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VISION 2020: Lead With Culture (And Attract The Next Generation of Leaders)

Is your company culture attracting top talent? Are you giving employees at every level the opportunity to contribute, succeed, and thrive? Are you creating the most good with your resources?

Leading through culture isn’t about catchphrases, top-down initiatives, or clever messaging. It’s about prioritizing the kind of values that employees can really get behind and work to implement – especially for the upcoming generation of leaders.

Organizations are filling up with Millennial and Gen Z employees. Members of the Millennial generation now range between the ages of 25-39, while the oldest members of Gen Z are just leaving college and will soon be looking for their first work opportunity. Companies that want to attract the best talent and excel in their markets will need to emphasize a culture that is committed to supporting this emerging workforce. That means cultivating an approach to leadership development that gives early-career professionals plenty of opportunities to grow, and implementing a people strategy that values the contribution of every single employee.

Creating a Strong Leadership Development Culture


Don’t silo upper management away from the rest of the workforce. Younger employees want to know their bosses as people, with a unique personal perspective on the work. And they want to know that they, too, can bring their whole selves to the office. This creates greater investment, increased collaboration, stronger teams, and more opportunities for multi-generational knowledge sharing.

You can build on a culture of person-focused leadership by encouraging mentorship. A company where the established generation of leadership takes an active interest in their younger colleagues is a company where early-career professionals will want to build their networks and make a long-term impact. But knowledge transfer shouldn’t just be flowing in one direction. All of your employees have things they could learn from each other – and they should be encouraged share freely, openly and often.

  • Culture hack: Give “reverse mentoring” a try. Younger employees have the capacity to be mentors too – they have experience, perspective, and the potential to add value for senior leadership. Picture a scenario where the COO is being mentored by a mid-level engineer. Flipping these roles on their head gives all parties the opportunity to learn from each other.


Speaking of silos – they are a killer of innovation. Don’t construct the kind of company culture where teams and departments are walled-off from each other, or worse, encouraged to compete with each other in unhealthy ways. Foster collaboration over competition – this gives less-experienced workers in particular the opportunity to grow their skills by learning from people who are excellent in their roles.

  • Culture hack: Create a sense of transparency and collaborative spirit by having early-career employees participate in strategic planning with the senior team.


When you are relatively new to the workforce, you may not yet know exactly what you’re good at- or which roles are the best fit. Fit and disposition can also change and evolve throughout a career. Having the opportunity to learn new skills and explore talents is vital for the Millennial and Gen Z employee. Create a culture where established leaders support “trial-and-error” development – giving emerging leaders the opportunity to stretch and potentially make mistakes. This will build a more dynamic, growth-oriented organization.

  • Culture hack: Give early-career employees opportunities to take the lead on team projects. This will impart key management and strategic skills to your emerging leaders early on in their career, providing plenty of runway for growth. If you implement this hack, you will need to provide plenty of feedback and coaching along the way – which is a major plus for Millennial and Gen Z employees looking for organizations where they can grow their skills.


A purpose-driven organization has almost become a cliché, with every organization branding themselves as a company with purpose in order to attract Millennial employees. But, it is a cliché for good reason. Millennials don’t expect that every organization and role will contribute equally to the broader social good. But, they do want to know that their role contributes meaningfully to the company mission.

  • Culture hack: Make sure that all employees are heard when it comes to larger organizational practices. Employees that are willing to stand up for what’s important to them have huge leadership and change-agent potential.


It’s crucial for companies that want to attract top talent to show appreciation for, and a commitment to, diversity and inclusion. Diversity of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, skill background and nationality will contribute so much to your teams, and shows all employees (and potential employees) that you value varying perspectives and strengths. D & I is much more than a buzzword – it’s a necessary way of doing business in a country that is more diverse than ever. Companies that continue to hire people that look exactly like the old-guard leadership will quickly fall behind in talent and sustainability.

Many companies have considered the need to develop diversity strategies from an HR and hiring standpoint, but have thought less about creating a culture of inclusion for a diverse workforce. To truly create a strong culture around D & I, organizations will have to focus on creating policies that address the needs of ALL of their workers. Consider how policies such as supporting flex time, offering paternity leave, or providing daycare benefits could make it easier for all of your employees to give their all at work.

  • Culture hack: Focus on THRIVE instead of FIT – even from the hiring stage. Think about how you can hire based on a candidate’s willingness to develop and embrace the culture of growth within your company, instead of hiring for a particular “fit” that matches the employees you already have.

Your People Create Your Culture

Creating a strong organizational culture is a long-term effort – it won’t happen overnight. But your company already has the building blocks in place – your people. Listening to them, giving them opportunities to grow and share, and utilizing all of their talents in the workplace will do more than just improve employee morale and productivity – it will give your organization a reputation for being a great place to work.


Vision 2020 is about examining trends, pointing out gaps, and giving companies a framework for making the most of their top resource – their people. This series will provide a full-spectrum view on what it takes to be competitive on people strategy in 2020. Read the first Vision 2020 installment here: A 5-Step Organizational Audit for the New Year.

Success Labs is a leadership development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.

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