What kind of culture do you have?
If asked, how would you describe your workplace culture? If your employees were asked to describe it, what would they say? For the first time in history, five different generations are in the workforce at the same time. This historical situation brings cultural expectation challenges for human resources, as each generation has experienced different eras in time, world events, communication styles, and technology advancements. It is important to remember that generational context is about common experiences, and different people require different approaches.
Traditionalists prefer a work environment that is conservative, hierarchical, and has a clear chain of command with top-down management. They believe work is an obligation and a long term career.
Baby Boomers prefer a work environment that is democratic, humane, offers equal opportunity, and is a warm and friendly environment. They believe work is an exciting adventure, a career, and that they will work and then retire.
Generation X prefers a work environment that is functional, positive, fun, informal, and offers access to leadership and information. They believe work is a difficult challenge, a contract, and ultimately just a job.
Millennials prefer a work environment that is collaborative, highly creative, positive, diverse, and fun. They believe work is a means to an end, they want fulfillment, and they crave flexible work arrangements.
Generation Z (Coming soon!) Early research shows Generation Z prefers in-person communication and well-defined chains of command, and with their can-do attitude they have a strong desire to have their ideas and opinions heard. They believe work should offer technology-rich environments as well as be flexible and include private, open, social, and fun spaces.
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What kind of culture do you want?
The kind of culture you want for your organization will likely not just happen on its own, and culture is not something you see except through its physical manifestations in the workplace.
- Are there people knocking at your door to join your team? Workplace culture can help attract and retain top talent. After all, people are an organization’s most valuable asset.
- Are employees engaged, laughing, and smiling? A good culture drives employee engagement, which produces higher productivity as well as employee happiness, optimism, and satisfaction. Happy employees typically have happier customers.
- Is communication across all levels strong? Open and honest communication builds trust. Everyone should have a good understanding of the missions and values of the organization and how each individual employee’s contributions, efforts, and loyalty affect the entire team. Communication takes place in many different forms: written, one-on-one, small group, and entire organizations.
How do you move from the culture you have to the culture you want?
Following are simple suggestions to help start to build or continue to develop a cohesive and positive culture:
- Foster open conversations about growth opportunities and try to promote within.
- Hire character as well as skill when looking for new hires; most of the time in that order. You can teach skills, but you cannot teach character.
- Lead by example and keep it authentic.
- Help avoid workplace stress and burnout. Encourage balance and have some fun!
Changing a culture does not happen overnight. It needs to be reinforced from the top to the bottom of an organization, with all leaders on the same page.