How Millennial Decision Makers Can Drive Change in Company Culture

Millennial motivations and aspirations can be a great driver for change in company culture because we are at a point where they are the corporate decision-makers.

Do you know what the Great Resignation is? It is a social phenomenon that sees a record number of people leaving their jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. That is why employers are currently focusing their efforts on finding ways to retain their best talent – by nurturing their needs in light of the mess caused by the pandemic. A big part of the challenge is connected to company culture – a phrase we heard a lot about in the past year. 

While company culture was not something past generations thought of (the meaning of the word “job” was completely different 30 years ago), modern generations, and more specifically Millennials and Gen Z, pay close attention to how a company conducts itself. Studies show that Millennials currently represent the majority of job applicants on the market, while Gen Z is just now entering the workforce. Having spent the last two years adjusting to the realities of Covid and lockdowns, as well as social, economical, and political changes around the world, both groups are strongly driven by the desire to bring meaning and more purpose into all areas of life - and that includes their work too. 

We tend to mix Millennials with Gen Z, but the truth is that Millennials have already had the chance to build their careers and are currently occupying more than 60% of managerial jobs. That, combined with their drive for real change, completely changes the way we perceive company culture, and luckily, the voices for change are now corporate decision-makers. 

If you are a millennial (we know you don't want to think of yourself as one but bear with us) in a position to lead the change, you may wonder how to influence it, especially if you are only stepping into a managerial role. You want to create a more meaningful work environment where your team members grow and thrive so they feel more motivated and productive to do their job and bring results. Here are a few examples of what little steps you can make, that will have along-lasting impact on both employees and the company.  

1.      Introduce transparency

You are part of a generation that is just a click away from access to information. You want it, you google it, you find it. That is why having information is extremely important to you. Your team members will likely feel the same way and will value transparency in organizations, whether it is about their successes or failures and the relationship between the two. 

The first thing you do is to be as open as you can about the workings of the company. Your team members should be able to understand what is the motivation behind company decisions, the good and the bad ones. People should know how they contribute to the company and in its strategy. Set up goals and have one-on-one meetings with team members to explain their responsibilities and paint the big picture for them. Remember to always leave room for questions and feedback. Do they understand their role? Do they feel they can contribute in some other way? 

Second, try not to pretend all is perfect when it is not. Businesses face challenges every day. Saying there are no problems is just not believable. What is essential to know is how to present these challenges. Try to be strategic in a way that presents a problem and then also proposes a solution or at least some kind of action. If you only paint a bleak picture, people will panic and overreact. A true leader accepts the problems and finds solutions by keeping their gaze forward. Your team members will feel your strength and will follow suit. 

Finally, make people understand that sharing information makes them responsible for that information. If confidentially is needed, stress on it. While you should strive to be transparent, you need to know that your people can be trusted. It is at wo-way street. 

2.      Allow work-life balance and flexibility. 

Quite honestly, the old style of rigid boss-employee relationships is over. Flexibility is king right now. 

If there was one positive outcome that came out of the pandemic, it was that companies around the world were able to see that employees can be equally efficient when working remotely – this means either from home or from an entirely different location. While changing location might have some legal or tax limitations (check with your boss), giving people the freedom to work from anywhere not only allows balance and flexibility but it builds long-lasting trust. It is the best way to show your employees that you are confident they can perform even when they cannot be personally supervised. And no, don`t go crazy on the online monitoring apps and devices either. The more freedom you give, the more they will engage. 

One big mistake many managers make when allowing home office is concentrating too much on the hours worked rather than on the outcome of the work. An employee might work the whole 8 hours but if their work quality drops, you have a problem. Try giving your team members the freedom to manage their schedules, so long as they reach their goals, meet expectations and deliver results on time. One way to do this is to leave your calendar open to show people what is acceptable and what is not. Don`t be afraid to schedule lunch break or coffee break in less productive hours but then deliver like a boss when required. If you are a good leader, people will follow suit. 

3.      Autonomy is king

People might like having a structure to help them navigate their work, but they don`t like to be bossed around. People have their ambitions when it comes to their jobs and it is your job as their manager and leader to give them the independence and autonomy at work to achieve them. If you nurture this rather than fight it, you will boost their drive and achieve better results for your team. 

When it comes to autonomy, it is up to you, as a manager, to provide guidance and sometimes even coaching. The more you empower people to achieve things on their own, the more they will feel proud of themselves and will strive for more. They will believe in their work and the contribution they are making. 

When it comes to giving advice, it is more useful to share your experience rather than give orders. Let people understand what you went through, draw their conclusions, and make improvements. You might be surprised. 

4.      Do they know the impact of the company on the world?

As we already said, Millennials and Gen Z are both driven by social change. In a survey by Monster, it was found that 74% of Gen Z employees ranked purpose as more important than a pay check at work. Now you know how important it is to demonstrate what the company`s impact is on the world. What is it trying to achieve? How is it helping? Is it on a large or small scale? It can be in many different aspects –from the product/service the company is offering to your individual team`s work; from events and donations to a balanced company culture nurturing community; from graduate programs to post-maternity career programs. 

If you can`t answer that question for them, think of ways to impact their lives in a meaningful way. It could be by creating meaningful mentoring programs, personal development courses, internal career sponsors, or leadership coaching. 

5.      Focus on employee well-being. 

Jobs are no longer defined by the hours people work, nor are they restricted to the walls of the office. As a manager and a leader, you can take meaningful steps to ensure that the company takes employees' well-being and their mental health very seriously. Try to introduce activities that cost nothing, but have a great impact on their work-life balance. For example, introduce meeting-free Fridays or casual Wednesday or longer lunch break Tuesday. Encourage them to occasionally take personal days off to focus on their mental health without having to give any explanations. They will appreciate it and will drive themselves to produce results. It is a win-win for everyone. 

Most importantly, you as a manager and your company as an employer should be aware that the time for real change has arrived. We are going through real evolution of culture that emphasizes trust, purpose, and wellbeing. If you are in a position to affect real change, this is your chance to shine.