7 More Lessons We Can Learn from Millennials

7 More Lessons We Can Learn from MillennialsIn a recent Harris poll, 67% of Millennials (age 18-34) want to start their own business. However, they are also saddled with student loans that have come due. They still want to do their own thing, but for the meantime, they are satisfied with becoming employeepreneurs – working a day job while trying to build something on the side.

As leaders, employers, and managers, with this type of ambition towards work, what lessons can we learn from Millennials that can be applied to every generation in the workplace – Traditionalists, Boomers, Generation X, Millennials (aka Gen Y) – to keep everyone engaged, communicating, and reaching company goals?

Here are the original 7 lessons we can learn from Millennials.


What are 7 MORE lessons can we learn from Millennials?

Ownership – Millennials want to start their own companies because they want a sense of ownership. They want to lead. Colleges and universities are doing a better job of teaching leadership skills, either in the classroom or through extracurricular experiences, and Millennials want a chance to test their leadership skills. By providing an opportunity to lead, be it a project, a presentation, or a sub-product, it gives Millennials and other generations an opportunity to own something without a formal title of a leader, such as manager, director, or vice president. Ownership increases engagement.

Rule Maker – Entrepreneurship in Millennials is strong because they like to set their own rules. They willingly question the status quo and become agitated by “dumb” rules. Questioning the status quo is not a generation restriction. All generations can speak up, hack the rules, and reinvent arcane processes. What rules are waiting to be broken?

Untapped Talents – Millennials look to start businesses to utilize their untapped talents. Chances are there are many employees of all generations in your organization who have underutilized gifts. Discover the additional skills beyond the accounting, coding, or graphic design that they were hired to do. Use those abilities to further the company’s cause. What are your organization’s hidden assets?

Play Big – Millennials want to make a difference in the world. They want to play big. They want to put their own dent in the universe. Some members of every generation want to stand up, point to something, and say, “I did this.” Find those people in your organization who want to do big things. Put them on the important projects and let them do what they do best. Whose number will you call when the game is on the line?

Learn While Doing – Millennials don’t have all of the answers. Really, they will admit it, but it’s often behind closed doors. What they do have is an unabashed passion for learning. They use the Internet, search engines, and YouTube videos to figure it out. They tinker and toil until they get it right. They view a lack of knowledge as an opportunity to learn. All generations can take this same approach. We don’t have to have all of the answers before we start down an uncharted path. All generations are capable of learning, if they are open to it. What do you want to learn today?

Passion – Millennials desire to start their own companies because it fulfills a passion. Unless yours was the only job they could find, they initially had some passion for your company. Some glimmer of hope existed in their soul to want to work with your company. Each employee, of all generations, had some passion for your organization at one point. What if we could tap that passion to put spirit back into the business? What if you could reignite that kindling of passion that you once had for the business? How will you inject passion into your company’s soul?

Recognition – When Millennials’ heroes are people like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg and not pop stars or athletes or politicians, they desire to start their own companies to achieve a level of fame. Recognizing employees, regardless of generation, is critical to engagement. They want to feel the love. They want to know that their work is valued. They want to know that they are not just another number in an HR database. Who are the rock stars in your organization?


(image courtesy of ITUPictures)

About the Author:  Todd Brockdorf, is the author of Better than Average: Excelling in a Mediocre World – (Harrogate Publishing 2012)  

He works with organizations, leaders, and frustrated professionals to stand out from the crowd. Connect with Todd on LinkedInTwitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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4 Areas of Focus for Workplace Culture Change

Workplace Culture Change

Workplace culture change is difficult. There’s no question about it. Workplace culture is, by definition, a set of norms under which the company functions. So how can we effectively change a company culture?

In speaking with Melissa Price, the Lady of the Vault, Keeper of the Coffee, (aka CEO) of dPOP!, she often encounters corporate leaders who believe that workplace design is the answer to changing company culture. Her organization creates beautiful spaces “that inspire creativity and productivity within the workplace.”

While good office design and inspiring spaces can create a certain look and feel for an organization, as she will admit, office design itself cannot change a company culture on its own.

So if it is not workplace design that can change company culture, how can we create a sustainable corporate culture change?

Because “workplace culture” derives from a set of norms within the workplace, we need to look at changing those generally accepted sets of “normal”. In other words, we have to look at human nature.

We want to belong. We want to be part of the team. We want to blend in. To change workplace culture, we need to build a community that will reflect the new normal.

The development of this community should be centered around the four areas that create culture.


Corporate culture change comes from within. While a workspace in and of itself can hamper or foster work culture, ultimately, it is up to the organization’s leaders to create change. Leaders are not necessarily the people with fancy titles. Leaders are those within the community that have enough social clout to affect change.

They inspire others to emulate their behavior. If the workplace installs a foosball table in the break room to nurture “collaboration”, leaders should be at the table playing the game. If the social leaders are holed up in their cubes or offices, the little foosball men will gather dust and the workplace culture will remain as is.

Individuals can also be the roadblock to change. If people cannot adapt to the culture change, it might be time to let them go. Ed Catmull, the President of Pixar and Disney Animation, did just that after a Disney Animation executive did not understand the cultural shift taking place in his organization.


Workplace culture change starts with the values that the company holds true. Maybe a culture change initiative was established because the company strayed too far from its core values. Maybe there are new values that the company wants to adopt to better reflect its corporate identity.

Regardless, these values are not delivered as an edict from Mt. High. If the new values or restated values are to become part of the workplace culture, they need to be instituted by the leaders and influencers with social clout.


Sometimes it’s the process that gets in the way of workplace culture change. Stifling processes can put up barriers between organizations, create tension, and be the motivating factor underlying the change initiative.

Being open to tweak, change, or eliminate processes is a critical part of corporate change initiatives. During a corporate cultural change program, it is important to examine processes, workflow, and the groups that enable or inhibit it.

Process improvement should be an exercise for the entire organization. You don’t know where an idea might come from. Take suggestions from all levels, set aside the ones that are grips to see if there is a pattern, and categorize the suggestions into general topic areas. Create discussion groups around the general topic areas. Focus the discussion on specific outcomes, not merely a list of ideas. Once documented, begin to implement the process changes.


If corporate cultural change initiatives are to be taken seriously, they should be backed up with significant rewards and incentives.

Even Goldman Sachs has realized that yesterday’s culture of 90+ hour workweeks for recent college grads was not sustainable. While the Millennials want to make a difference in their workplace, they do not want to do so at the risk of their health and sanity. As a result, Goldman Sachs has instituted a no work on Saturdays policy for junior bankers. This initiative is incentivized by having junior bankers provide feedback to senior managers on their workload from their immediate management. For managers who do not follow policy and do not make corrections, it will affect their careers.

For a motivated Wall St. banker, that’s incentive.


The goal of workplace culture change is to adjust the view of what is “workplace normal.” When the cultural influencers and leaders act in a manner consistent with the desired cultural change, those actions will become the new “workplace normal.” It is only then that team members will come to accept the new normal and join in, resulting in corporate cultural change.

About the Author:  Todd Brockdorf, is the author of Better than Average: Excelling in a Mediocre World – (Harrogate Publishing 2012)  

He works with organizations, leaders, and frustrated professionals to stand out from the crowd. Connect with Todd on LinkedInTwitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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7 Things Generation Y Can Teach Us about the Workplace

Todd Brockdorf

There are no generational workplace differences. Quite simply, they are a myth. Yes, there are now four different generations working in the same place. However, all four generations still want the same things – respect, trustworthy leadership, stability, feedback, loyalty. See Jennifer J. Deal’s work at the Center for Creative Leadership.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the question is, what can Generation Y teach us all – Boomers, Gen X’ers, Millennials, about the workplace. After all, the Gen Y’ers are starting to rise up the ranks of the corporate ladder. Or in some cases, are already sitting on top of it (aka Mr. Zuckerberg).

7 Things Generation Y Can Teach Us about the Workplace

  1. Ask Curious Questions – Generation Y is also known as “Generation Why” for a reason. They tend not to accept things as they are unless they understand the back story. In other words, the “why”. If we all asked more “why” questions, we could work to eliminate the ineffective/arcane/stupid processes, procedures, and practices that handcuff our abilities.
  2. Entrepreneurial Thinking – Generation Y wants to move fast and break things. They learn by trying, tinkering, and toiling. A company’s slow pace and bureaucratic overhead are the ball and chain of disenfranchisement. What would happen if we sped up decision making? Might a calculated risk pay off?
  3. Workplace Flexibility – It’s pointless to leave Generation Y trapped in the confines of their four-walled cubicle. They will find a way to bust out – one way or another. As we all try to do more with less, “work hours” are extending beyond 9-5. We can all embrace workplace flexibility. Who cares wherever or whenever work gets done, as long as it is on time and accurate? Who really cares if you are sitting in your PJs when you are responding to email? Do you really need to be in the office to do that? Of course not, and it shouldn’t matter to you if your coworkers do either.
  4. Unified Communications – Generation Y communicates through social media, text messaging, instant messaging, and to a lesser extent, email. Give your people the tools to be successful. Internal social media sites, instant messaging, and presence notifications (on the phone, busy, away from the desk), benefit everyone in the organization through quicker decision making and shared knowledge transfer.
  5. Feedback for Growth – One of the knocks of Generation Y is that they require constant feedback. So? Don’t you want to know how you’re doing? Or is sitting in the dark, stuck in the poop, like a mushroom, really a good way to grow? Feedback should be more than an annual occasion.
  6. Respect for Everyone – Generation Y grew up in a multicultural society. If they didn’t have it in their hometown, they saw it when they got to college. They accept people for who they are. They judge others on their merits, not preconceived notions or stereotypes. Can’t we all just get along?
  7. Expectations of Greatness – Above all, Generation Y wants to be inspired. They want to find meaning in their work. They want to do good. They want to understand a larger connection with the world. They expect greatness. If we all expect greatness in ourselves, our coworkers, and our company, we will find that meaning, the connectedness, and the good that we do.


Todd Brockdorf
Better than Average Guy
Author, Speaker, Consultant
[email protected]


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