I recently attended the National Millennial Community trip to Omaha and Kansas City on behalf of my university, the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. As an international guest, I was excited to meet a vibrant cross-section of Millennials from across the United States and hoped to contribute my unique international perspective to discussions with our host companies.
Over the course of two and a half days we visited six host companies in the Mid-West, including the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, FlyWheel, Spreetail, Andrews McMeel Universal, Sandbox and Sprint. While we touched on a vast range of topics from brand perceptions to employee benefits, a recurring topic in every discussion was the idea of ‘workplace culture’ and how companies could engender a culture that successfully appealed to Millennials.
While ‘culture’ has become somewhat of a buzzword for Millennial workers, its importance cannot be understated. Culture goes to the core of an organization and in my opinion impacts every ounce of the employee experience. One of my favorite discussions at the NMC conference was with Mr Dusty Davidson the CEO of Flywheel, a software start-up in Omaha, who spoke about “optimizing his workplace for happiness”. He does this by spending 30% of his time “finding and recruiting extraordinary people that are impressive, passionate about their craft and seeking to make an impact”. It was clear after meeting Mr Davidson, touring their offices and seeing the Flywheel team at work, their culture-first focus was engrained in every aspect of their business.
During my time at the NMC, the question “What does positive culture look like to you?” was asked frequently by our host companies. Despite the growing conversation around this topic, the concept of ‘culture’ remains ambiguous to most. I think one of the greatest misconceptions attributed to the Millennial Generation is that our perspective on work culture is superficial. While games, scooters and office dogs can be an exciting novelty, our conversations regarding culture at the NMC painted an overwhelmingly serious picture of what Millennials truly value. To me, a positive workplace culture is one that supports personal and professional development, empowers ethical decision-making and provides guidance from strong and transformative leaders. These sentiments were reflected by many others in the NMC, who also added flexibility and transparency to this mix.
And of course, fostering a positive workplace culture isn’t only beneficial from an employee standpoint but also extremely valuable from a business perspective. At the end of the day, happy employees are better for business. This reality that has been accepted and championed by many significant international companies (think Warby Parker, Netflix etc.) who prioritize employee culture and as a result generate higher retention, productivity and business growth. In this age of social media, a company that invests in the happiness of its employees is likely to galvanize a strong base of Millennial brand ambassadors who will shout their praise across LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram when a company gets it right.
Overall, my trip to Omaha and Kansas City with the National Millennial Community was extremely exciting and insightful! It was a pleasure to meet all of the incredible, driven and intelligent Millennials who are all looking to change the world in their own way. It was also amazing to see that so many of our host companies have embraced the shifting workplace attitudes and are being proactive to positively engage with the Millennial Community.