The Values Gap: Making the Case to Adjust Your Company Culture


Many of the myths you hear about millennials aren’t true — or at least, not completely true. The youngest generation of workers isn’t necessarily more likely to job-hop than previous generations, for example. And while millennials are more likely to live at home, they’re not hanging around their parents’ basement because they’re too lazy to move out. Usually, they’re trying to pay off loads of accumulated student loan debt.

With that said, you might assume that money is the major motivation for millennials either choosing to continue working for a given company or to seek new opportunities. But if you thought that, you’d actually be wrong. Let’s unpack the details with help from our own data as well as a recent study from the University of Missouri.

How a Values Gap Can Lead Millennials to Look Elsewhere

When employees feel that their values are not shared by their workplace, they’re experiencing the “values gap.” The University of Missouri presents us with a study that illustrates this issue. The researchers interviewed employees in the textile and apparel industry. They found that workers were frustrated when their employers publicly touted a commitment to environmental sustainability, but failed to demonstrate that in their practices. These commitments included:

  • Using recycled materials for clothes
  • Proper disposal and management of pollutants, chemicals and dyes
  • Working conditions in textile factories

“Fewer people of this generation are just looking for a paycheck,” study co-author Jung Ha-Brookshire said. “They have been raised with a sense of pro-social, pro-environment values, and they are looking to be engaged. If they find that a company doesn’t honor these values and contributions, many either will try to change the culture or find employment elsewhere.”

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Organizational Consequences Of Ignoring Millennial Values

More than one in three American workers today are millennials. These workers have different values and cultural expectations than the generations of workers that came before them. Employers aren’t always prepared.

Ha-Brookshire notes that when millennial workers don’t feel like the company culture lines up with their beliefs, they tend to do one of two things:

  • Attempt to change the culture from within
  • Find employment elsewhere

A stale company culture with empty values means a higher turnover rate for its millennial employees. And unfortunately, high turnover costs your company money, time and resources. Over time, the organization gets a bad reputation, which can be costly to recruitment down the line.

Compensation Is an Extension of Company Culture

Knowing how compensation and culture play out together is important. Let’s take a look at some trends from our 2017 CPBR report to understand how companies are adjusting their cultures and compensation strategies to better connect with the millennial workforce.

From this chart, you can see that that small- and mid-sized businesses are already making changes to accommodate their millennial workforce. The bigger your organization is, the less likely it is that your organization is making these kinds of changes.

The scary part? More than half of the companies we surveyed — no matter what the size — are not changing their compensation strategies to accommodate millennials. Depending on what side of the fence you fall, this could either give you an edge when it comes to recruiting talent, or it could damage your brand.

More than half of the companies we surveyed -- no matter what the size -- are not changing their compensation strategies to accommodate millennials.Click To Tweet

How to Add and Retain Your Millennial Workforce

What can companies do to better retain millennials? Companies need to take a step back from what they think they know and listen to the wants, needs and desires of employees from more than just a compensation point of view. Millennials are more vocal and engaged than previous generations, and it’s important to take advantage of the opportunity to appeal to such a large and upcoming generation of workers.

From Science Daily:

…in order to attract and retain the best employees, the researchers encourage companies to understand that the new generation of workers have high ethical and social expectations. Being transparent with potential employees about corporate culture can head-off some frustration, they said. In addition, giving employees the opportunity to shape cultural decisions through membership on committees and outreach efforts will help to increase morale.

If you already know your culture sucks, tap into your own millennial workers to understand how you can make it better. Millennials will not only appreciate the honesty, but will likely embrace the idea of being able to have a role in creating deep, organizational change within the company they work for.

Tell Us What You Think!

Have you experienced the values gap within your own organization? We want to hear from you! Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter!

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