If you haven’t yet read Jack Boland’s post “A Culture Built For and By Young Professionals,” stop what you are doing and go read it now. Jack does an amazing job covering how one builds a company culture that brings in young employees and keeps them around.
While Jack and I are the same in that we are both millennials that manage our individual departments filled with millennials, we still have our own ways of going about things. Therefore, I wanted to dive into the categories he laid out to explain my personal experience with each category as a millennial working at Workshop Digital and how I tackle these aspects of the culture with my team with my experiences in mind.
Due to the number of categories and recommendations, I will be breaking out the categories into two separate posts.
Because even though we were selected as the best place for young professionals to work in Richmond, we still run the same risk of losing millennial members of our team just like any other company.
Make work meaningful
My Experience: In my 2+ years working in here, I would be lying if I said I didn’t go through peaks and valleys of finding meaning in the work I was doing. During the peaks, I was able to complete projects I was passionate about outside my job description while managing more than a full account load. In a valley, I was disengaged from my accounts and was frequently reconsidering my career choices.
What broke me out of my deepest valley moment was stumbling across a project that I was passionate about that helped take the company to the next level. In this instance, it was facilitating the development of a multi-week training program for both the PPC & SEO department with the support and help from both teams.
As I worked on this project over the course of several weeks, I found that I was more motivated, energized, and efficient in all of the work I was doing. My passion and excitement for the project I was working on was bleeding into the account work that put me in this valley in the first place.
My Tactic: My biggest takeaway from this experience was that having projects that you are passionate about, inside or outside of your job description, positively impacts everything you do. Each month when I have one-on-ones, I strive to help them find a project or support them in an existing project that they love working on and helps them find meaning in the work they do.
While each person can’t always have a passion project at that exact moment, I try to work with them to determine key characteristics of projects they have been passionate about in the past. With this information, I am able to assign incoming project work, assign new clients, ask for assistance on creating new processes, etc., to the person that will enjoy the challenge of completing it.
Learn about their career goals
My Experience: Each quarter since starting to work on this team, I was asked what my one year goals are and what my five year goals are. Let me tell you, the names of my “future positions” have changed a lot. One thing has remained consistent though, which is the owners’ drive to help identify the types of projects and tasks I am passionate about. From those, they have pushed me to write my dream job descriptions with ideal responsibilities and openly discuss how a position like that can fit within the organization.
Having these open discussions with them coupled with their proven willingness to have a dynamic org chart has helped me feel as though no matter what, I will have a place here. I don’t have to follow this rigid path of advancement, I get to forge my own with my career goals and the company’s goals in mind.
My Tactic: As I have fully taken over my team’s quarterly check-ins, I have continued the practice of asking for everyone’s personal goals. During those discussions, I try to dive deeper past their ideal job titles into what about those positions interests them. Try to uncover the tasks, responsibilities, and challenges they enjoy so that I can help find projects that fit those or help them realize that what they are describing is a different role entirely.
Command less, coach more
My Experience: When our owners say they have an open door policy, they mean it. Yes, they are incredibly busy but I know that at the end of the day, if I need to speak with them about something, they will find the time to coach me through it. When I make a mistake, I can walk into their offices with a solution in mind and receive the support and coaching I need to turn things around. While they don’t particularly enjoy the mistakes I have made, they truly understand that everyone makes them. They are the first people to admit the mistakes they have made in the past and provide the lessons they learned the hard way.
My Tactic: I absolutely love sharing the mistakes I have made in the past with my teammates. This is not because I am particularly proud of how I made them but I am proud of how I came to handle and learn from them. If other people can learn the same lessons from all of my previous mistakes, then why not share them for all the world to see.
I also stress to my team that they are my priority so if they have questions, comments, concerns, or really anything they need to talk to me about, I am free. However, I understand some people don’t always feel comfortable interrupting me. I also don’t always have the time to chat with everyone about topics beyond just work.
In order to make sure each person gets the coaching time they deserve, I schedule a 30 minute one-on-one session with each employee once a month. This time is used to talk about their wins, their passions in and outside the office, and simply shoot the shit. Being able to spend that time to get to know each person as an individual goes a long way in building trust and open communication.
My Experience: When I started, there were only two of us on our team in charge of managing our own clients and developing processes for our future department. Since neither of us had much experience in developing those processes, we relied heavily on bouncing our ideas back and forth. We held frequent brainstorms and openly collaborated on issues each of us were facing.
Even though for a while I was the youngest and least experienced person in the room, I never felt as though my ideas weren’t heard. No matter if it was just me and my teammate or if it was everyone in the company, my opinion was valued. Being able to be a part of a collaborative environment from the start helped build my confidence in my own abilities and made me a stronger overall employee.
My Tactic: While our client work is very individualized, I strive to never make any team member feel siloed by their accounts. While my team is made of some of the strongest analysts around, no single person has all the answers. Therefore, I have created multiple collaborative touch points throughout the month to bring people together to share ideas.
In a given month, each team member sits in two small group discussions where we run through account specific issues and questions that we tackle as a group. Once a month we have team brainstorms to talk about changes in the industry, the way we each complete a specific task, and any new features to try. I also empower any team member to set up a client-specific brainstorm for any new clients, client issues, or if they simply have the desire to get fresh ideas.
Of all of the tactics I have tried as a manager, having client brainstorms and monthly team brainstorms has had highest impact on the team. Not only has it helped share knowledge amongst the team, it also has direct positive impacts on each of our clients’ results.
Until Next Time
Look out for part 2 next time. In the meantime, feel free to contact us with any questions, comments, or personal experiences. We are also always looking for intelligent, hardworking individuals, if you are interested in joining our team check out our careers page.