S04 E03: Importance of creating adaptive and flexible company cultures for your Gen Z employees

In the third episode of this season of CultureClub X powered by CultureMonkey, we have with us Donna M Brown, Head of People & Culture at Electriphi, Inc, who discusses how to create an adaptive and flexible workplace culture for your Gen Z employees.

About Donna –

Donna is a Global HR executive creating remarkable cultures, unleashing people’s power to thrive and perform at their best.

She’s a seasoned expert in the HR industry for over 22 years and has been associated with some premier brands including UAL Corporation/United Airlines, Ernst & Young, and GE Capital.

Donna has been an active ally and champion of inclusivity and equity, partnering with groups like Lean In, Women in Tech, Women in Finance, and local inclusion groups.  She was the global leader for Lean In Circles, where she held a variety of leadership roles in human resources and technology.  She is a highly professional and result-driven enthusiast, with multiple certifications from Scaled Agile, Inc. 2019, Cornell University ILR School, and human capital institute.

An alumna of the University of San Diego, Donna likes working in transformational settings with progressive leaders and has volunteers with multiple social organizations.

Here’s a gist of what Donna speaks about in this video:

  • The significance of extending not just the technology, but also the digital experience, transparency, service, and support at the workplace.
  • How Gen Z helped normalize conversations about mental health and overall work-life experience.
  • Why workplace flexibility and autonomy is important to employee engagement irrespective of the generation gaps.
  • What are the prime reasons for Gen Z employees quitting the workplace, and why it’s not mainly due to the compensations.

Catch all this and more with Donna Brown in S04 E03 of CultureClub X.

Transcript –

Diana – Hello everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of CultureClub X, powered by CultureMonkey. I’m your host,Diana Blass.

CultureMonkey is a complete employee engagement platform that helps people leaders listen to their employees and enhance workplace cultures.

In our third episode of our latest season of CultureClub X, we have with us Donna M Brown, Global Head of People & Culture at Electriphi, Inc.

Welcome, Donna. It’s a pleasure to have you today.

Donna – Hi, Diana. I’m so excited to be here and chat with you.

Diana – Well, again, thanks for joining us, and I’m so excited to share a bit about your background with our viewers.

Donna is a Global HR executive creating remarkable cultures, unleashing people’s power to thrive and perform at their best. She’s a seasoned expert in the HR industry for over 22 years and has been associated with some premier brands including UAL Corporation, United Airlines, Ernst and Young, and GE Capital.

Donna has been an active ally and champion of inclusivity and equity, partnering with groups like Lean In, Women in Tech, Women in Finance, and local inclusion groups. She is with the global leader for Lean in Circles, where she held a variety of leadership roles and human resources and technology.

She’s a highly professional and result-driven enthusiast, with multiple certifications from Scaled Agile, Inc. 2019, Cornell University ILR School and human capital institute. An alumna of the University of San Diego, Donna likes working in transformational settings with progressive leaders and has volunteered with multiple social organizations.

She is a mom of two children and enjoys life at a small horse farm in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina with her family.

Donna, it’s great to have you with us today!

Welcome again to CultureClub X’s videocast on “Importance of creating adaptive and flexible company cultures for your Gen Z employees.”

Before we begin, please tell us more about yourself and your organization.

Donna – Thank you so much.

So, yes, I joined Electriphi about a year ago, right after the companies was acquired by Ford Motor Company, and Electriphi is in the business of helping commercial customers make the transition to electric vehicles.

If people are familiar with Ford, Ford Pro is a brand on the commercial side. We’re the largest in the US for commercial vehicles. And one of the cool things about being part of the Ford family now is we can help our commercial customers with everything from consulting on what does this even mean to me in terms of going electric.

People in the US and outside of the US will know that many countries, many states now have mandates due to global warming about electrification of vehicles, which are the number one vehicles or the number one pollutant or contributor to global warming.

So, it’s really high profile in the U.S., we just passed a pretty large bill to help people and companies transition to electric. And in addition to consulting that we do with our commercial customers.

We take them along the entire journey from figuring out how they’re going to start blending diesel and gas and electric, and over time start shifting their fleets, providing them hardware, providing them software to make it easy for them to do business with Ford now, it’s about financing and vehicles at the end of it if they want.

So, we’re here to really support our commercial customers through the whole life cycle of this transformation, which it’s super fun to be part of the Ford family right now, because if you think back, Ford was the first going from horse-drawn carriages to vehicles, and now we’re moving from gas and diesel vehicles to electric.

So, we’re here right on the forefront of the next big thing in automotive.

Diana – Yeah, that’s very fascinating. I love that comparison that you just placed there. And on top of that, I mean, Gen Zs are so passionate about sustainability. So, exactly, an area that I can see, you know, that you have so much to weigh in on here that others can take from.

Donna – Oh, my goodness. It affects our culture a lot. It’s one of the key things that we look for in our people. It doesn’t necessarily have to be electric vehicles, but we want people that are passionate about sustainability.

As one of our sales leaders says, “We’re saving the planet one vehicle at a time.”

So, yes, we’re super passionate in many, many ways, and our people bring so much of that energy to the table. So it’s been the cornerstone of our culture in terms of that activism, that level of employee care about each other and about the world that really helps feed great talent into what we’re all about.

Diana – That’s wonderful, Donna. And it feels like you’re going to have a lot to add on this topic during our conversation today, so I’m so excited to have you with us. Without further ado, let’s get started.

According to you, what modernizations in work culture can better accommodate the Gen Z style of working? How can organizations classify their demands as progressive and good versus nonessential and futile?

Donna – Super interesting question.

So I guess I would start with the fact that Gen Z workers are digital natives first and foremost. So, we need to focus on extending that digital experience to the workplace. And it’s not just about technology. It’s the transparency, the service, the support. Things need to be as close to on demand as possible, and people want to self-serve.

If, you know, somebody has a question on a policy, as an example, they don’t want to call the HR department and wait for somebody to be able to help them. Right? They want things at their fingertips. And so we need to be clear and unambiguous about policies and practices.

And more experienced workers need to be prepared for a level of candor and transparency, than maybe they never have experienced before. Because if we’re not telling people what they need to know, they’re going to go and find it, right? Information is at our fingertips. Some of it’s real, some of it’s not real.

So we need to always make sure that we’re ahead of the curve in that way. But in terms of balance, I think we’ve found that Gen Z workers can be a little bit over reliant on digital interactions, which can make it more difficult to form connections and collaborate with colleagues.

So we have to find ways to bring people together, especially companies like mine, which are 100% virtual. So, we’ve created some non-digital experiences to help with this. Some simple things like posting a location report so that people who share a geography can get together with their coworkers, which we say, you know, go have lunch, go have dinner, we’ll cover the expenses.

We also engage with coworking spaces in geographies, where we’re beginning to have groups of people encouraging them to get together periodically, especially for collaborative work, casual get togethers, fun events. And I think I’ve found this certainly to be true in my career. When people meet for a meal, when they do something fun together, when they share together, they create these powerful relationships that can increase understanding and empathy, and then that carries back into work.

So, umm,  I think those are just some simple things. So another watch out, which may be even more significant, is that we need to manage expectations about the pace of change.

While we all may be striving for similar outcomes, Gen Z people need to really understand the companies that they’re joining. If you join a starter culture like ours, modernization is easy, and change happens really quickly because we’re small and we’re new, but we’re also scaling, so there are a lot of missing pieces.

This can be a great environment for some, but it’s not for everyone. And I’m glad, Diana, that you mentioned Electriphi being a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Company, because you can imagine that the transformation that’s going on there right now is completely different, given they’re huge, global, they’ve been in business for over 100 years, so there’s a lot of great legacy to build on, but there’s a lot of modernization that needs to happen. So the pace of change is very different.

At my last company, we had some fallout in new joiners, because there was some impatience for change. They didn’t want to necessarily be along for the ride, they wanted to be there now, they wanted to be working in a super modern environment, and they were frustrated by the bureaucracy that necessarily exists in a larger company.

So, for those Gen Zers who are new to the workforce, looking for their first jobs, maybe thinking about changing jobs, my advice is to really do your research, know the culture of the companies that you’re applying to, so that you can make sure you know what to expect.

Diana – It’s interesting, when you mentioned startups, you think that there’s so much opportunity to create and to leave your mark and to be a part of something new.

But in reality, you’re right. There’s a need to get funding, and there’s still ways of people trying to figure out, I guess, the ladder of leadership, right?

Like, who to turn to, because things are moving in just a different fashion from traditional workplaces.

Donna – And some people love that. Some people thrive in that kind of an environment, but other people may be looking for a little bit more structure and guidance. If I can tell a little story, I hope that he won’t be mad at me.

So, when I joined Electriphi a year ago, we had nothing in terms of Human Resources, normal things that people expect. We had a payroll app, we had some benefits, that was great. But, you know, I was sort of the first HR person in the US, it was all about scaling. We weren’t worried about funding anymore because Ford happily had acquired us.

But as we’re hiring people and they want to have a conversation about career progression, I’m like, are you kidding? I’m like trying to get a recruiting platform in place. So, you know, that was super fun and energizing for me.

But on the other hand, my son worked for a startup for several years, and you know, it was a mixed experience because as an early in career professional, he got to wear many hats, he built up a ton of resilience because of, you know, working in that kind of ambiguous environment.

But he really felt like he needed, people that he could learn from and grow from. He needed feedback, but he, like, all of a sudden, he’s the head of the creative department, and he’s got a couple of people that are working with him. I think technically they work for me, but we’re just a team, it’s fine. And you know,  not having somebody who’s more senior to provide feedback on the work that he was doing, got great customer feedback, but you know, didn’t have that built in mentor inside the organization or a manager to work for that was in his domain really became somewhat problematic after a while.

So, yeah, he moved on to a great new opportunity. He had a great time when he was there, but you know, it sort of just shows, depending upon where you are in your career, again, a more traditional company may be great, newer company may be great. It just really depends what you’re looking for as an individual. And people just need to really pay attention to that and think about it.

Diana – Yeah. And actually, as you’re saying this, it brings to light just how valuable culture is, because you need that loyalty, that trust among your employees to make them believe in what you’re working towards.

Especially when the salaries may not be as high as others or the perks may not be that amazing as other places. So, very interesting to think about it.

What signs can managers look for to gauge the emotional and mental health of Gen Z employees? How can they implicate a sense of belongingness post-identifying such issues?

Donna – A hot topic right now, isn’t it? For the last probably 18 plus months. But, you know, I want to give a shout out to our Gen Zers because they’ve really helped normalize conversations about mental health and overall work-life experience and their general activism, I think, has gone a long way to challenge the status quo, especially around issues like valuing difference and inclusion.

So, you know, I think there’s been a lot of conversation about things that managers need to do in terms of creating open, inclusive and safe environments, where people can discuss challenges honestly.

And you know, I think about myself if you’re a Gen Xer, right? We spent most of our professional careers hiding our personal lives, especially women, you know, and, you know, God forbid anybody think that we’re going to go out and maternity leave and then all of a sudden, you know, we’re not getting any opportunities.

And also for men, right? Which is, they’re not supposed to even have a blink, that all this stuff is going on in their family and just, you know, supposed to be working. So the whole paradigm has shifted so much, but really, we would never discuss medical issues, forget about mental health issues with our managers.

So, we’re all being rewired and I think it’s for the better. So, creating this open and safe environment, I think managers also need to watch for signs and ask their employees, as well as model openness and vulnerability themselves. I struggle with anxiety and I do posts all the time, especially when holidays are coming up, just to start the conversation and let people know it’s okay to be feeling the way you’re feeling and it’s okay to talk about it, because we want people to be healthy and well, and we provide all kinds of support for them as much as we can.

Because people need to be living their best lives to do their best work. You know, I think the COVID pandemic helped normalize this level of transparency for most workers. But it’s the Gen Z population who finished school and took their first jobs under these conditions, so they expect it not to be different.

Whereas some of us who are in the workforce prior to COVID right, it’s like, oh, are we going to go back to that? So many has changed, you know, I think that they have nothing to compare to, depending upon people’s ages. So there is an expectation that, you know what, we demonstrated that we could do this, that we could work in an open and flexible way, and that we could talk about mental health.

I also want to mention there are so many new companies in the health and wellness space that make it super easy to connect with resources, many of which are free or low cost. Scheduling mindful moments into calendars so that people make this a practice is a super simple way to draw attention to the need to take a moment and recenter, sometimes a few times a day.

But you know, at Electriphi, we provide people sit/stand desks or desk risers at the time that they’re hired so that they’re not sitting all day. We started a practice called walkie talkie meetings, which is a little bit of a throwback to the past. Some people are like what’s the walkie talkie?

But you know, anytime you don’t have to be reviewing a document on screen, pop your headphones in and take a walk while you’re doing your meeting. And our founders are the ones who started some of this, so it definitely comes from the top.

And we’ve published a list of fun ideas to ensure that people are taking time off with mental health and volunteer days being at the top of that list, again to normalize that mental health days are something everybody needs.

And another thing that’s interesting that actually came from our people, we had to implement minimum time off. So our company has unlimited PTO, like a lot of technology companies, so that’s a little bit of an oxymoron, why would we need to do this?

But we found that because there was nothing to lose and this is our first go to market year, people were working like mad people and not taking any time off.

So, one of the things that we had to start doing was tracking PTO. Not for the normal reason that companies track PTO, but so that we could send nudges. When we notice that somebody hasn’t taken time off in a while, we’ll send them like a little coffee break, you know, symbol or something, or you know, just reach out and say, hey, we noticed that you haven’t taken any time.

Could be that you’re just not logging out, which is okay, we’re a little bit casual about that, but we really want to make sure that you’re refilling your cup. Especially in a year where we’ve just asked so much of our people.

Diana – I love that.

I think in today’s world where Slack and Teams and other apps are all on your phone, it’s so easy to stay connected and to always be available that people get in the habit of saying, well, I may not be as available. You know, they don’t want to say they’re taking off. And that really does set a tone for the others who want to take off.

Donna – Our leaders are super intense about taking time off and unplugging.

Diana – Yeah.

Donna – And we’ve also sort of done a little marketing campaign about that, which is we don’t expect you to be answering your work phone or picking up emails when you’re off. That’s what your team and your manager are there to do to support you.

And it’s an expectation. It can get a little gnarly in our company when we have people that are replying to emails when they’re off. I certainly challenge my people and others. “Aren’t you supposed to be off today?”

Well, yeah, but you know, I’m waiting at the airport or whatever and I’m like, alright, you know, so you can give me an excuse today, but really, you know, you’re on the string for when you come back.

Diana – That’s funny. I mean, it’s true. I think, I can speak of my personal experience. My best ideas come when I am, you know, just relaxing or working out or doing something.

Donna – Folding laundry is my thing.

Diana – Yeah, okay, I should do that.

Donna – I have my phone ready when I’m folding laundry because it’s such a mindless thing to do, right? That your brain just sort of wanders free.

Diana – Yeah, definitely.

Gen Zers are known to prefer flexibility and autonomy in a job, the lack of which leads to their attrition. How can people leaders best support them in achieving this balance and ensuring retention?

Donna – Diana, don’t we all really want flexibility and autonomy? I think that the Gen Z population certainly has grown up with it, but everybody wants that. And you know, I think if you think back, whether it’s the decline in employee engagement scores over the past ten plus years, the great resignation, quiet quitters, whatever you want to call it, this is a real issue because for some reason, the management processes of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, have incredibly persisted into today in some cases, and they’re overdue for retirement, they need to go sit on a beach somewhere.

But, you know, some companies have continued management practices where, you know, they’re not focused on creating trust, and engagement is low and people are really not thriving. I think again, COVID helped bust some of these myths that persisted about the types of jobs where you could be flexible or they could be done remotely.

Many companies, including a company I used to work for, found that performance and productivity metrics actually went up in job groups that never would have been considered for remote work before COVID.

So my opinion is that, you know,  this was a great experiment in what happens when you offer people flexibility and autonomy. Work gets done, you know. I had managers saying, well, they’re not going to be, how do I know they’re doing their work?

I’m like, why wouldn’t they be doing their work? What do you think they’re going to be doing? Right? You know, so, I think that this, you know, older culture of, I can’t see you and if I can’t see what you’re doing, you’re off, I don’t know what.

But I think that that’s really unfair to all workers. But, you know, when I think about what people leaders need to do, it’s really super simple, and they need to follow the golden rule, and they need to treat other people the way they want to be treated.

Trust your people, empower and support them to do meaningful work, and they’re going to do a great job.

Diana – Definitely!

Donna – Yeah.

Diana – So, I think entrepreneur.com did a survey looking at Gen Z habits, and while remote work ranked high, it wasn’t just about not being in an office, too. It was about, as we just mentioned, the wellness incentives, maybe even student loan repayments or help there.

And I’m wondering, you have a virtual company, so how do you show wellness? Or let’s say I paid lunch or things like that, that, have them

Donna – We do that too!

Diana – Yeah. Okay. I love to learn about some of the, you know, the extra perks that you offer that, what we thought were great before. Remember, like Amazon had the great cafeterias and all the..

Donna – The stories about Google back in the day, right? People taking naps and playing ping pong and whatever., you know? I think that those, you know, were the first pioneers in different ways of working and recognizing that people are, we not robots, right? We’re whole beings that are emotional and physical and mental and spiritual.

And you got to address balance in all of those things in order for people to perform at their best. What I would say is we try a lot of things. We’re an experimentation based company, which is super exciting, but it always starts with conversations with our people. What are their ideas about what would make our culture, our environment, the things that we’re doing as a company, work for them? How can we remove barriers to them being successful?

So, you know, one of the things is, we’re virtual because our founder has been vocal from the beginning, that we don’t really care where a person works from, when they do their work. We manage by objectives and this allows for a lot of flexibility.

Again, we would be doing the same thing, I think, if we had offices. But not just for Gen Zers, but for everyone, you know? And our leaders walk the talk. They post pictures and slack of things that they take time out to do. We’re always seeing people’s, two legged and four legged children out doing fun things, you know, showing pictures of adventures that happen.

And it reinforces that we’re not just paying lip service to flexibility and autonomy that we actually expect it.

Some of the other things we do, so we called it quits on meetings on Thursdays. We did Thursdays because Fridays didn’t work for our people in the E.U. But that’s a day for people to not only work on their projects, but really take that thinking time. What is it that I need to be thinking about for the future?

For me, it’s, you know, trying to get through a bit of my reading pile and you know, and connect with people to see what sparks in terms of what we want to do next. We do send people lunch, once a month and you know, that seems to be fun.

We’ve introduced mindful moments. We’ve introduced, you know, sort of peer mentoring. We’ve done a lot of things to be able to scale the business. Because one of the things that our founders and our whole leadership team and I agreed on is these things are not nice to have add ons.

You actually have to do these things as the foundation of your business so that people have an experience that not only causes them to want to come, but causes them to want to stay. And that is the foundation to enable them to do their best work.

So we’re constantly trying things. We’ve got a couple of pilots going on now with ideas that we got from our people. And sometimes things work out well, sometimes things don’t work out so well, so we stopped doing them.

But you know, it’s all about, you know, you have a basket of things you can try, and sometimes, you know, yeah, you could throw that spaghetti against the wall, but you’re really trying to create unique recipes for your business, for a certain team, for a particular set of people, and really just trying, you know, to bring to bear what people tell you will work for them.

Diana – Is there anything you mentioned pilots like, anything that you found new and noteworthy that you’re excited to share, that’s working for your employees right now?

Donna – Yeah, well, so we had been piloting an onboarding platform that actually is attached to our recruiting platform, which we’ve now rolled out across the U.S. and India, which are our main populations.

And that’s been a bit of a game changer because number one, you know, you think of when you’re, you know, sort of in start-up mode, even if you’re not a startup company anymore, you don’t have a lot of practices, so your managers, you know, are doing what’s needed to be done for their people, and everybody has different ideas.

So you end up with this really sort of erratic experience. And some managers do a fantastic job. Other managers are just like, great, you’re here, let me give you your to do list. So, you know, we’ve been able to standardize that practice across our locations.

And the platform that we use is super flexible. So as new people come in, they get surveyed, you know, even before they come in, they get surveyed. After they’re here for 60 to 90 days, they get surveyed, what’s working? What’s not? What can we add that you found out later that you wish you would have known on day one? So that’s something that’s been really fun and is working well for us.

Diana – How can people leaders create and maintain a company culture that appeals to Gen Z employees by emphasizing candidate experience, wellness, and DEI initiatives rather than just offering high compensation?

Donna – This is a really great question, so, you know, I like to start with the data. So maybe let’s start there, which is for a long time, survey after survey, including in the Gen Z demographic, results show that salaries not really the reason that most people leave their companies.

People leave their companies because of poor managers and increasingly showing up are cultures where they feel excluded, workplaces where there are barriers to them being able to thrive and contribute. So it’s a business imperative for people leaders to embrace these types of initiatives and help make them a reality in the workplace.

And it’s not just about supporting your HR department, because HR can roll out a great employee experience from first touch candidate through onboarding. But if a person’s day-to-day experience with their manager or their team is not consistent with that stated culture or the experience so far, there’s going to be trouble, you know, it takes every person in an organization to cultivate a rich, rewarding culture.

And people who act contrary to that culture need to be given a chance to align or leave pretty quickly, because that can be toxic.

One of the things that we’ve implemented this year, I referred to this a little bit ago, is a recruiting and onboarding platform so that people have that consistent and special experience from first contact through hitting the ground in their role. And the platform allows us to survey candidates, new hires. And we’ve gotten terrific feedback from people both positive and constructive, so that we can improve our process.

I think providing a consistent experience grounded in our values of inclusion, health and fun, which are three of ours, right from that first interaction, grounds people in what we’re all about. And we’ve gotten feedback from candidates not selected for roles that because of the great experience we provide, they’re going to keep applying, which is awesome.

Like bar none, some of the best feedback that I’ve ever received, showing that the things we’re doing are working. We want to be a talent magnet, where people have the experience of a lifetime working with us, where they form lasting relationships regardless of how long they’re with us and where they really feel like they can contribute.

And so, you know, all of this weaves together for us in a tapestry, and it’s not necessarily a thing where managers can pick and choose to participate and contribute or not. You know, people that are not sort of down with our culture, we don’t really, we don’t select people that are not demonstrating that they already have our, you know, cultural attributes, you know, in their hearts.

We talked about sustainability before being one of them, but, you know, our managers need to lead way every single day.

Diana – It’s very interesting because, you know, your culture does need to be authentic at the end of the day. So it makes sense that you want people who truly believe in what you’re trying to achieve, especially as we mentioned earlier with startups today, where there’s so much unknown out there that you need to be united on a common front so.

Donna – Yes, because that’s the one thing that you have that grounds you. Right? Everything else is under development or it’s on the roadmap. Right? I get questions about things that I’m just like, oh my gosh, that’s on the roadmap, for 2024.

Diana – I like that’s on the roadmap.

Donna – But, you know, our values and our culture is what anchors us and what gives us that commonality. We’re always coming back to it. It’s our touchstone, and you know, at the end of the day, it’s the thing that aligns everyone.

Diana – Yeah, definitely.

Organizations are increasingly looking towards “blended learnings” to up-skilled Gen Z employees. What are the modernizations required in L&D to enable that effectively?

Donna – In my experience, you know, I think that L&D teams have done a really incredible job over the past number of years, positioning themselves for this wave, because it’s not really new information that adult learners do best when they understand why something’s important to know or do, they’ve got the freedom to learn in their own way.

Learning is experiential, not just, you know, reading a book or listening to a lecture and then more so that the time is right and the process is positive and encouraging.

So one of the huge things that, you know, has been around the last number of years in L&D is the gamification of learning, you know, digital on demand, people are getting points and stars and making avatars and so, all of that goodness that, you know, comes in from the gaming world, blending that with our learning experience, I think, can be those positive encouraging things.

And for Gen Z workers, this is the way that they’ve grown up, so they don’t really know anything different. Even at school, teaching is done through so many different mediums today that it’s unusual for students, probably until they get to college, that they’re sitting for hours in a lecture, you know, without labs and practices and you know, getting their hands dirty with things.

But you know, certainly at Electriphi, we try to meet people where they are in their development. And like before I said, we’ve got these baskets of solutions to create the right recipe for that individual. And digital learning allows for a level of personalization and curation that you’d never have the manpower to deliver if you are still doing things in person.

And again, we ask our people, what do you want to learn? What do you need to know more about? So that we can make sure that we’re meeting what’s on top of mind for them? So you know, that’s where we come about. It’s another place where being part of Ford helps us because we get to participate in all kinds of big company things that we’d never be able to fund ourselves.

But for us, where we are, you know, a year into our go to market, a couple of examples and a couple of more pilots that we’re doing. So leadership development is huge for us right now. We’re scaling and beginning to add management layers for the first time. It’s not just the leadership team.

So we’re piloting with the leadership team, actually a blended learning platform right now that offers snackable digital content with insights from a pretty famous executive coach. And then individual coaching, both online as we’re replying to challenges, and then also in person a couple of times through the duration of the training.

And I think in a busy world where people leaders especially, are pressed for time, having a high-quality program that people can do on their own, come together, have some conversations, and sort of do things on their own schedule has really been a game changer for us in terms of participation, you know? I’ll throw something out to my more experienced L&D colleagues, right? How many times is HR people when you say, okay, you asked for a training on this, here it is, and it’s going to be a day or a half a day, the first question is, well, can we do it in an hour.

This time pressure that’s associated with live trainings or even recorded trainings has been there for years and years and years. And so I think, again, we’re being pushed by our you know, early and career workers that there are ways, there are ways to make sure that we’re serving our learners, and those ways are out there.

Diana – Yeah, really interesting to think about that dynamic. You’re right, especially as conferences means everything’s virtual today that we’re used to just hopping on and getting off and going back to our daily activities.

Even on TikTok, I see CEOs who share advice on when to stay, when to leave a job, and they talk a lot about the idea of always learning, always, like, you’re better in yourself and preparing for that next thing.

And so you’re right. If a company like yours can always enable that employee base to be enhancing their skill sets, it’s just really thinking about the way to do it and how to do it.

Donna – Yeah.  And your example, Diana, is such a good one because, you know, sometimes we think about budgets and everybody has budget pressures and things like that, but there’s relevant contact on something like TikTok. Right?

There are things that you can YouTube. Right? Like, when was the last time that you had to hire somebody to help do something for you? Because, all right, I’m going to go watch a YouTube video and figure out how to do it myself so, there are, you know,  you can totally DIY, you know, what you’re going to do. Or there, you know, are a lot of great new companies now who are really, you know, making it easy and super cost effective to pull those kinds of things together.

Diana – Yeah, definitely. Interesting.

Considering Gen Z’s affinity towards quick technology adoption. How can organizations use technology to engage and empower Gen Z employees effectively?

Donna – Goodness! “Let them lead.” Let them lead the way.

So I’m a big fan of peer and reverse mentoring. Everybody has something to share. And in the case of technology adoption, let’s learn from our super users. When we’ve been in the workplace for a while, especially maybe one that’s not so tech focused, I don’t even think we know what’s possible in terms of making work easier, simpler, or better through technology.

Tech’s had a super interesting effect on workplace power structures. For a while now, it’s not just been the manager with 20 years of experience teaching others. It’s younger workers lighting the way, they’re creating companies, apps, software, new ways of working.

And I think if we think about so many of the well known examples of true innovation, it’s younger people that are making that huge impact.

So, you know, technology helped us quickly pivot during the pandemic. It allows us to work in both synchronous and asynchronous ways. It enables collaboration, and it’s the foundation to delivering great products and services to our customers.

So if companies are not adopting technology enablers, they’re going to fall behind. We’re a SaaS company, and a majority of our product development tech talent are early in their careers. So I think this sets a particularly terrific example for others that you can make a huge impact regardless of how many years of experience you have.

I think this is another mythbuster in a lot of ways. If people show us that they’re living our culture and that they have an aptitude for work of increasing complexity, leadership, whatever, we’re going to give you a chance to do that and provide you the support to shine.

I learn something new just about every day, whether it’s from my kids or our early in career talent, that opens up possibilities and ways of working that never existed before. So it’s a super exciting time of tremendous change in the workplace, and I’m so glad this generation of workers are helping us push boundaries and finding new ways to unleash their capabilities.

Diana – And what specifically we talk about tech adoption and what Gen Zers are really pushing for. I mean, what are some examples of the applications they’re calling for?

Donna – Well, I think you mentioned a few early on. So Slack and Teams and you know, other tools where you’re sort of in constant conversation with people. And also one of the things I love about Slack, I had not used Slack before I joined my current company. And you know, so you’ve got, you know, your instant messaging and you know, you’ve got your threads that you’re part of because of work. But it’s also a wonderful way to again, break down barriers to form those personal connections.

We’ve got Slack channels on all kinds of interests. We’ve got Slack channels where people are posting pictures of their pets. We’ve got Slack channels where those of us that love music are posting all kinds of different things about music. And you know, you want to start a conversation with people again, especially in a virtual environment, open up a channel in Slack and you know, you get, all of a sudden you get, you know, a group of people that want to have that conversation and then maybe you will meet them at a business meeting at some point in time.

And it’s just like, “Hey, you love 80’s punk rock too!”

Diana – Yeah, I love that. You’re right. It’s about making those relationships. And I worked remotely with all my colleagues. They were in another country. We had a channel called “Coffee Break” you know a water cooler, you know things that you normally think of gathering in a kitchen when you’re making your coffee in the morning and chatting and now having a designated channel for that.

And I think even just laughing at the name of the channel, it creates an united front, for sure.

Donna – We have a channel called “Random,” which truly is random, but it’s also like, oh, I never knew that. Right? You talked earlier about this learning culture, right, about you know, some of the CEOs posting on TikTok.

Everybody’s learning at such a pace today, and you’re learning all the time through all kinds of different ways. And you know, going back to our conversation on blended learning, you know, it’s not just curriculum, it’s interactions, it’s sharing. It’s somebody did something super cool. Oh, my gosh. I’ve always wanted to try that.

Let’s have a conversation about how you made that bread or your trip to Mount Kilimanjaro or whatever, and you know, you democratize the learning experience.

Diana – I love the insights you shared on this topic today. Your approach and ideas were truly reflective of people focused cultures for Gen Z. Leaders must constantly adapt workplaces for Gen Z who have very different mindsets and expectations.

CultureMonkey solves this problem for people leaders effectively by offering a smarter way to listen to their employees with real time data, you can now solve problems like mental wellness, flexibility, and DEI with tech that adapts to your workforces.

So visit culturemonkey.io to see how you can improve your workplace culture today. With that, we conclude this episode of CultureClub X.

Thank you, Donna. Your unique perspective on this topic will undoubtedly help leaders and attract and retain Gen Z workers.

Please let our viewers know how they can connect with you if they want to have a quick chat or share their thoughts.

Donna – Fantastic! So I’m on LinkedIn. So, Donna-Brown. Nice and easy. Come find me. Come start a conversation with me. I go through spurts with my LinkedIn, so if you don’t hear back right away, don’t be offended. I’ll get to you. But yeah, people should for sure reach out.

Diana – Well, that’s all we have for you in this episode of CultureClub X powered by CultureMonkey.

Until next time, this is your host, Diana, signing off.