Meetings and Millennials

milloffice_600x300So far, I am one week (half-way) into my Plank Center for Leadership educator fellowship at Cox Communications. To date, I have had 19 meetings and one happy hour meet and greet. Tonight, I have a dinner on the docket. Needless to say, Cox is a meeting-centric culture. While some people would find the abundance of meetings unnecessary, it fits so perfectly into Cox’s larger culture. Often named one of the best places to work, Cox provides a community for their employees; a community that is partially cultivated through meetings. People here like to sit face-to-face to brainstorm and collaborate together. They embrace inter-departmental projects and encourage employees to find “passion projects” to work on. The sprawling campus certainly helps – you can have a walking meeting, a coffee chat, or a working lunch together over your choice of shrimp ceviche, a custom salad, or a calzone, to name a few.

I was paired with Cox to help them better understand the Millennial generation. As Jill Campbell, the COO, casually mentioned to me in a meeting, “the people are our secret sauce.” She was referring to the fact that it’s typical to meet Cox employees who have been with the organization for decades, herself included.

That tenure, though, presents challenges for recruiting and retaining a Millennial workforce – my passion project. So it got me thinking about how Cox’s meeting-centric culture might be the key to retaining Millennial employees. What do we know about Millennials? Well, they want to collaborate, they want an abundance of feedback, they want to work on teams, and they want the chance to be heard. What do we know about meetings? You collaborate, you talk, you evaluate, and you ask questions. A match made in heaven, if you ask me.

So before organizations start letting everyone work-from-home, changing all their content to videos and infographics, and doing away with traditional work hours and job titles to please the Millennials, take a step back. Think about the core of what this group wants and how it can integrate into what you’re already doing and who you’re currently doing it with. There’s meaning in meetings for a variety of reasons. More importantly, seasoned professionals have come to expect meetings, and meetings are a great way to bring Millennials into the fold.

That being said, I think it could be extremely overwhelming for a Millennial to enter their first post-grad job in a meeting-centric place, like Cox, without the right advice. As Leigh Woisard explained to me: “you need to realize that you can decline meeting invites. Sometimes people invite everyone for practical and political reasons. You need to remember what your goals are and ask yourself whether this meeting is essential or not. If not, don’t go and get an update later.” Advice like this is critical for Millennials who might be left wondering when they’re actually supposed to get their work done.  But overall, I think contrary to popular belief, both meetings and Millennials provide great benefits to organizations.

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