In honor of March Madness, I’m going to attempt to relate business to basketball. More specifically, let’s talk about how different team roles come together to establish a company culture! Play along with me here because I’m not (at all) in to sports, but my YMCA basketball days in the fourth grade have thoroughly prepared me to make this analogy. My free throws were all net; therefore, I am credible. So, here it goes.

The CEO is Like the Owner of the Team (Franchise)

Or in my experience, the CEO would have been like the YMCA Youth League Basketball Director. Just kidding. But seriously, the CEO is the “owner” and operator of the team’s entire franchise. He or she doesn’t necessarily interact with every team member, but he or she does set the tone for how the entire team franchise is going to operate. It’s the CEO’s responsibility to determine the principles that best define an organization’s company culture. The CEO demonstrates how to effectively practice the defining characteristics of the company culture to the rest of management so that they can be passed down accordingly.

“Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game — it is the game.” - Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM

The Manager is Like the Coach.

There may be numerous managers, just like there are a number of coaches and assistant coaches. If the CEO establishes the principles, then management’s responsibility is to take action and carry out those desired practices. This is relatable to how coaches manage their teams. Management understands how the executives want the company to be represented, and they understand how to effectively communicate it to the entire team. In a survey conducted by Bentley University, 79 percent of millennials stated that if they couldn’t be self-employed, they at least wanted their boss to serve more as a coach or mentor. How fitting! So, if the CEO establishes the culture and management carries it out; where does HR fit into all of this?

The HR Professionals are the Team Captains.

Human resource managers and professionals are responsible for maintaining the principles and practices to ensure they are represented throughout the entire company. The team captain is the heart of the team because he or she identifies with both management and subordinate employees. HR professionals represent and reach every level of an organization, just like a team captain! This is why it’s extremely important that HR professionals have a clear understanding of the company’s cultural expectations so that HR can recruit, hire, and maintain employees who best represent the organization’s value system.  

The Rules of the Game.

While the rules of the game don’t change for basketball, they do change in business. Especially when it comes to creating positive cultural ideals. Culture represents a specific set of characteristics that have been passed down from one generation to the next. We often view culture in a societal aspect and associate culture with different ways of life around the world. However, the culture concept is being applied to business in tremendous ways. John P. Kotter shares in his book, “Corporate Culture and Performance,” how solutions become cultural ideals. He explains that the longer certain solutions work, the more deeply they become embedded into the company culture. Makes sense, right?

Well, there’s more to it than that. Once these solutions have been established they become embedded. Potential employees are screened to make sure they are able to effectively exercise the organization’s mission and values. Kotter explains how it’s a natural process for younger employees to model the work practices of older employees (mentors) within the organization. I’m sure you can relate, we’ve all learned from someone who is older and more experienced at some point in our careers.

Time Out!

We are at a pivotal moment in America’s workforce. About 76 percent of the people who left the workforce in 2013 were over 55 years of age. As baby boomers are retiring and leaving the U.S. workforce, millennials are marching right on in. The millennial age demographic represents people born from 1976 to 2001. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that millennials now represent more than 80 million people in or about to enter the U.S. workforce.

In just six short years, millennials are expected to comprise nearly 50 percent of the U.S. working population. Just this year alone millennials will make up 36 percent of the workforce. The age demographics of the employees who make up the American workforce are changing rapidly, and with this change comes a need for organizations to re-examine the core foundations that represent each company’s culture and overall mission to better speak to millennials. We all know that change equals chaos, and HR professionals are change agents. They’re responsible for implementing organizational changes and ensuring that the change process runs smoothly. Kotter explains that at corporate level, culture can be extremely hard to change. With an emerging new age demographic comes a need to facilitate cultural change.

The Final Score

So now that we’ve come to the fact that millennials are going to be taking over nearly half of the U.S. workforce in six years, it’s imperative that organizational leaders are prepared to adopt cultural changes that attract and retain millennial employees. HR professionals should consider the following as a new age demographic enters their workplace:

          • 74 percent of millennials want a flexible work schedule

This doesn’t mean you have to completely drop regular working hours, but find ways to switch up work hours every once in a while. Letting employees off early on Friday has always been popular. Change it up, and offer a late start on Monday mornings instead!

          • 85 percent of millennials say it’s important for them to work for a socially responsible, ethical company

This seems like a no brainer, but there’s more to it than you think! Being a socially responsible company will attract employees, but how are you going to keep them there. Give them reasons to be proud of the work they do, and in turn they will become brand ambassadors and ultimately feel more valued and connected to the company.

          • 88 percent of millennials prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one

Competition may drive innovation, but it doesn’t appeal to the millennial generation as much. I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty competitive person, but after evaluating this statement, I find it to be incredibly representative of my experiences so far. Many have coined Generation Y the “everyone gets a trophy” generation, and maybe that’s why millennials would rather collaborate than compete. I think it could largely be attributed to all of the social collaboration the millennial generation has grown accustomed to.



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