Millennial Madness: Part 1 – How a prominent Charlotte employer wrestles to change its culture.

There’s a struggle going on among employers in Charlotte these days. It involves the Millennials – those workers ages 18 to 34 – who will make up an increasing chunk of the Charlotte workforce. Companies are scrambling to attract these workers, and they are trying to learn how to make them stay on the job for more than three years.

One local company has embarked on an interesting quest to learn more about what makes these workers tick. Duke Energy is one of the region’s top three employers. Now, when I think of the average Duke worker, I picture a 60-year-old male in that iconic Members Only jacket, smoking a cigarette while walking around Uptown. Duke, with its large amount of these Baby Boomer employees, is facing a big challenge, one common in the energy industry these days.

In 2006, a Duke Energy vice president of Regulated Coal Fleet Operations was quoted in a University of Cincinnati newsletter as saying that over the next 10 years, 50 percent of his workforce would be eligible for retirement within 10 years, or 2016. People tell me Duke is freaking out over the impending change.

Duke also is expected to grow significantly, and to do so, it will have to replace its workforce with a radically different generation – the so-called creative generation that Charlotte has not attracted in the same numbers as cities such as Austin and Nashville.

This is an opportunity. And Duke has made a big step in the right direction toward winning the talent war. The company is working with the University of Cincinnati to understand the next generation. Here is what they found:

  • Millennials want to work and be as efficient as possible. And, they like working virtually, but not all the time.
  • Millennials want a physical space for socializing and connecting with peers. Some of what the University of Cincinnati students said was surprising. Such as that they like fun, creative spaces, but not if they are expected to spend 50-plus hours a week in the office in return for them.
  • Not everyone wants to work at Google. Ping Pong makes sense when there is nothing else to do, but in uptown Charlotte there are ample distractions when you need a break.

I was provided an internal memo from Duke that talks about how it plans to engage and empower its changing workforce (the initiative is officially titled the “Empowered Productivity Initiative” – do you think that Duke ever runs out of slogans with a play on the energy theme?). The memo talks about offering flexible and innovative work practices and space designs. Providing advanced technology and the right tools will help foster cultural change at all levels, the memo says.

Understanding the workforce is very important when programming your next office move. How you plan for Millennials is going to radically impact who you hire in the future. Here at Cardinal, we have an office programming tool that helps you envision the ideal work environment for your future.

Email us and ask for The Cardinal Critical Needs Analysis™ if you’d like to receive a free copy.

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