Company Culture: What Millennials Want = What’s Good for Your Company

Photo Credit: Stokpic

Company culture has become a hot topic in the last few years, and it’s clear that it has evolved a lot in the past few decades. There’s plenty of talk about why company culture is important or how you can create and foster a great company culture. Many job postings boast about collaborative work spaces, flatter organizational hierarchies or flexible hours, but I feel like many companies are merely paying lip service because they think “It’s what the Millennials want.” Hopefully this article puts into context why Millennials want these things, and ultimately why they’re beneficial to the companies that have them.

It’s a Small World After All 
The Internet, online conferencing tools and cloud computing have all made the world a smaller place. People can work from almost anywhere and people from almost anywhere can work together. Workers are no longer tied to their desks — they have the flexibility to choose when and where to work. Remote work and virtual teams have also allowed for greater diversity of thought and innovation
Technological breakthroughs and competitive pressures have forced companies to evolve and become leaner and more agile to stay competitive. Companies are becoming more results-based and less focused on punch cards, and this is a good thing. Employees want to be able to determine how to best spend their energy instead of simply trying to look busy. Companies should be offering their employees more autonomy and flexibility because it’s beneficial.

Photo Credit: Pexels

A Lean Machine
Many job descriptions now boast about flat hierarchies, transparency and collaboration. Why are more companies embracing this flat hierarchical model, is it simply because it’s what Millennials are asking for?

Backing up a bit…

The organizational hierarchies of traditional firms were proving slow in responding to market shifts. Rapid technological innovation and global competition in the 1970s led Toyota to develop and implement the “Lean Enterprise” model (with great success). The Lean Enterprise model emphasized among other things:
 — Deriving value from customer satisfaction.
 — Identifying internal processes that add value for the customer
 — Eliminating non-value added activities across the organization
 — Reducing waste and inefficiencies, streamlining processes.

To remain competitive, successful companies rid themselves of rigid and inefficient top-down decision-making. Boundaries between different units within companies became blurred in order to enable knowledge sharing, collaboration and innovation. With decision-making authority less centralized, employees were given more freedom to do what’s in the best interest of the company (often outlined as the company’s mission/goals) and managers were seen as supporters and coaches rather than bosses.

It’s easy these days to say “Well, that works fine for a startup,” but flatter company structures work for all companies. Business leaders have successfully adapted “Lean Enterprise” principles and methods beyond manufacturing to software and tech to retail sales, construction, and service industries. Lean thinking has spread to every country in the world.

Photo Credit: Pexels

The Job Hopping Generation
The rising prevalence of job hopping can’t be explained away by saying Millennials are fickle. It has a lot to do with companies constantly reorganizing their employee and staff structures to maintain their competitive advantage. It’s no longer expected that employees will have a lifelong career at a single company. And I mean, it makes sense, technological innovation has changed job titles and descriptions faster and more often than ever before. It’s probably time to stop frowning upon job hopping Millennials, and it’s time Millennials stop apologizing for it.

While the old relationship between employers and employees emphasized job security and advancement within the company, present day relationships have increasingly become more about developing and training employees and offering them work/life balance. And again, this is a good thing.

Photo Credit: Office Snapshots

Office Space
When not eschewed altogether, the office has become a shared space for collaboration. Companies are shifting away from cubicles and C-suite offices in favor of more open office environments, but it’s not simply for cosmetic purposes. Collaboration sparks ideas and innovation, and creates opportunities for employees to share their knowledge and experience. Employees are increasingly encouraged to move around, collaborate, share and socialize rather than being confined to their desks to perform a specific task. Successful modern companies realize that the best collaborations and resultant innovations come from social interaction. Offices are increasingly designed with open areas and communal work spaces to facilitate and encourage collaboration and communication — it’s a bonus that they look great too.
This Modern Workplace ❤
Successful companies are agile; they react to technological change faster than before. They’re more focused on providing value to their customers because they know their competition will snatch them up at a moment’s notice. The changes we’ve seen in the last few decades to work culture reflect necessity more than simple catering towards Millennials. It’s becoming harder to dismiss “startup culture” when we witness the innovation and financial success of these companies. Many companies are still clinging to their traditional cultures and cubicles. If they’re not willing to change with the times, they’ll most likely be left in the dust. Most importantly, companies must realize that culture is more than just adding a ping pong table to the office. 
Like Brad Pitt’s character Billy Beane says to a baseball scout dead set on doing things the old fashioned way in Moneyball: Adapt or die.