Cultivating A Company Culture That Millennials Love

The millennial generation is an enigma. They are a mysterious generation that either frustrates or excites you. As a generation, they have massive potential, however, Millennials are often left unguided in organisations because they confuse older generations. Basically, corporate organisations, and even small Boomer orientated businesses, find it hard to unlock the potential in Millennials.

Working with Millennials has made it evident that this generation has their own frustrations which are rooted in two primary world views:

Firstly, the way we access people and information has changed thanks to our connection economy. The Millennial generation is often frustrated by the disconnect between what they experience in day to day life versus what happens inside the organisations they work in.

Secondly, Millennials have watched previous generations fail at keeping our planet alive and our people happy, which has lead them to be more cynical. Making sweeping visionary statements in the hopes that people will follow no longer works. Our leadership has changed, becoming more personal and deliberate. The Millennial generation entering our organisations are both ready to make a change and are sceptical about the current methods of working.

Dealing with their frustrations and first world view, there are a few things you can do to improve your culture to be Millennial friendly.

Access to Information

In Huddles latest Enterprise Information Landscape Study, 18-31 year olds are most frustrated by everyday tasks that waste their time, such as:

  1. Searching for documents.
  2. Figuring out who has specific information to perform tasks.
  3. Trying to find their co-workers contact details.

Growing up with technology and information at their fingertips, Millennials have become increasingly frustrated with antiquated information systems and weak technology. The list above shows tasks that are considerable time wasters.

Generation Y are not used to waiting and searching for this type of information, to date, it’s always been readily available to them and it’s generally fast and easy to find. It’s beyond them as to why they should get paid to waste time on menial tasks. Millennials’ frustrations stem from the desire to do more and be more valuable, but unproductive processes tend to leave them demotivated and listless.

Access to people

When we hire people, we ask them to bring their network, ingenuity, expertise and skills into our businesses. We get excited about seeing all their potential unpacking inside the walls of our organisation.

When hiring young Millennials, we have the same expectations, but, we unknowingly cut them off at the knees. We cut off social networks in order to help them focus, however, in doing so we cut them off from their sphere of influence. We hold them back from bringing the right people to the table to help sell, promote our businesses, collaborate and problem solve with. Social networks are the place where the Millennial generation learn, network, build influence and drive their knowledge forward. Social networks are used the same way the Boomer generation uses golf courses, networking events and corporate training. The internet and social media are intuitive and powerful resources for Millennials, one they know how to use.

What to do:

  1. Embrace a BYOD (Bring your own device) policy, so people can choose what computers they want to use.
  2. Adopt Cloud Based Technologies that provide quick access to information and people.
  3. Connect large enterprises by creating online social technologies.
  4. Embrace social media usage.

The second worldview is a bit harder to reach. There aren’t many technologies that help remove cynicism. In my opinion, this is best approached from a leadership standpoint.


Young people need a good mentor relationship to give them direction, guidance and experience. Millennials are a wonderful generation who can add huge value to your business. They are passionate, energetic, ready to leave their mark and to make a difference, however, they are still young, naive, and inexperienced. Mentorship relationships are a fantastic way to provide guidance and meaning to Millennials work life without becoming prescriptive with rulebooks and disciplinary action. Partnering up young Millennials with experienced professionals will help you get the most out of your younger workforce.

Narrative over Vision

Millennials are driven by purpose more than success. It’s not enough to ‘hit the target’, ‘get bigger’, ‘be better.” They want to know that whatever they put their minds to, they are contributing to a purpose. The language of vision statements, always looking to the future to be better, bigger, smarter and faster doesn’t inspire a generation whose families were the collateral damage of the visionary culture.

Narrative is, however, different. Narrative tells the story of why your business exists, and everyone loves a good story. Narrative brings something new to your company culture and your team dynamic. Good storytelling draws people in; gives readers or listeners something to connect with; and has an underlying moral that teaches a lesson or challenges a thought. Narrative can be used to inspire and direct a younger generation towards why you do business. It’s the ‘why’ that gets you to the ‘where’ and ‘what.’ However, to a Millennial who doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes of their parents, ‘why’ is a better motivator than a sweeping statement.

Trust them

Scientists are notoriously difficult to headhunt simply because their work is project orientated. Scientists generally want to reach the end of their project because the recognition and completion of the project is more important than a bigger paycheck.

Take that thinking and apply it to how we manage Millennials. Generally, Millennials get repetitive, menial tasks that carry zero risk or reward. No wonder they don’t show loyalty to your business. If your business doesn’t trust them to finish something of value, why should they trust your business with their careers.

Trusting Millennials with projects that let them make a difference helps foster a company culture of contribution. A culture where they feel like they are a part of the solution. It’s more motivating to be a part of the business's  success is more motivating than just another pencil pusher.

What to do:

  1. Lead in a personal manner with mentorship programmes.
  2. Drive a message of purpose instead of a destination.
  3. Trust people to add value.

Taken from the insights highlighted in "The Five Year Mark" by Mike Saunders. For more information on business, leadership and workplace culture get your copy of The Five Year Mark here:



Mike Saunders

Mike Saunders is a CEO, international keynote speaker, author and entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur and businessman, Mike has built DigitLab into one of South Africa’s premier digital marketing companies. Mike sits on the International Advisory board of the Internet of Things Asia Conference, and on the VEGA School of Branding Advisory Council. He is the founder of Digital Swarm, an event series aimed at accelerating the digital industry.