Workplace culture is the backbone of any organization, dictating how we work, connect, and evolve. It's more than just unwritten rules—it's the essence that attracts and retains talent, driving innovation and success. As today's business world demands agility, a robust culture becomes indispensable. With this in mind, we've collaborated with experts from diverse fields over the past six months.
Our mission? Deciphering the intricacies of fostering a vibrant workplace culture across generational lines, maximizing the potential of your workforce. These aren't mere theories; they're actionable strategies. Ready to redefine your workplace culture with transformative insights?
Here are 8 big ideas to supercharge your workplace culture:
In our evolving work culture, the traditional office isn't the only tool for fostering belonging and teamwork. Explore these strategies (and more) that extend beyond physical spaces:
- Treat Employees as Adults: Value individuality. As Spotify's CHRO, Katarina Berg, notes: treating adults like children is counterproductive. Trust in your team's capabilities.
- Reimagine the Office's Role: Beyond just a workspace, consider it a hub for collaboration.
“Flip the 60-70% of the office that was for heads down work to being 60 to 70% for heads up work for the interactions that we want people to have together in the time they want to spend.” -Brian Elliot, Author of How the Future Works
The rush for productivity often sidelines creativity, which thrives in unhurried spaces. Here are a few strategies to combat this time drought and increase culture in the workplace:
- Movement: Use physical activities for creative sparks. One way to incorporate space for movement into your work day, is to have "walk and talks". Meaning you take one of your meetings outside to change up your scenery, whether it’s online or in person.
- Thought: Allocate some dedicated time each week to carefully plan your priorities. Take a moment to reflect on what's been effective and what might need adjustment. Utilize the beginning of your week, like Mondays, to structure your plans.
- Rest: Embrace sleep and rest to energize the creative mind.
- Allocate dedicated hours for creative tasks.
- Minimize redundant meetings.
- Foster dialogues about workload, especially with Gen Z needing direction.
Traditional mentorship is evolving, with Gen Z bringing new mindsets for change that can benefit all generations. They seek dynamic, collaborative, and two-way mentoring experiences such as:
- Treat Mentorship as a Two-Way Street: There is a huge opportunity to create not only senior to junior, but also junior to more junior (or buddy systems) and even junior to senior mentor relationships.
- Revamp Development Approaches: Beyond technical skills, mentorship should guide through organizational and industry intricacies. Introduce "shadow boards" to infuse young, diverse voices in decisions for brand and product development.
- Champion Collaborative Growth: Embrace project collaboration and see clients and industry partners as keys to individual growth. This mutual growth fosters robust industry relationships.
Achieving a sense of belonging in today's digital age requires a blend of the physical and digital worlds. Learn from Gen Z's unique perspective can benefit ALL generations, creating a stronger workplace culture. Here are some of the ways to create a sense of belonging:
- Harness Gen Z's Fresh Take: Many have dived straight into remote work, offering insights into crafting a modern, inclusive workspace. It’s not “new” to them. It’s just work. What can we learn if we listen?
- Choice is Empowerment: Designers should be "curators of choice". Let individuals shape their experiences, emphasizing autonomy in decision-making. This includes physical and digital realms.
- Harness the Power of Diverse Perspectives: With ever-changing work dynamics adaptability and iterative testing is key. Embrace diverse feedback for richer, more inclusive solutions.
Continuous learning is pivotal, and to continue to build a strong culture in the workplace Gen Z is pioneering this movement with unique ideas that –if embraced- could benefit all generations:
- Embrace Self-Driven Learning: Equip employees with initial guidance, then empower them to self-learn using catalogued digital tools. This fosters autonomy.
- Promote Upskilling and Adaptability: Offer platforms tailored for ongoing learning, ensuring skills stay relevant as the world evolves and employees remain engaged.
Loyalty has evolved. It's not that Gen Z is disloyal, but they're exposed to endless opportunities. To boost loyalty:
- Shift to Success Planning: Move from traditional succession to success planning, focusing on personalized growth paths for each life stage.
- Jungle Gym Career Paths: Gen Z views career growth more as a "jungle gym" than a ladder. Offer flexible paths that let them develop their skills.
- Foster Entrepreneurship: Encourage their entrepreneurial spirit in-house, letting them lead projects aligned with their passions.
To truly engage and inspire, focus on the 'why' behind tasks, not just the 'how' or 'what'. Gen Z emphasizes purpose over mere task completion. But how? Here are a few ideas:
- Ignite Purpose Over Passion: Shift from the conventional idea of "passion" to "purpose". Ask about actions taken to effect change, revealing deeper motivations, and giving clues as to how to harness it.
- Empower Individual Impact: Everyone can make a difference without waiting for directives. Encourage and reward small acts that collectively nurture a supportive community.
The landscape of how to build trust and connection is evolving. It’s up to both analog and digital-natives to adapt, get curious, and discover new empathetic approaches. If you're an analog native, here’s where to start:
- Understand Digital Natives: Recognize the "native digital" and "native analog" distinction. Gen Z, as digital natives, perceive the world through a digital-first lens.
- Shift Perspectives: Embrace the idea that for Gen Z, digital experiences are primary, and real-world interactions are secondary. This does not mean that they don’t want face time (they do!) but how you get them there starts with trust.
- Foster Authentic Digital Connections: In a world dominated by online interactions, ensure your digital engagements are genuine.
Past generational dialogues have emphasized stereotypes and informing leadership. The exciting thing about gen Z is that the conversation is shifting around to foster engaging dialogues across every generation that can help your team grow together and create a workplace culture all want to be a part of.
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Amanda Schneider is a member of the Research & Content Development team for ThinkLab, the research division of SANDOW DESIGN GROUP. At ThinkLab, we combine SANDOW Media’s incredible reach to the architecture and design community through brands like Interior Design Media, Metropolis, Luxe, and Material Bank with proven market research techniques to uncover relevant trends and opportunities for the design industry. Join in to explore what’s next at thinklab.design/join-in.