What Makes a Workplace Great?

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What makes a workplace great? It depends on who you’re asking. For younger staffers—who dominate the landscape of Corporate America—it means proactive involvement in making the community great— economically, environmentally, and socially.

What makes a workplace great during a pandemic?

shutterstock 1746069578American journalist, David Ignatius said it best: “Fear brings out the best in some people and the worst in others. It’s a test of character, for individuals and nations.”

No doubt, the pandemic has tested the mettle of every business enterprise on the planet and exposed their worst and  best attributes. Many big corporations and small businesses have managed to stay afloat by tossing a lot of their core values and best people overboard in order to do it.

But companies with the most dynamic and agile leadership styles rose to the challenge and became hometown heroes and champions among their own staffers. 

Just ask employees at Nationwide. They’re all wearing pretty wide grins these days, touting the company as one of the top workplaces in the country. They told Fortune.com that their employer really knows how to  “walk its talk of being ‘on your side’—in this case, the side of communities hit hard by COVID….” 

Nationwide workers bragged that “…. the mutual insurance company contributed millions of dollars to the Red Cross and other COVID relief efforts…and they saw the organization donate millions more to groups working on racial equity and fair housing…”

What makes a workplace great to Millennials?

shutterstock 684105904The pandemic has humanized the worldview of many American CEOs. So they are responding to COVID as both a crisis and an opportunity. They recognize it as a chance to become better and to do good. 

Many American companies earnestly want to bring their communities together and strengthen them. So in spite of our masks and social distancing protocols, these enlightened executives are warmly embracing their hometowns. This means that they are committed to the concept of corporate social responsibility for the long haul. 

That’s the Millennial wheelhouse! Corporate social responsibility is part of what they call work-life balance. These bright young things fervently believe that what you do at work should also make life better for your neighbors!

To Millennials, work-life balance is simply the humane thing to do.

Authentic employee engagement makes a workplace great

shutterstock 589601396Millennials are most easily engaged when they feel valued for their work and for themselves! That’s why financial services giant Edward Jones recently ranked No.2 on the latest list of great workplaces. Millennial staffers reported to greatplacetowork.com that,“They strive for a teamwork approach and include everyone no matter what level they are at. Your thoughts and opinions matter and are taken seriously. I feel valued as an employee by this company.”

Authentic employee engagement also placed Reddit at No.20 on the list. Their Millennials told greatplacetowork.com, “One of the company’s values is ‘Remember the Human.’ Beyond just a stated value, I feel this permeates in the work we do and in the culture we have. Internally, there is a real sense that you can be your quirky, weird, individual self.” 

What makes a workplace great to Generation Z?

This question may seem redundant since both Millennials and GenZers are young. But how’s this for a reality check: the oldest Millennials are now 40, which makes them middle aged! The oldest GenZers are only 24.

shutterstock 1746082910While you’re recovering from that shock, consider this:  According to extremereach.com, GenZers only know what it’s like to live in a fully digital world.  It’s the only way they know how to navigate and that’s just fine with them, thank you very much. They were born into a world where smartphones [not cell phones], social media and online shopping were already the norm.

Extremereach.com reports: “As the pandemic has dragged on, Gen Z has been ready and able to harness the power of the Internet to organize, entertain, and stay incorporated in each other’s lives. When social justice moved to the forefront of American consciousness, Gen Z was leading the charge. An ethical, morally serious generation, Gen Z are mobile, wily, thrifty, and up for the challenge.”

Professional and personal fulfillment opps make a workplace great

Millennials aren’t as motivated by money as GenZers, but for both, employee engagement is about advancement opportunities—and not just for the dosh. They want to grow professionally and they expect professional development to be personally fulfilling.

Both are committed to diversity and equality and expect the brands they buy and the companies they work for to do the same.

What makes a workplace great? Leadership EQ 

shutterstock 1766700197To these young whippersnappers, social and digital tech are not just tools or office supplies, like a stapler or phone. They’re foundational to team building. GenZers network, problem solve, strategize and coordinate community service projects, and plan happy hour with their digital appendages.

Ironically these same tech toys that make their teams so cohesive also distract them, because they all interface with smartphones, to which their brains are hardwired. Consequently their stress levels are high along with their burnout rates.

Emotional intelligence [EQ] is the most valuable leadership tool you can have as an executive when working with GenZers. A high EQ will help you: 

  • Customize your team building strategies 
  • Understand and adopt work life balance goals
  • Improve their time management skills
  • Tailor your conflict management and resolution style
  • Monitor their need for and plan: short breaks, vacations, and limited off-hour communications 

Ultimately, you’ll set them up to succeed and live their best lives. And you’ll also groom them for leadership in the future. That will make your workplace the best in the world.