Who’s Out of Line: Your Workers or Your Culture?



There’s a growing pain point leaders in organizations of all types, kinds, and sizes are struggling to address. It’s issues around workers and the work culture. There isn’t much alignment these days.

We’ll explain why and what to do about it.

First, the backstory. Over the last ten years a new creature has entered the modern work force. Called “Millennials,” this worker is wired differently from prior generations of workers and has arrived on the scene only to seemingly disrupt it.

Millennials (those from 17 to 34-years-old in 2018) apparently expect the culture at work to be like the outside, modern culture. It most cases, it isn’t. That’s because work cultures tend to lag modern culture.

How many times over your career have you heard (or used) the expression, “we’ve always done it that way.” Change comes slowly in most existing organizations. New organizations, on the other hand, are not set in their ways so their work cultures tend to be more aligned with modern culture. That’s why younger workers are more interested in working for start-ups than Fortune 500 companies.

Yes, Millennials showed up with different expectations than prior generations. But that’s not the whole story. Millennials only know what they've experienced in the real world, prior to getting a job. So when they show up at a workplace that has what can be described as a 1990s work culture, they scratch their heads and wonder what’s wrong. The truth is that workers of all generations today are wondering why work cultures differ from modern culture. Think about it: it’s 2018, not the 1990s.

Here’s an example of how work cultures are lagging: Today, people expect everything and everyone in their life to be open and transparent. The answer to anything is a click or two away, and should be available. But at work, information is often treated on a “need to know” basis and unless you have a certain job title or function, you don’t need to know. That's counter to modern culture. It’s these types of misalignment that make some workplaces less appealing not only to Millennials, but modern workers of all ages.

That’s why this is an issue. Now let’s talk about what you as a leader should do.

First, open your eyes to the fact that you don’t need to “fix Millennials,” but change your culture to be more aligned with today’s modern worker. You’re the one out of line.

Second, conduct an audit of your existing culture. Identify where you’re misaligned. Bring in outside help if necessary. Better yet, crowd source the issues from your workers. They see it. They know. You’re the one in the dark.

Third, organize an internal group, ideally a broad cross-section, to come up with steps you can take to get your work culture more aligned with modern culture. Organize the action plan along a range from “must do” to “wish we could do” items. Start with easy first steps and work your way down the list.

The result will be a work culture more in line with modern culture.

Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash