This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Much has been made recently about millennials in the workplace, and with good reason: they are now the largest demographic in the workforce, and more than half are considering leaving their current position within three years, according to a 2015 study conducted by Elance.
These statistics can be alarming to business leaders attempting to build a committed and engaged employee base.
As a result, many companies are scrambling to implement targeted strategies that will attract and retain the generation's top talent. The focus has been in the development of benefits and programs that speak directly to the oft-discussed ideals of millennials with regards to community involvement and positive social impact.
However, engineering an organization's culture to attract a specific demographic is a dangerous game that could result in an unstable foundation. Instead, the culture must be driven by what the firm values, and must be rooted in its vision and business purpose.
Embed a values-driven culture ...
Executive leaders must decide on a short list of succinct corporate values that identify what the organization stands for, and clearly defines its place in the community. These core beliefs become central to business operations, as well as guide day-to-day and strategic decisions. When effectively communicated, they also serve to ensure a cultural fit between the organization and its employees.
At Credential, we value Partnership, Innovation and Community, and those values are front and centre during recruitment: we ask questions that lead us to what the individual is passionate about, and what motivates them. In doing so, we bring on employees who share our beliefs and are looking for a workplace where they can be a positive impact in the community – no matter what generation they happen to belong to. The authenticity of the values helps attract and retain top talent among like-minded people, and it is this philosophical alignment that ultimately drives connection, engagement and retention; it has been a key factor in increasing Credential's employee engagement scores by 29 per cent since 2010.
... then get out of the way.
While the values provide the framework, the programs and benefits that support the culture ultimately should be owned and championed by employees themselves. Rather than viewing community involvement initiatives solely as tools for career development or engagement, allow your employees' passion and creativity to embody and heighten the culture; define the parameters, and then get out of the way.
We've created a formal recognition program for those that best exemplify our values, but it is our employees who drive it. An employee-run committee owns and facilitates community involvement opportunities, making recommendations to the company for fundraising and fund-matching programs, and employer-supported volunteer events.
Earlier this year, we partnered with The KidSafe Project Society to host a Spring Break Soccer Camp, giving a group of our employees the chance to interact directly with their community in a positive way. Our executive team endorsed this initiative through resourcing and facilitation, but it was our employees who conceived of it, and whose dedication brought it to life.
Whatever the prevailing demographic of the times – whether it's millennials or the groups coming in after them – an organization's culture needs to be in tune with its purpose in order to be successful and sustainable. You must be transparent on who you are, what you stand for, and be clear on the types of organizations you want to work with.
Your employees need to know what it means to be a part of the company, and feel connected to how the firm fits into the community. A culture with clearly defined values and social goals will inevitably attract like-minded talent who will contribute to the organization's long-term growth in a way that supports the core vision and business purpose.
Doce Tomic is president and CEO of Credential Financial, a national wealth management firm owned by Provincial Credit Union Centrals and The CUMIS Group. He is also a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors and TEC Canada, a peer advisory group for chief executive officers.