Innovation in the Millennial Age

In a series of blog posts, innovation and “growth hacking” consultant, Lockie Andrews outlines the primary forces that drive millennial engagement, and the surprising connection between millennial-friendly cultures and innovation.

Last month I hosted a RiseSmart webinar (recording available here) in which I presented  5 Core Principles that Drive Millennial Engagement.  Through case studies, I demonstrated how young and mature companies can transform their culture and business processes to remain competitive– from both product and talent perspectives.  

The presentation sparked a lively Q&A session, and I will address the audience questions in this and future blog posts.

Engagement Trifecta: Values, Purpose and Communication

QUESTION: The first question I received on the webinar, is one that I get asked frequently.  The inquiry truly gets to the heart of why startups and founder-led companies consistently out-innovate incumbents.

 

Communicate Purpose with Employees – RiseSmart Blog

 

RESPONSE:

Clarity and Top-Down Commitment

During a company’s annual strategic planning process, leaders should review the company’s mission and identify gaps in delivery. In high growth divisions, where new hires or changing industry dynamics are at play, this purpose alignment exercise should take place frequently.  We counsel our clients to embrace the “what gets measured, gets done” philosophy, even in soft skill areas like culture and purpose.

Chief Culture Officer

The companies that appeal to Millennials have pro-actively cultivated a purpose-filled culture.  Environments that prioritize excellence (PURPOSE) while remaining nimble, respectful and diverse (VALUES) do not happen by accident. In fact, leading organizations hire de facto Chief Culture Officers to carefully curate and manage culture.

Authenticity

Now here is some potentially devastating news. If a company does not uphold its purpose- the millennial “authenticity” police may call you out.  In the worst cases, crusading employees flock to Glassdoor.com and other social platforms to expose the “truth” about your organization/product.  Consider this your fraud alert on corporate lip service.

We’ve identified this sweet spot of factors to be THE recipe for success in attracting and retaining Millennials. Startups/technology companies have a natural edge over mature enterprises in that many startups are still helmed by founding teams.  These keepers of the brand’s DNA intentionally infuse purpose and values into every product, hiring decision and marketing message.   Once the ethos of the culture is established, great companies combine laser sharp execution with an open, feedback-rich culture to build cult-like employee engagement (think Facebook, Hubspot and Airbnb).

You Can’t Over-Communicate

In addition, startup/technology firms are devoid of bureaucracy (COMMUNICATION) and encourage entry-level employees to take on high levels of responsibility with accountability.  In turn, employees look forward to all-hands meetings and social gatherings because they are truly engaged.  Millennial employees deepen their sense of pride in employers when speech matches deeds.

I hope you can see why Millennials are easily seduced by highly authentic and purpose-minded cultures.  What’s really interesting about this finding is that it completely challenges the stereotype that Millennials lack loyalty and job hop.  Hmmm… more on that in a follow-up post.

Surprising Innovation Links

And finally, based on years of consulting innovation-seeking clients, I believe it is also at this intersection of values, purpose and communication where innovation blossoms.  That’s a double win for companies that have followed our recommendations—high millennial engagement AND a culture that supports innovation!

Your Thoughts?

Now let’s hear from you: does what I described above sound like the culture at your corporation or startup?  Please share your thoughts on this post.  We would love to read your comments below.  And follow me (Blog, Twitter, Linkedin) to subscribe to this series and join the conversation!

 

Lockie Andrews is the CEO of Catalyst Consulting (www.catalystconsult.com), a boutique advisory firm to retail and consumer brands, digital, media and technology companies, as well as venture capital and private equity funds. With 20+ years of general management experience, Lockie has assisted high growth companies (e.g. Nike, Lane Bryant, Limited Stores, and various high growth startups) in diverse areas such as strategy, innovation, digital marketing, revenue enhancement, operational/financial improvement and fundraising.  Lockie is a speaker, author of an upcoming book on Innovation, and a sector lead for the HBS Alumni Angels of NYC.

 

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