With an average employee age of 32, it’s easy to clump Traction on Demand with other tech companies touting the youthfulness of their workforce. Standing desks! Panini lunches! Roaming dogs! But make no mistake, this isn’t a company that was built for millennials, rather it’s a company that naturally attracts people in this age group because of shared values.
“Millennials are a group of people who watched their parents make the majority of their wealth through real estate and other means. With that out of reach to them, they’re instead shifting their focus to ‘What’s the purpose of life? How can I live an enjoyable life?’” says Traction founder and CEO Greg Malpass. Much of those answers rest on how closely aligned an employee’s outlook on life is to the views of the company they work for.
It’s no coincidence that Traction’s values align with millennial values; they’re really one and the same. Every year, the entire company gets together for an annual retreat (there were 220 of us at the last one) and collectively decides on the company values. Values like “Do the right thing,” “Create opportunity” and “Seek adventure and smiles” make Traction a place where millennials, and others, want to be. But it’s not all warm fuzzies. As a company that lives and dies by data, we’ve got to look at the numbers to see what’s really going on.
At most companies, employees are measured by how much work they do and the quality of their output. At Traction, employees have the chance to flip that notion on its head by providing their feedback on how they feel a project went, choosing from descriptors like “Pretty Good” and “Brutal.” By analyzing the data with our app Traction Pulse, we can find out what work we like to do, what projects we’re good at and what kind of work we’d like to avoid.
But it’s not enough to simply collect data for the sake of it. What comes next is for the leadership to dig deep and decide how they’re going to put that data into action. If one of the questions is “How can I live an enjoyable life?” what are the actual tangible processes that will make the day-to-day operations more enjoyable for everyone?
Part of making work enjoyable is about providing a space in which people feel like they’re making a difference. For Kerry Nelson Milovic, a non-profit business solutions consultant, that part is easy. By virtue of her role, “Anyone that I’m interacting with at work is trying to make the world a better place and I’m giving them the tools to do that.” For others at Traction there is still ample opportunity to get involved in giving back. “I’ve actually volunteered a lot considering the time I’ve been with Traction so far,” she laughs.
While much has been said about millennials and their work ethic, “The fact that millennials are asking the right questions is not controversial,” says Greg. “We need to seek the answers.”
The answer for Rory MacDonald, a business development manager at Traction, is for companies to offer more training to their new staff. “When my father was young and starting out at Xerox, they made a six-month training investment in him. In my first sales job, I had one week of training and that was considered pretty good!” For Rory, the millennial stereotype is less about what previous generations assume and more about being newest to the work force. “It’s hard to find companies that invest in young people, so they are going to naturally be less loyal and jump around from job to job more.”
Rory sums it up by saying, “If you want to engage millennials, don’t overthink it. Run a great business. Pay them fairly. Be transparent. Honour benefits and vacation. Do this and young people will come running. We aren’t that stupid.”