The Modern Employee
In my last post I kicked off a series on corporate culture and its impact in the growing war for talent within the electrical construction industry. In today’s post I’m going to delve into an intriguing interview that I conducted recently, just for this series. In addition to adding context to the corporate culture discussion, this story helps to highlight how the modern employee, though different from previous generations in many ways, still works hard as hard as their predecessors and can be counted on to deliver results.
Recently I learned about a young woman who is at a cross roads in her career. She works for a successful company, enjoys above average compensation for her position, and has been awarded numerous promotions and raises as a direct result of her ambition and hard work. In fact, before even hitting her 3rd anniversary with the company she has risen from being an entry level data analyst to an upper management position where she heads up one of the company’s accounting divisions.
Directly responsible for a team of 5 (and on the hook for their performance too!) she has demonstrated the ability to deliver on just about every task she has been handed. So far it sounds like she has it pretty good, right? What on Earth could cause this person to start looking elsewhere?
Her Road Blocks
As great as everything sounds, it’s not the entire story. While her meteoric rise through the ranks has given her an incredible sense of accomplishment and financial gain, she can’t help but feel that she’s reaching the end of her journey with her current company.
“Why?”, you may ask. Well, it’s simple and it boils down to one thing. The corporate culture at her company simply doesn’t mesh with her expectations any longer.
For example in her role as a manager, she has always tried her best to create an environment of transparency and accountability for herself and the rest of her team. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t fully recognize the value of that environment and, therefore, they are slow in learning how to inject those successes into other areas of their business.
In addition, they some times publicly undermine the authority of various managers and they seem either unwilling or unable to grasp the impact that approach is having on other elements of their business. When you hear someone talk about a company having a “bad” culture, this is one example of what that can look like.
In situations like this, corporate culture will either convince a valuable human resource to head for higher ground, OR it’s going to drag staff into a scenario where their morale is going to drop. HR professionals and C level execs have got to recognize the role they play in scenarios like this.
Keeping your eyes and ears open may mean all the difference!
The Millennial Challenge
In our example today, the woman in question is a millennial and I think it’s important to address a few things that she brought up during our chat. These few nuggets from the interview that struck me as highlights to how her generation handles work conflicts differently than their predecessors. Here’s one such take away:
“My generation gets such a bad rap for being lazy, or acting entitled, but I just don’t understand that. I work so many hidden hours from my dinner table or while I’m watching my daughter play at the park, Most of my nights and weekends involve me tapping out business related emails or texts on my iPhone and that extra effort is often overlooked by my superiors. It’s not like I’m looking for overtime or something, I’m on salary, and I know that extra hours are part of the mix. I just wish that my company would recognize that it leads to me feeling like I’m basically always on the clock and my boss is always just over my shoulder, ready to hand me a new task.”
This is something I hear time and again from the modern employee. The baby boomer’s idea of a work-life balance has shifted tremendously for tech savvy millennials. Gone are the days of taking two weeks off every summer and leaving your work “at the office” every evening. The modern employee carries a sort of always on mindset with them and that can take quite a toll when it’s leaned on too much by an employer.
Changing The Tone
When I pressed this young lady on what she would change if she could, she had a short list of pretty reasonable recommendations that she’s brought up with her company. Hopefully they are considering these, but if not, they definitely should be. Here are just a few of the items she brought up:
- A company I worked at years ago offered a very attractive tuition reimbursement program for any employee who was enrolled in higher education courses. Encouraging and incentivizing an employee’s higher education means the company has a chance to get higher production from that employee.
- I work a lot so the gym has become a main stay in my social calendar. Offering a company gym membership or some health oriented bonuses for employees would be a great way to encourage better living. I’m a lot more productive at work when I can exercise away my work induced stresses.
- I know that Social Security will be long gone by the time I retire so an attractive retirement or profit sharing plan would play a huge part in my long term financial security. I’m naturally going to feel a little more loyal to a company that contributes to my future and not just my present.
- Pay raises are great for individuals, but non cash compensation (i.e. corporate events, silly prizes for the best decorated cubicle at Halloween etc) can go a long way in building up the team culture.
These are all great suggestions if you’re courting the millennial workforce or if you’re trying to change the tone of your existing corporate culture.
In my next post, I’m going to focus on tips and tricks for employers who already have good culture, and want to kick things up a notch. Keep reaching out to me in email and on social media with your stories too! These examples from the field help bring in the real human impact that makes this subject matter so interesting!