'It's a new game': Millennials' need to feel valued prompts workplace culture shift

Millennials made up 37 per cent of Canada's workforce in 2015, according to Environics Analytics. As the demographic grows older, and many begin their careers, workplaces are undergoing a change.

Connection to co-workers, corporate culture helps next generation stick around

Do millennials change jobs more often by choice — or are they forced to that?

7 years ago
Duration 2:27
Millennials made up 37 per cent of Canada's workforce in 2015, according to Environics Analytics. As the demographic grows older, and many begin their careers, workplaces are undergoing a change.

Every Wednesday morning, employees at Think Shift share company secrets.

The entire team, from the top executive to the newest intern, gathers in a meeting they call the Huddle where all office issues are aired, breaking down traditional company hierarchy.

"The executive team, I actually have a relationship with them," said five-year employee Jenny-Lynn Sheldon. "Whenever tough decisions have to be made, I'm still a person to them and I'm not just an employee."

This is the type of work atmosphere millennials like Sheldon are looking for, and it's creating a culture shift in many workplaces: experts advise managers who want to keep younger employees around to regularly show them they are valued.

Intentional corporate culture

As of 2015, millennials made up 37 per cent of Canada's workforce, according to Environics Analytics, which means more and more employers are trying to hire the best and brightest of the generation.

Many millennials express a need to feel valued at work, according to Abacus Data research. This need stems from the self-esteem education model where students got used to positive reinforcement, Abacus Data suggests.

It's not just about perks: What millennials look for in a workplace

7 years ago
Duration 1:21
What makes millennials stay with a company? We went to Winnipeg firm Think Shift to see how they're helping young workers form a connection to their work and see value in their daily input.

"Without this feedback continuing into the employment sphere, we may feel lost or unsure of our standing within the organization," the data company says on its website.

The executive team at Think Shift embraced this change with intentional corporate culture, said Chris Bachinski, president of consulting.

"Corporate culture is people behaving at work," Bachinski said. "Whether or not you like it, you have some sort of culture. Why not define the culture you want and do things about it?"

'​Not about the Ping-Pong tables'

This shift didn't come naturally. When Bachinski started at Think Shift eight years ago, he thought he could connect with millennials using perks. When that failed, he realized the generation actually craves something he does, too — a connection to the work.

"It's not about the Ping-Pong tables or beer Fridays. It's about the way we interact and the intention of this as a good place to work," Bachinksi said. "The challenge is on my generation to say these people are just like us, they just want to connect more.... They're saying if there's no reason to be here, I'm not going to be here."

Because of this focus on corporate culture, Think Shift has changed the way it works with clients. Bachinksi said the company is all about "driving change," so if one of their clients refuses to change with them, that's a problem.

"Those clients who didn't see what our people saw and that it's time to change, we realized we're not the right company for them," Bachinski said. "It's not that they're bad clients, it's that we're not the right company."

'It's a new game'

While this attitude can initially come off as self-entitled, Lisa Cefali said it's the new reality.

"The current employer needs to sit up straight and say it's a new game," Cefali said. "Everyone will jump if they're not valued."

Cefali, the partner of strategic development and executive search at Legacy Bowes Group, said she's noticed millennials move from job to job in shorter periods of time, sometimes simply because they feel they've learned all they can and they want to move on.

Cefali has a simple solution to this problem: Lay out a potential career path with the employee within the first three to six months they're there, she said.

"[Job hopping] certainly isn't money driven. It's that they have all these skill sets and they're not being utilized," she said. "We need to show what we're doing as a company, where the young employee fits in and that they're valuable cogs."

Showing value creates profit

Think Shift changed for the better when management created an intentional corporate culture, Bachinski said.

"We're the most profitable since we've been since Day 1," he said. "I'm very proud that we would hire everyone again."

Jenny-Lynn Sheldon speaks with Information Radio's Marcy Markusa about what she values in a workplace. Sheldon has worked at Think Shift for five years and said she values friendships at work. (CBC)

Sheldon would apply again, too.

"It matters a lot to me that I work with people I trust and can build a rapport with," she said.

"I am very married to Think Shift. It's very much part of my identity now."

This story is part of a series on millennials by CBC Manitoba's morning show Information Radio. Tune in to 89.3 FM or check out our Facebook and Twitter accounts throughout the week.

With files from Marcy Markusa