials don’t necessarily address the boss with a bow or a Sir or a Madam: they tend to acknowledge and connect with the person first. Also, they may assume that being invited into the conversation is a real invitation, not a courtesy.

One interesting push against the whole issue of honorifics is the online playing field, in which even the C-suite will call themselves by their first names — and for Millennials, online is as real (if not more real) than offline: we’re all avatars at heart. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t a grasp of a person’s title, or authority. Just means we’re people first. Not a bad idea.

Talent is talent.

The prevailing misconceptions of Millennials have been known to drive some very bad hiring strategies. Not sure how a preference for values and relatable mission got translated into “they don’t care about a good salary,” since they do. Same with “short attention spans,” which is probably a bastardization of their facility with tech (that glazed nod may well be because they already know how to work the thing), and short character span communicating.

That they don’t want to work long hours: on the contrary. Once loyalty is earned, it’s a fervent, go-for-it kind of work ethic. Actually, the very fact that millennials tend to frame their work in terms of values as well as salary means that they will have a deep level of engagement if they are engaged. That’s what used to be called a win-win.

The truth is, Millennials are millennials, and a company is a company  — and there will be times when one doesn’t entirely fit the other. But gaps can be filled with good mentorship, conscious feedback, and great communication. A blended workforce is just that. It takes both sides to work together.

Photo credit: on ゆりかもめ…. via photopin (license).

Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized Talent Management and HR Tech strategist, digital catalyst, author and speaker. As founder and CEO of TalentCulture and Co-Founder of the #TChat World of Work Community, she has worked with hundreds of companies, from early-stage ventures to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google, helping them recruit and empower stellar talent.

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