Blended Generation Think Tank: What Makes a Happy and Productive Work Culture?

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This Think Tank brings together GenX, GenY and Boomers to discuss the importance of work culture: what keeps them engaged and what keeps them loyal?

Our Boomer Think Tank ,  Millennial Think Tank and GenX Think Tank have weighed in.

The Definition of Work Culture via Wikipedia is:

Culture is the character and personality of your organization. It’s what makes the organization unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviours and attitudes.

It is the “way things get done”.

Work Culture is one of the more important and trending topics within the #FutureofWork today.

  • According to Choose Culture, employees no longer feel trapped: “The recessional fear of losing’s one job has significantly abated”. Top talent have options. Consider the when the financial crisis hit in 2008. At that time while companies were forced to downsize, the emergence of a freelance economy gave rise to an increasing entrepreneurial market set to tackle the ever volatile economy.
  • Networking tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Glassdoor enable people to easily monitor and find information about any company and the job opportunities. Employee reviews from sites like Glassdoor provide job-seekers a transparent view into company culture to evaluate opportunities for fit.
  • PWC’s Saratoga Practice Study 2013 pointed out that critical talent is leaving at a rate 20% higher than the year before. Since the recession, the first year turnover was 24.1%, which was the highest since before the recession.
  • Millennials, by their sheer numbers, are also driving change in the definition of work. According to Entrepreneur,

A career means much more than a stable place to work for 25 years and employees are looking at company values, meaning, community, and culture.

Our panelists this week included:

Tiffany Daniels – Millennial, Communications within Workforce development, Austin, TX

Albert Qian – Millennial, Marketing within High Tech in Silicon Valley

Mila Araujo – GenX, Director of Financial Services, Montreal, QC

Jillian Jackson – Millennial, Digital Marketer in Real Estate, NYC

Stephan Thompson – Genx, Supervisor, Auto Insurance, Reading, PA

Martin Waxman – Boomer, Digital Communications Consultant and PR


Primary Insights:

Expectations, when entering the workforce, were greatly influenced by economic conditions

For the most part, everyone on the panel has had multiple jobs. While their circumstances have varied, some common themes surfaced:

  • The goal of achieving the “ideal” job did not exist, especially in the last decade.
  • The goal of getting a job and keeping it was a priority.
  • There was an expectation of a constant change in career paths.
  • Getting varied job experience and developing more skills was very important.

When I graduated I was told that most people would change careers 5 times in their lifetime and I took it to heart… Every step I took in my career was to continue to enhance my skills and morph with the demands of the environment. ~ Mila Araujo

“We are all free agents”

Martin noted that Millennials may be blamed for being disloyal to companies and leaving too soon. In reality, this generation is responding to the new workplace rules that GenX and Boomers may not have accepted:

There are no jobs for life anymore. ~Martin Waxman

Zero-Overhead Growth (ZOG): When times are tough and companies still want to grow, but the costs of operations continue to rise, the knee-jerk reaction is to lay off people with the highest salaries, and hire people to replace them at a cheaper rate. The workplace has created this mentality that no one is indispensable.

While Stephen has maintained a great career and now is extremely satisfied with his current work environment including the benefits and flexibility he’s afforded as a result, he also contends,

If I was offered a job somewhere else and [it gave me what I currently have now] I would go because if push came to shove, they would get rid of me in a heartbeat. ~Stephen Thompson


People are generally happy in their current work environment

Among Millennials, all are currently engaged in their current jobs. Common threads stood out within this discussion:

    • A good boss cares for his/her employees. They are supportive and they foster a learning environment.
    • While all are realistic they have to put in their “time” to learn the ropes and to pay their dues, all expect to move and grow within the organization over time.

I am more happy than I expected to be… I don’t generally like working for people. After a certain amount of time, I get bored or feel stagnant and tend to take on interests at a different rate than the position that grows with you. But as my interests grew, the position and requirements took on a new growth spurt and I had something to strive for. ~Jillian Jackson

    • Mila, a GenXer, who helps foster a culture of employee engagement, noted that if employees have opportunities for growth they will stay. But leaders need to listen to what people are saying and respond to their “unique” needs and give them the tools and resources to grow within their own definition.
    • At the same time, Mila pointed out that churn isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People should stay as long as they “should” stay. Mila’s managed to shift her department many times to manage to strengths of its team members and has given them more possibilities with their roles. Ultimately, if the individuals have greater development goals or they want to go somewhere else, then it’s ok as well.

The approach management must take is to understand why people leave, improve it if it needs improvement and [be in tune with the pulse of its people].~Mila Araujo

Companies should foster increased trust

  • A culture of siloed-mentality does not foster empathy if people ONLY take accountability for their own deliverables. As Stephen noted,

We try to get our inside people to understand what the field guys are up to and empathize with them [and vice versa], with the goal of providing the necessary resources or suggestions to help each do a better job.

  • Trust has to be earned. Trust in management is not a given.
  • Employees will work harder if you trust them to do what they do.  Provide them with the autonomy to do the best work they can

I will trust my employees until they show me otherwise. ~ Stephan Thompson

Millennials are optimistic but pragmatic about their future

Albert, Jillian and Tiffany are realistic about what the future holds for them as they journey through their respective careers.

Some insights from GenY:

  • It’s a matter of survival and you should proceed with your eyes open. Keep looking for new opportunities “because something may make you happier”.
  • Great relationships will enable and help your future. It’s important to maintain them and avoid burning bridges.
  • Remain relevant, continue learning and keep on your toes.

Albert summed this up nicely,

If the last 5 years told me anything, it will be a continued roller coaster ride. I’m going to learn a lot about myself. I’m going to make a lot of mistakes. I’m going to do a lot of succeeding. I will continue to meet amazing people.

As much as I want it to be a little quieter and less chaotic, it probably won’t be. I think how I succeed and where I succeed will be totally dependent on whether I can pick myself up and be versatile in what I can do… and be creative in how my career moves forward. ~Albert Qian

You can view or listen to the hangout in its entirety below:

Photo source: Flickr

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