Business Culture: Generational Shift sees Value in Entrepreneurial Spirit

By Jordan Smith, Staff Writer

As Millennials leave post-secondary institutions and enter the workforce, they bring an entrepreneurial spirit that is transforming traditional business culture.  Tech giants such as Apple and Google have embraced this spirit and embody the future direction of corporate workplaces.

So what exactly is this new business culture?  In an interview with Arbitrage Magazine, Martin Zwilling, founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, Inc., suggests that it is rooted in a sense of pride for one’s work and the company at large.  “I think Apple has an image where they spread the message internally that ‘we’re changing the world, we are coming up with new and innovative things,’” he says.  Zwilling believes this attitude is a hallmark of the new business culture and creates a sense of involvement and passion about one’s work.

The internal promotion of a company’s unique and innovative qualities can result in an enhanced workplace culture.  “The people at Apple for example are all proud of their culture, they’re proud of their accomplishments, proud of their heritage and so they are probably more likely to stand up for what they believe in to try to reach for the good,” says Zwilling.

Not surprisingly, this workplace culture also impacts professional relationships between co-workers.  Dr. Manuela Priesemuth, Assistant Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University’s School of Business and Economics says that the shift in business culture impacts how individuals approach and deal with workplace conflicts.  Employees are in a much better position to navigate the many personalities and circumstances they are presented with on a daily basis.  “A lot of companies have now instituted ways to encourage people to anonymously write emails to ethics officers or HR people when you notice unethical behaviour in organizations or conflicts in the organization, you never have to be identified. They have taken a lot of action for people to feel more comfortable to speak up and reduce conflict,” says Priesemuth.

Overall, there has been recognition of the importance of engaging workers in a rewarding and fulfilling environment while maintaining an ethical workplace.  When asked why this shift has occurred in recent years, Zwilling said that the new business culture reflects the needs of the people.  “I think business culture has always been and still is a function of the people. In other words business is an inanimate object per se, so business culture reflects the current people culture,” says Zwilling.

Priesemuth also suggests that current business trends reflect workers’ values.  “Cultures are based on people, specifically peoples’ values and assumptions about a workplace. Cultures therefore change if people change their outlook and values on what organizations should look like,” she says.  When asked what precipitates change, Priesemuth says that transition can come through “things like external crises (e.g. financial breakdown), but those cases are more rare. What more often occurs are mergers and acquisitions which forces one company to adapt to the values of another. Different values would reflect different cultures.”

As with any significant shift in a culture, there are those who embrace transition and those who resist change.  “For some employees, it’s easy to adjust.  For others, it’s not and science would say that these people will eventually leave the organization,” says Priesemuth.  This suggests that shifts in business culture are not only shaped by the workforce’s perceptions, but also have the power to bring together workers who promote the culture and phase out those who do not.

Zwilling believes that the business sector is currently entering a phase where entrepreneurship is valued and promoted.  “I think [we’re] going through an entrepreneurial phase…We’re looking for people that add value and not feel like they’re robots who show up and can be replaced by a real robot tomorrow.  

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