Hey Gen Y, They Are Starting To Figure Us Out

  • A 50-year-old executive dancing around with an umbrella over lunch in a business suit.

  • A CEO taking a creamy pie in the face, willingly and voluntarily…AGAIN.

  • A president running around the office in a chicken suit.

  • An entire management team serving coffee and muffins to their staff in pajamas.

Old school corporate thinking might have a tough time viewing that as a formula for success, but I would counter that it is all part of the perfect way to cultivate an amazing corporate culture.

The workforce is changing, and successful workplaces are changing with it. My generation wants to work for organizations that “get it”, organizations that care. We want to know we are contributing to companies that really build and positively impact communities. What’s even crazier is that we will do it for less money; we will gladly take a little less to be a part of a culture of caring, one that truly believes in giving back and treats its employees like family.

I have the great pleasure of not only working in a culture like that, but also working with so many other amazing organizations that have such entrenched cultures of caring. Don’t mistake a few whacky antics for a lack of professionalism; these are events happening at highly profitable and professional companies. What I want to key on is the correlation between the culture at these companies and how highly successful their workplace fundraising campaigns are.

It trickles down from the top to the engine that drives everything. It comes from leaders who are real and lead by example, who not only make it ok for their staff to always have time for community, but who give tremendously of their time and resources themselves. A real leader will get their hands dirty and gladly shake the hands of those on the front lines of their business. Employee retention has always been important, but it’s even more important now. An entire generation is afflicted with a different kind of entitlement, a kind of entitlement we have never seen before to this degree – social responsibility. Star candidates can no longer be swayed solely with salary; it may work initially in some cases, but at some point (sooner than later most times) that wears off and their desire to be part of something more will outweigh their desire for more money.

Lip service to charity no longer holds water for us. We want to see our managers and CEOs painting the same classrooms we are, making and passing out the same comfort kits at Homeless Connect that we are…we want to know that they truly understand why our communities are so important to us. Well guess what, we have those kind of leaders here in this community. I have looked them in eye, felt the passion in their handshakes, watched them take pies in the face because they know it means so much more than a few laughs.

There are a number of organizations right here in the Capital Region that have openly embraced the notion that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. The amount of money and time that they and their employees give back to this community is astounding, and they continue to find ways to exceed what they gave previously.

I applaud the leadership in this city that has taken the time to truly understand a generation that has grown up and developed a different value set than that of their predecessors. Our ideas and our zealous nature scare the hell out of them at times, but they choose to nurture rather than smother that passion. We are a generation that isn’t looking back fondly and yearning for simpler times, we eagerly push forward to fashion a better world for everyone. We are a generation that truly believes that ending homelessness is possible, that poverty has no right to exist any longer.

Keep it here kids – and keep it real.

Brandon Kelm is a Campaign Manager for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.