March 18

Shaping a Culture for Millennials – by Vanessa O’Shea

Vanessa O’Shea is a leadership consultant with a passion for seeing people work to their unique strengths. Here she discusses how important it is for us to shape a culture for Millennials.

“I always give my all at work, I can’t understand why others don’t” was the comment from a 21 year old intern, referring to someone twice their age, who was, shall we say cruising.

This was a typical comment from a Millennial, a term which describes those born between 1980 and 1995. Post-millennials are those born after 1995. This generation (or young people as I like to call them) have particular qualities because of the time in history in which they have grown up.

As leaders and employers, it’s especially important for us to understand this generation as in 2020, 50% of our workforce will be made up of those 40 years and under. So we need to start thinking about engaging and retaining them.

6 ways to shape a culture that will engage and retain young people

1. Check your values and ensure they are being outworked. 

Young people often have strong personal values e.g. they are more likely not to buy from or use services where people are exploited, or damaging to the environment. How do you prioritise the environment? How fair are your practices? And do your values line up with your operations?

2. Let your young people have a say in your present and future. 

Recently, young people have been finding their voice. Involve them in your strategy. Mentor them, but also get them to mentor upwards. They can bring fresh ideas and ways of doing things, and help you to consider how what you do or produce impacts society and the environment.

3. Be flexible. 

For this generation, the line between work and play has blurred. With a strong value of accountability, they want clarity in what is expected of them. However they want flexibility and autonomy in how and where they work. Think outside the 9-5; introduce flexible hours, remote working, etc.

4. Ensure that your IT and communication systems are effective, and up-to-date.

This people group are used to instant communication, having grown up with the internet. If they are forced to use systems that are slow you may find they get frustrated and leave. Be clear about use of phones at work, but you may have to become much more lenient. Warning: you may have to train them in writing emails professionally, avoiding text speak and emojis lol.

5. Review your reward systems. 

Young people are as interested in work-life balance as financial reward. As well as giving them heaps of praise and recognition, consider offering gym memberships and be generous with your annual leave entitlement.

6. Create an open-door policy.

Lose the hierarchy. Young people are used to having access to the rich and famous via social media, and will expect to be able to access the CEO and senior managers. We have a choice whether we are going to expect our young people to fit into our existing structures or whether we work with them, to take our organisations into the future. And if the young intern quoted in the introduction is reflective of the younger generation, I know who I would be working hard to retain.


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