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.

Startups

Time to Stop Judging & Start Mentoring Millennials

Sustaining Innovation in the Millennial Age: Why Everyone is a Millennial

Originally posted on RiseSmart’s blog.  

In a four part series, innovation and “growth hacking” consultant, Lockie Andrews outlines the primary forces that drive millennial engagement – and the surprising connection between millennial-friendly cultures and innovation.

Last month I hosted a RiseSmart webinar (recording available here) in which I presented 5 Ways Innovative Companies Attract and Retain Millennials.

MILLENNIAL RESEARCH

A quick search on Amazon reveals over 5,000 books on Millennials. The research studies and academic papers on this generation are equally voluminous.

It seems everyone has chosen a side in this debate. Are Millennials different from prior generations? Why do they still live at home with their parents? Do they deserve the title of entitled and lazy?

What’s lacking in this debate, and what I plan to contribute, is a forward-looking and constructive analysis on the impact Millennials will have on future organizations.

After all, whether they are different or the same, and whether you like or dislike their behaviors, Millennials are who they are. They will change, like all generations, but change will come slowly- and the business world needs them now.

To build my prescription for Millennial engagement, I based my research on a recent study by Gallup. I prefer Gallup’s How Millennials Want to Work and Live, 2016 because it presents survey results with low bias and judgment.

What’s also compelling about the decades of research from Gallup, is the easy comparison between empirical data sets for Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. There is clear evidence that Millennials are the least engaged generation at work (at this age), and that there are other substantive differences from prior generations.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-12-30-14-pm

I’ve been mentoring and working with this cohort for some time, so these differences have been clear to me.

I’ve spent the last few years figuring out ways to engage and motivate Millennials. Because, honestly, it doesn’t matter what others think about their generation. Our opinions and assessments of Millennials will not change these hard truths:

  • Today, Millennials = 30% of workforce
  • In four years, Millennials will = 50% of workforce

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-12-22-19-pm

Given their sheer size and their obvious digital advantages, the business world needs to do a better job recruiting and retaining young people. The fact that Millennials feel disengaged is a problem that belongs to all of us, plain and simple.

HOW TO APPEAL TO MILLENNIALS?

So how have some companies figured out how to build Millennial-friendly work places?

Based on research and experience, I’ve identified five core characteristics that give companies an edge with Millennials.

Principles Driving Millennial Engagement

The first two principles relate to the core DNA of a company. A firm’s values and purpose are factors that are traditionally set by the founders, Board of Directors and owners.

The next two principles are processes the management team creates to execute on its purpose and values. How a company communicates and collaborates is the spinal chord of every organization. Without a healthy and flexible system, the culture, speed and business performance will be hampered.

Interestingly, it turns out that communication and collaboration are also critical enabling factors in highly innovative cultures (more to come on this finding).

The final principle is a modern mindset that appreciates both the professional and personal needs of employees. Companies with enlightened management appreciate work/life balance and show a significant level of empathy towards their employees.

All five of these principles are controllable, and with commitment and focus, can be achieved by any corporation.

SOCIAL PROOF

During the webinar, I took the audience through illustrative case studies on the top five Millennial-friendly companies that ranked highly on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list (Airbnb, Bain & Company, Guidewire, Hubspot and Facebook). I will explore these examples in more detail in future articles.

In the interim, do you know any companies (startup or mature enterprises) that have done a great job of appealing to Millennials? We’d love to hear your thoughts. And follow me (Blog, Twitter, Linkedin) to subscribe to this series and be a part of this important 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 a speaker, author of an upcoming book on Innovation, and a sector lead for the HBS Alumni Angels of NYC.

Innovation