Building a Millennial-Friendly Company Culture


Corporate culture can be condensed into one simple statement: ‘the way we do things around here’. Culture builds expectations and influences stakeholders’ perceptions, which means the corporate culture affects both employees and customers alike. The responsibility for setting the tone lies with HR, but what should be done to build a culture that appeals to all the right people?

Why Is Culture so Important?

Hit the right note and the rewards are a clear identity, improved retention (of both customers and staff) and a positive image. Get the culture wrong and recruitment and retention spiral out of control, sending costs soaring and consumer confidence plummeting. Uber has been at the center of a cataclysm of bad press recently with top executives leaving, allegations of harassment and corporate sexism topping a long list of issues at the company. Not paying attention to company culture hits right at the bottom line.

What Are the Benefits of Good Benefits?

Uber turned to Harvard Business School’s Frances Frei who will partner with internal HR to right the ship. Putting an academic in the driving seat is a smart, as solid business theory should always underpin HR strategy. HBS has published books on the benefits of fostering a strong identity. The Ownership Quotient: Putting the Service Profit Chain to Work for Unbeatable Competitive Advantage gives clear examples of how it pays to get the culture right.

Some examples of the benefits:

  • Retention of existing employees
  • Fostering a sense of ownership yields better work
  • Employees happy to refer to peers
  • Brand appeals to potential candidates
  • Applicant pool gets bigger
  • Potential hires ‘self-sort’, they already know if they’ll be a cultural fit

There are too many to list, but they all add up to major savings in time and outlay.

Making Benefits Pay Back

As part of their HR strategy, Lululemon decided to offer free fitness classes to store staff so they could go out and participate in the community they serve. This is a great example of an employee benefit being a win/win. While out at classes, the brands are still working as brand ambassadors, connecting with trainers and other influencers, and even their customers. It’s a perk staff value and the business gets value out of.

Consider what would work as a win/win for your workers. When there are pros on both sides, it’s much easier to sell the concept to management. Another way to approach this is to tackle things staff don’t want, like UK based sandwich and coffee chain Pret-A-Manger did. Pret decided that in-lieu of a reward card scheme, they would just let staff give away items to customers they liked. The clever part is they sent out a press release. The result was great PR, and nicer customers who knew that a smile and a ‘thank you’ could work in their favor!

Where Does Culture Start?

Culture must cascade from the top where decisions are made about what the business stands for. Then, it’s a case of translating that written plan into a practical implementation. In most cases, the first thing people want to know id “How will this affect me?” The crux of a good culture is what it does for the individual. Everyone wants benefits, but the right ones to suit their lifestyle.

Work Out What They Want From Work

A little research (FRACTL has some great stats) can quickly uncover what most team members want, and it’s not quite what you’d think. Medical and dental plans are a key concern, but almost as many said they wanted flexible hours.

Improving the health care deal is a long and expensive process, but putting together a flexible working agreement could be quicker and cheaper to implement and be just as popular. Vacation time and work from home options come nest, quickly proving that there has been a shift towards favoring lifestyle focused options.

That said, what matters is not what most people say they want, but what the people at your firm hold dearest. Do they crave more vacation days? Is a childcare plan going to change their lives? Do they want corporate gym membership, or discounted cross-fit? Survey the office to find out what matters and use interviews to ask potential new starters what benefits they would find appealing. The results can be blended into the perfect formula for luring in the right personality types and repelling bad fits.

Like any good plan, research is key to finding the right mix. Management, staff and applicants all need to feed in to create the perfect conditions for the business. Not all benefits cost money, but not all benefits are valued, either. Listen to the stakeholders and you can’t go wrong.