A company that maintains a thriving company culture is a successful one. Great culture is much more than an enviable vacation policy or an office-wide ping pong tournament — or a frequently misconstrued buzzword. It’s an environment in which employees feel a sense of purpose, engagement, and growth.
This is true even for companies like mine — DSi, a national eDiscovery and data forensics firm — because employees of all industries, including more “rigid” ones like ours, need great company cultures. (I’ll be the first to admit that litigation technology isn’t the sexiest industry out there.)
And here’s the kicker: while company culture discussions seem to be focused on millennials, great cultures can help all generations thrive within a business. Millennials’ career aspirations and expectations don’t differ dramatically from those of older generations. In fact, millennials want to make positive impacts on their organizations just like employees of any other age do, according to a recent global study conducted by IBM.
Millennials have been more vocal about certain workforce expectations than other generations, though. We know they want bosses who treat their employees fairly. They crave learning new information and skills in person, and they appreciate outside opinions. They want their work to be meaningful and valued, and they look for companies that maintain thriving cultures.
Last year, 36 percent of the U.S. workforce was composed of millennials. By 2025, that number will have risen significantly, to approximately 75 percent. Because millennials are looking for work environments that stimulate their minds and hearts, in addition to utilizing their skills and talents, it behooves today’s businesses to take a hard look at their company cultures to see whether their organizations are places where millennials want to be.
Companies that do not stress culture had an average annual turnover rate of 48.4 percent compared to just 13.9 percent for companies that have active, exciting cultures, according to a 2012 Columbia University study. Investing just 10 percent more in employee engagement can increase profit by $2,400 per employee per year. Plus, employee turnover is expensive and time-consuming.
Once DSi took a step back and evaluated our company culture, we learned lessons, discussed actionable steps, and created and implemented new programs. We wanted to instill a culture of teamwork — one that both long-standing DSi employees and new millennial hires would desire. We now have a truly vibrant culture that keeps all of our employees empowered, challengedn and inspired.
Here are three important things we learned:
1. Make Things Personal
Start by identifying your core purpose. At DSi, our core purpose is “eDiscovery about people.” Since our beginning, we’ve always kept our clients’ and employees’ best interests in mind, so we knew this would be our backbone.
By deliberately defining what we care about most, it was easier to create personal programs that specifically support and enhance this attitude. Set aside time to meet with your employees and discuss the initiatives they value most. Listen to them and establish a “no idea is too crazy” mentality. Do they want to achieve personal goals both inside and outside the workplace? Do they want to further their educations in order to grow in your company? Find out what your employees desire to achieve and implement programs accordingly.
We’ve recognized that our employees value — and feel valued — when their workplace encourages personal development, which is important to millennials, so we created DSicover You, which aims to help our employees become better people — and that benefits them and our company.
Through DSicover You, employees set individual goals — such as losing 30 pounds, learning how to play a musical instrument, or even learning to speak a new language — and we designed a way to visually track the goals’ progress and completion on our DSicover You Wall. Once a task is completed, we celebrate the wins through our Celebration Fridays. We also set a company goal each quarter, and if we hit our quarterly target, the entire company is rewarded with a fun, company-wide activity.
We also use an anonymous survey platform to take a monthly read on employees’ “temperature,” e.g., how heavy their workload is, how happy they are at work, etc. We publish all feedback, both good and bad, to the entire company.
2. Create a Community of Service
Millennials volunteer more than past generations. When our most basic needs (physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem) are met and personal and emotional well-being is satisfied, people are able to focus on meeting higher-level needs, such as self-fulfillment and personal growth.
We implemented DSicover Your Community not only as an outlet for our employees to realize their personal potentials, but also as a way to make a real difference in our communities. Our program provides a way to engage in social causes and give back to local organizations. We also allow our employees the freedom to choose which organizations they’d like to volunteer with — or they can think outside the box, such as organizing a Kickstarter campaign for someone in need.
Our employees have vocalized their appreciation for having the time and support to help others. We also open it up to our clients to join us in participating in volunteer activities.
As a company, we have set a goal to donate at least 1,000 hours of community service in six months. We’ve already found that emphasizing service helps attract top millennial talent, creates higher levels of satisfaction and meaning, instills enthusiastic involvement in the company as a whole, engages each person’s full intelligence and passion, and encourages employees to fulfill their potentials.
3. Teach Your Employees Something New Every Day
Millennials are curious, and they tend to grow dissatisfied with routine. Starting an internal program with a focus on learning new things is one of the most important tools for retaining talent. It also creates a space that encourages a culture of learning.
To increase communication, knowledge, and understanding throughout our company, we created DSi University. It’s a structured, online program to teach employees about every facet of what we do, and it uses interactive courses, videos from team members, and fun quizzes to educate our team members about our culture and internal programs, the electronic discovery and digital forensics industry, and our company history.
DSi University has become a critical part of our onboarding process, making it a seamless, informative, and meaningful use of new employees’ time. We also use it to keep our team members engaged by giving them constant learning opportunities and updates on our company and industry.
Additionally, we participate in the Better Book Club, which is a great way to inspire our employees to read books that promote personal and professional development, and to foster progressive conversations. We also pay cash to employees for reading and turning in a report about what they learned.
Any company can implement one or more learning programs. For example, you can invite guest speakers to host lunches at your offices, start internal mentorship programs, or adapt an existing education platform to suit your industry and needs.
Any business can have an exciting culture, no matter the size of the company or the industry it is in. Tap into what makes your company tick, encourage personal growth and community service, create programs that complement your employees’ individual and corporate desires, and stick to them. When company leaders believe in and partake in the company culture, the business will be better for it. Millennials — and everyone else — will want to work for that kind of company.