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Generational Viewpoints on Workplace Culture That Lasts

With four generations—Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z—working together, today’s workplace offers a wide range and dynamic combination of experience, expectations and priorities. We asked three APCO Worldwide colleagues to share their views on the workplace, how it has changed and what they see as the most important future considerations for companies as they look to create a culture that is inclusive for a multi-generational workforce. Here are their stories:

By Pete Wentz, Chicago

In today’s world, the importance of building and maintaining a culture goes beyond the traditional need of attracting and retaining employees. An organization’s culture is a factor that consumers, investors and even regulators consider as they decide whether and how to interact with a company.

I have been with two organizations where culture was built by employees and encouraged by leadership. In one instance, it was a personal care products company with new leadership. The leader had a vision to become a player in the personal care industry and, as the company grew, the culture evolved.  It moved from stodgy, sleepy, risk averse and boring to energetic, bold and exciting. Employees welcomed the collaborative style that emerged as well as the mutual respect we developed for each other, and our tolerance for new ideas from diverse perspectives. The CEO fostered the culture but did not (and could not) dictate it.

My other instance involved the founding of APCO’s Chicago office. We looked to other offices for a culture that we could emulate and found that, pretty uniquely, APCO offices around the world have a similar culture—a commitment to clients, an understanding of the importance of collaboration and a feeling that work should not only be rewarding, but challenging and enjoyable. What I liked most was the mantra throughout APCO to challenge conventional thinking. Our employees have really embraced that idea, and our office has maintained that sense of curiosity and commitment as we have seen new leadership emerge to take us to greater heights.

By Polly Kennedy, London

The workplace has changed a lot since I started my career in communications. Technology has transformed the workplace and the way we do business. The pace has increased—when I began we still faxed press releases to clients and waited days for them to come back—but with it, we’ve gained the flexibility and ability to work from anywhere.

Sometimes it seems that today’s workplace is made up of different tribes and generations from Baby Boomers and Generation X to Millennials and now Generation Z. Some days that can seem like a challenge, but to me the thing that matters is mutual respect. Everyone brings something different, and by collaborating and learning from each other we can make today’s workplace somewhere we all want to be.

We have recently been through a period of change in our office, and we have been deliberately working to improve the culture to make it more inclusive and collaborative. The foundations are frequent communication and transparency, but it’s also important to have a strong sense of who we are and what we want to achieve.  Although we need to embrace our differences, we are guided by our shared values: curiosity, boldness, empathy and inclusivity.

By Lelia Busch, Washington

When I began job-hunting this past spring, I found that finding the right post-grad job was an entirely different ballgame than searching for internships. I now had to focus not only on finding work that would be engaging, but also benefits and workplace culture that suited me. As a 1997 baby, I am right on the cusp between a Millennial and a Gen Z, and my job-hunting requirements reflected that generational distinction. As with many employees of my generation, non-financial benefits—such as work flexibility, office culture and leave policy—were critical considerations in my job search, a departure from previous generations’ focus on salary.

However, mentorship was the most important criterion in my job search. Mentorship programs can be major career-boosters, fostering professional development and translating into higher rates of pay-grade advancements and promotions. They also help build close collegial relationships, and foster a sense of inclusion and belonging in the workplace. For me and others of my generation, the ability to grow professionally and feel personally connected to our work is paramount to feeling productive, motivated and fulfilled.

I have been fortunate enough to find a company that builds mentorship into my daily schedule. From regular peer-to-peer discussions and weekly workplace trainings to daily guidance from my manager and project leads, APCO’s office culture fosters mentorship and relationship-building through both formal and informal avenues. While kick-starting my professional life has been daunting at times, having these networks has made the transition from student to employee much more fluid, comfortable and enjoyable than I had anticipated.

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