Sustaining Innovation in the Millennial Age

Innovation and “growth hacking” consultant explores the forces that drive Millennial Engagement, and the surprising connection to innovation culture.

Last month I hosted a RiseSmart webinar (recording available) in which I explored 5 core factors that drive Millennial engagement.  We ran past the hour as I attempted to answer some AWESOME questions from the audience.  In a series of blog posts, I will address each of these questions in more detail.

In the interim, here’s a quick recap of the webinar for those who missed it:

Recap of Webinar

While advising clients on innovation, I discovered interesting correlations between Millennial engagement and innovation (more to come in my upcoming book).

Given my findings, it is no surprise that many traditional enterprises score low on BOTH millennial engagement and innovation.  And while startups and technology companies “crush it” (as Millennials say), a select group of mature companies also score highly.

So how have some companies figured out how to land on the Best Places to Work list? I’ve identified 5 core characteristics that give these companies an edge with Millennials.

Principles Driving Millennial Engagement

Five Core Principles Driving Millennial Engagement

Achieving the Trifecta: Values, Purpose and Communication

The first question I received on the webinar was one that comes up often.  The question gets to the heart of why startups and founder-led companies consistently out-innovate incumbents.

Question #1 from Audience RiseSmart Webinar

Speaker’s Response

During a company’s annual strategic planning process, leaders should review the company’s mission and identify gaps in delivery. In high growth divisions, where new hires or changing industry dynamics are at play, this purpose alignment exercise should take place frequently.  We counsel our clients to embrace the “what gets measured gets done” philosophy; even in soft skill areas like culture and purpose.

The companies that appeal to Millennials pro-actively cultivate a purpose-filled culture.  Creating an environment that prioritizes excellence (PURPOSE) while remaining nimble, respectful and diverse (VALUES) does not happen by accident. In fact, leading organizations hire de facto Chief Culture Officer(s) to manage and motivate their workforce.

Now here is some potentially devastating news. If a company does not uphold its purpose, the millennial “authenticity” police will issue a warning.  In the worst cases, crusading employees flock to Glassdoor and other social outlets to expose the “truth” about your organization/product.  Consider this a fraud alert on corporate lip-service.

This is the primary reason why startups and technology companies score high with Millennials. Many founders are still tied to their companies, so they infuse purpose and values into every product, hiring decision and marketing message.   Laser sharp focus, coupled with an open, feedback-rich culture allow organizations to build cult-like employee engagement (think Google, Facebook, Hubspot and Airbnb).

Startup management teams are typically generous with information and devoid of bureaucracy (COMMUNICATION).  Low-level employees enjoy high levels of responsibility and accountability.  In turn, employees look forward to all-hands meetings and social gatherings.  Millennial employees garner a sense of pride when their company matches speech with deeds.

Millennials are seduced by high levels of authenticity and trust.  As a result, organizations with strong values, purpose and clear communication are magnets for top talent across all generations. It’s interesting that this finding challenges the stereotype that Millennials lack loyalty and job hop.

… Innovation Bonus

And finally, based on years of consulting innovation-seeking clients, I believe it’s also at this intersection of values, purpose and communication (work/life balance is the cherry on top) where innovation blossoms.  That’s a double win for companies that have adopted our suggested approach—higher millennial engagement AND a culture that supports innovation!

Your Thoughts?

So let’s hear from you: does what I described above sound like the culture at your corporation or startup?  Please share your thoughts on this post.  We would love to read your comments below.  And follow me (Blog, Twitter, Linkedin) to subscribe to this series and be a part of the conversation!

 

Lockie Andrews is the CEO of Catalyst Consulting (www.catalystconsult.com) , a boutique advisory firm to retail and consumer brands, digital, media and technology companies, as well as venture capital and private equity funds. With 20+ years of general management experience, Lockie has assisted high growth companies (e.g. Nike, Lane Bryant, Limited Stores, and various high growth startups) in diverse areas such as strategy, innovation, digital marketing, revenue enhancement, operational/financial improvement and fundraising. Lockie is also a sector lead for the HBS Alumni Angels of NYC.

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