CommonSense Blog

Millennials Unplugged: How to Ensure your Company’s Cultural Efforts won’t Crash and Burn with Millennials

By Andrew Petro | Aug 11, 2015

What do you do when you’re not working? No matter what the generation, many will consider this same question, especially when the weekends come around. However, when asked who they will be with, Millennials have their own perspective on how peer-to-peer relationships should occur in the workplace.

Older generations are known for separating their work lives from their personal lives, but this is not the case for Millennials. Known as the digital natives, this demographic connects with peers on Facebook and interacts with colleagues outside of normal business hours. An infographic from PGI details how 71 percent of Millennials want their co-workers to be like a second family. To accommodate the growing number of Millennial employees who build their workplace relationships out of the office, organizations and businesses are rethinking their cultural efforts to better attract and retain top talent.

After all, a positive corporate culture is more important to Millennials than money. According to a survey from CNN, a full 60 percent of 2015 grads said they would rather work for a company that has a “positive social atmosphere” even if it means lower pay. A LinkedIn survey also reiterates the Millennials’ need for community building in the workplace. Of all respondents, 50 percent said workplace friendships motivate them, and 39 percent said these friendships make them more productive.

Still, actively creating camaraderie at work is easier said than done. In fact, this is where a majority of cultural efforts tend to fail—when the employer tries to play too large of a role in forcing friendships. In the Miami Herald, workplace consultant, Cam Marston, stated the most successful companies encourage young workers to take charge of creating the camaraderie they want at work themselves.

“Young people are saying we want a happy hour or we want a cooking class and we would like to organize it,” Marston said. “Employers are then facilitating those activities by giving Millennials space on the bulletin board or Intranet and not frowning when requests are made.”

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W2O Group and its culture committee have a similar perspective on this aspect of employee engagement. According to Lauren Barbiero, media manager at W2O, the culture committee allows anyone in the office to participate or take the lead on things that are meaningful to them. She emphasized that this results in more active involvement because everyone genuinely wants to be involved.

In the New York office, a dodgeball team has epitomized how community building can be embraced by coworkers. Since its inaugural season in the spring of 2013, it has become a staple cultural activity for W2O. Meriel McCaffery, senior manager on the Corporate & Strategy team, said, “It definitely has helped me get to know folks across the company that I never usually work with.”

At W2O, there’s even a committee dedicated to—you guessed it—Millennials. A typical agenda for the Committee of Millennials includes socializing time, professional development activities and discussions with senior leadership. Led by Millennials for Millennials, it’s an opportunity for this group to discuss things that are meaningful to them.

Organizations that want to foster a community-building atmosphere for its Millennial employees need to stop overthinking it. The best relationships are formed when authority figures sit back and let the employees take the lead. Friendship is not something that can be forced. But, when Millennials have an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals, their peer relationships will inevitably follow.