Vocean Blog

Bridging the collaboration chasm

by Shawn Adamek | Feb 04, 2020 | Blog

In my previous post I shared thoughts on the topic of employee satisfaction. I focused on the importance of not only rewarding employees for what they accomplish but also for who they are as people. Giving employees the opportunity to share their most influential and sometimes disruptive ideas is an essential component to building a healthy organisation that is open to innovation.

As our Vocean team reflects further on the ‘people’ side of the innovation equation, we begin to look more closely at a specific population of employees that continue to be underserved, and in turn have become increasingly dissatisfied with their ability to have an impact within their organisations.

For the first time in human history, there are now more people in the workforce that grew up with access to social media than those that did not. Whether you label this age group some combination of the “Millennial” and “Gen Z” generations isn’t important. What *is* important is that the population of employees born into social media continues to grow and in another two decades will comprise over 90% of employees.

This ‘digital native’ generation grew up with the ability to communicate on a global scale instantly. In turn, they have come to expect that feedback arrives just as quickly, and in high volume. The power to post a YouTube video and receive a thousand comments within a few minutes has driven an expectation for instant gratification that we haven’t seen from any preceding generation.

It is, of course, completely reasonable that after spending years, or even decades with the power of social media at their fingertips, working in an environment that doesn’t support that level of collaboration would be…well…disappointing. How can bright, creative employee stay motivated when their corporate experience is about meetings, emails and Slack threads, when they’d really rather collaborate the way they (very effectively) do at home with social media?

Let’s pause for a second. How are we so sure employees are really dissatisfied? Let’s look at one significant data point – job tenure. Job tenure in 1980 for Americans in their 20s and 30s is nearly the same as it is today. On the surface you might think nothing has changed. People are just as satisfied as they’ve always been. But now consider that companies offer more benefits and perks than ever before. Especially amongst tech startups, it’s an all-out recruiting war to offer as many perks as possible whether it be free lunches, Tuesday massages, a rooftop beer garden, subsidized transportation, or even remote controlled robots that attend meetings for you when you aren’t in the office (yes, this last one is really true).

Yet, in the face of all this investment, with employees being offered more freebies and perks than they can shake a stick at, the average job tenure has remained the same. Has the corporate world collectively raised the benefits bar to the point where a minimum expectation must include free Taco Tuesdays? Or is the real secret that employees care far less about these perks than we think they do? Could it be that employee motivation and tenure are tied more closely to fulfillment and career growth?

A recent study from Akumina shows that a large majority of Millennials use job-hopping as a technique to accelerate their career. In this case, it’s not the “what” (job tenure) that is most interesting, but rather the “why.” Contrary to popular stereotypes, Millennials may not be job-hopping because they are looking for the next big perk package, or a work-from-home benefit. Rather, what Millennials want most are opportunities that stimulate professional growth support career exploration. Simply put, they are most motivated when they feel they can have an impact.

If there is a lesson to be considered here, it is that companies need to spend more time and effort finding ways to give our best and brightest employees an opportunity to contribute and grow. We need to focus on providing mechanisms that provide our workforce with easy ways to have their brilliant new ideas heard, respected, and implemented. In doing this, we’ll reap the rewards of higher employee engagement and longer employee tenure. Before we decide whether to spend our company culture budget on a competition-size billiards table or a robotic espresso machine, let’s consider spending in areas that will stimulate our employees’ intellectual curiosity and motivate them to help us accelerate innovation.



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