Attractive culture key for millennials, business leaders say

At the New North Summit in Green Bay, business leaders highlighted the importance of creating a company culture that’s attractive to millennials.

Such a culture involves developing a mission that goes beyond just making money, according to Mike Haddad, president and CEO of Schreiber Foods.

“It is the physical environment, it’s the social adjacencies, it’s the tools that they need to fulfill their potential,” Haddad said yesterday. “More and more today, people coming into the workforce want to know that their organization not only allows them to fulfill their potential, but are good stewards to the community, good stewards to the earth — and this is not squishy, this is good business.”

He noted that 45 percent of Green Bay-based Schreiber Foods’ employees are millennials, but says “it’s a sin to homogenize.”

“There are so many different backgrounds and experiences and beliefs in that certain age group,” Haddad said. “But I do think in general that they place a higher value on knowing that the company they work for stands for something.”

Kate Burgess, CEO for Green Bay’s Elevate97 marketing firm, has thought a lot about how to attract millennial talent for information technology, design and creative.

“Millennials want more than just a paycheck,” she said. “They want to connect to a company that has a purpose — show it, and it will help retain.”

To do so, Burgess suggests taking a step back and evaluating what the company’s brand stands for in order to clearly communicate that to potential hires.

“What is your story?” she said. “It has to be authentic to you.”

“The game of chasing people with money doesn’t work — I’ve experienced that,” Haddad added. “People leave for lots of different reasons, but it gets tougher for people to leave an organization they really believe in with their heart.”

Ben Salzmann, CEO of Sheboygan-based Acuity Insurance, made the case for adding excitement and enthusiasm to every aspect of the company so the culture becomes contagious.

“Why? To eliminate barriers to imaginative solutions,” he said. “Creating an environment where [employees] will tell you the crazy idea they just had — and 1 percent of the time, it changes our company.”

He also said no matter how competitive the marketplace may seem right now, it’s only going to get worse.

“You won’t survive if you’re trying to compete,” he said. “You have to innovate, you have to change everything, you have to come up with crazy ideas, you have to embrace technology.”

–By Alex Moe