Retool your office culture for Millennials

Charles Darwin once talked about how the species that survive will be those best at adapting to change.

Charles Darwin once talked about how the species that survive will be those best at adapting to change. Like most businesses, such is the case for PR firms.

The change, actually more like a tsunami, is in the makeup and cultural transformation of the office workforce. And the impact is not being created by people of color and women, which has been the case for some time. It is about the disproportionate influence and value of the youngest generational cohort in the workplace, called the “Millennials” or “Gen Y,” who were born in the 1980s and early '90s. Like the “Baby Boomers,” they are a large cohort who will populate the PR profession with significant numbers.

Their DNA is an ideal match for the new demands of global business. Gen-Yers play well with others and are particularly entrepreneurial. Their facileness with technology, such as the Internet and social media, is innately so high that in a knowledge-based industry like PR they are highly adept at managing its currency. They also find information, easily manage it, and leverage it. Unlike other cohorts, they are not afraid to question authority, operate effectively, must be included, and have a voice.

This last quality is particularly important in a business setting that thrives on creativity and innovation, which is most often achieved through “team thinks” or group creative sessions. To foster such a culture that democratizes the workplace and encourages all voices to be heard, many organizations will have to adjust the traditional “command and control” mode of management. For many Boomer or “Generation X” managers, asking someone what he or she thinks about an assignment, rather than just doling out instructions, may require some adaptability. But the benefits far outweigh the change in leadership style. The management culture of "inclusion,” as workplace experts call it, can bring significant business benefits, such as higher engagement, retention, innovation, and productivity through shared ownership of new ideas. 

The most interesting aspect, however, of rethinking and retooling the culture of leadership in a workplace nourished by inclusion is that, in the 21st Century, workers from every generation thrive in an inclusive environment. The inborn “team orientation” of Gen Y is one in which the entire workforce will flourish once the culture is established.

This transformation is not as hard as it might seem, particularly given the business benefits it delivers. In creating a workplace where everyone's voice is welcomed, listening becomes an important part of managing, and everyone is comfortable with input.

Encourage this inclusive climate throughout your organization and watch the energy, output, and business grow.

Mike Greece is managing director of the New York office of The Pollack PR Marketing Group.

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