Hands placing last piece of a puzzleA close friend and former co-worker of mine just made an important career move, but it did not come without ruffling a few feathers. Here’s the story:

My friend, we will call him John, handled the social media and PR-related communications for the corporate office of a Fortune 500 company. He started as an intern (a position he sought out by directly emailing the CEO of the company) for two years, then was hired after he graduated college. The company didn’t even have such a position before John was hired, meaning they created the position specifically for him. As a recent graduate in such a tough economy, John was working at a major company, making decent money and gaining quite a bit of experience. Needless to say, John was doing well for himself.

And, besides his hard work, just why was John so valuable? Because, unlike most of the other employees, he was young…very young. In fact, John was the youngest person who worked for the business. He had a different perspective, understood the value in social media when it came to building brands and communication, and, to a company in desperate need of incorporating social media, John was the best fit for the job.

But, although it seemed like John had it all, deep down, he was becoming miserable. Again, John was the youngest person in the company, which made it difficult to foster relationships while at work. His team members were constantly traveling and working; they never went out to lunch, yet ate at their desks (if at all); and, because of the vast age differences, John and his colleagues (and managers) held little of the same interests. Add to the fact that once I left (finally someone John’s age), he was back to being isolated in corporate America.

So, what was John to do? Although he enjoyed his job, was only being partially satisfied on a day-to-day basis enough? Should he continue to sacrifice his complete job satisfaction for job security, I mean, most people John’s age were unemployed? For John, the answer was no.

After two years as a full-time worker, John recently surprised his supervisors and colleagues announcing his resignation. He had been seeking new employmenta role with a company that provided a better cultural fitand he found it. The new company had workers in a range of ages (and a good number of people in his age group), had a lively atmosphere, and offered better pay with traveling perks, two great additions.

John’s sudden resignation came as a shock and disappointment to the company. More importantly, it was an eye opener. You see, John had previously mentioned his concern of the lack of young people and networking opportunities provided at the company, yet the leaders there did not realize just how much of a problem this was until it cost them an employee.

Cultural fit, especially for Millennials, is a big deal. Call us what you want, but our generation is too “outside-the-box” to stick it out at a company that we don’t fit in with. Sure, we’re willing to work our way up and tough it out in a role if it will get us to where we ultimately want to be, but if the company’s work environment doesn’t suit us, the duration spent “toughing it out” will be that much shorter.

Americans spend a great deal of their lives working. Who doesn’t want to work in an atmosphere where he/she feels accepted, like they fit in, like they can share and be open with team members, and foster significant relationships? The environment where you work can either make-or-break your overall work experience.

So, here’s a news flash for every company looking to retain top talent, especially us younger folks: cultural fit matters. Take the time to ensure you have programs setup (especially in your onboarding process) to make sure new hires and younger staff have the opportunity to connect with their colleagues. Conduct surveys of staff and listen to their concerns and feedback when it comes to how they feel about the cultural fit. Promote out-of-work events and activities to boost employee morale while strengthening inter-office relationships. Again, cultural fit matters. Do whatever it takes to ensure your employees fit in with the culture of your company so they’ll be more prone to stay.

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