Happiness In the Workplace - Why Growth and Learning is Important to Millennials

Writer Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” What we do everyday matters and every day, and we spend approximately one-third of our time at work. With today’s technological advancements, we're seeing the pace in which our lives move increase exponentially. We have access to more information, we have many more choices, and so, we're required to make many more decisions. As a result, we feel disconnected, overwhelmed and stressed. To help us adapt and change in an ever-changing world, we must learn how to learn. 


We spend so much of our time at work that it's in this space that we have the opportunity to enhance our skills and our knowledge. Today, millennials are leading the change in the corporate landscape and seeking out opportunities in organizations that support them in their learning and growth. Millennials have a greater awareness of the influence that their experience and how they feel at work has on their how they experience they life overall. 


According to a Gallup study, millennial engagement in the workplace is at 29%*. Understanding why can help employers find ways in to create a culture that aligns expectations, learning, and action.  People want to work “better” not harder, do meaningful work, cultivate strong social connections, have more flexibility and living a healthy lifestyle. They want to be happy. Happiness researcher, Shawn Achor, defines happiness as, “the joy one feels moving towards their potential.”  When engaged, moving towards our potential, using our skills to make a positive impact; we are happier. 


To support the process of engagement that focuses on the happiness of the individual and health and growth of the organization, businesses must cultivate a learning culture.  Learning is an active process giving employees the autonomy to acquire knowledge, grow and enhance skills in their own unique ways. A learning culture is at the core of a successful organization and here are ten reasons why:


  1. It promotes awareness and understanding. With changing times, a learning culture can increase awareness. Knowing what needs to change, why, and how to best to communicate it; facilitates sustainable personal and professional growth in the future. Awareness helps us understand what is truly important and moves the individual and the organization in the right direction. It also promotes understanding of perspectives we may not have considered before. 
  2. People want to feel like they matter. Millennials want to know that their organization cares about their contribution now, and in the future and this is a welcomed change in the business landscape. If we spend much of our time at work, we want that time to be spent in a meaningful way and to have a positive social impact. Investing in a person’s growth builds loyalty, commitment to the goals of the organization. 
  3. Aligns purpose with action. Learning cultivates curiosity clarifies core values and supports taking action towards our potential. When there is emotional investment, people are more effective, engaged and their life satisfaction increases. An organization is also more likely to retain talented employees when those employees’ personal and professional values are in alignment with business values. 
  4. Enhances skills. Strengthening professional skills and learning new ones, increases confidence in the ability to do the job more effectively. Employees are also better equip to identify gaps in current knowledge. A learning culture encourages skill development both within the organization and beyond the scope of the job. Organizations that invest in the holistic growth of their employees demonstrate how much they value them. In this changing landscape, millennials want to use their strengths to work smarter, not harder and move towards their potential. 
  5. Increases comfort with uncertainty. In the space of learning, the process is just as valuable as the end result. Uncertainty may be uncomfortable but it allows us to be open, curious and flexible. Keeping ourselves open, changes the way we experience the world and increases our clarity and resilience.
  6. Creates space to innovate. Creativity needs space. Giving people the latitude to think creatively and to innovate lends itself to effectively problem solve. Innovation happens through fostering an inspirational, collaborative environment that is built on learning and exploration rather than results. In this environment, people can work outside the structure, enabling them to brainstorm and approach challenges in new ways. Learning pushes against rigid beliefs, helping the organization become agile and better prepared to absorb future change.
  7. Helps us factor in failure. Failure does not have to be a bad word. The faster we fail, the quicker we can learn from our mistakes, and identify what does and does not work. Then, with greater understanding, we can spend our time and energy moving towards our goals. Learning from failure creates a positive feedback loop that helps us action change. We are not wasting time when we are failing, learning and growing. 
  8. Builds resilience to challenges. A learning culture is also a resilient one. Resilience helps us adjust to and rebound from challenges and unforeseen events, even thrive in them. Change will inevitably occur, the true measure is how an organization reacts to change. Building resilience refocuses the organization on their priorities, what is within their control, and allows them to let go of processes and habits that do not work. The ability to cope with challenging situations can also decrease the overall stress level in the workplace. 
  9. Supports the cultivation of healthy habits. When organizations create space to learn, the process supports the cultivation of healthy workplace habits that align with business goals and positive actions. 45% of what we do on a daily basis is habitual. This can limit opportunities to learn because habits are automatic behaviours. If organizations promote learning, they also create the environment to remain open and receptive. They are better able to choose habitual behaviours that they do want rather than those they do not. Learning is also a habit that must be developed.  Spending time developing good habits both personally and in the workplace shapes organizational culture.
  10. Cultivates happiness and wellbeing. Happy employees change the way business is done. They are healthier and take less sick days, they are more productive, they find more meaning and purpose in their work, they have better team cohesion, and have stronger relationships. Cultivating happiness is good business. Continual learning and engagement in the workplace is directly connected to the wellbeing and happiness of the individual and thus, the flourishing of the organization. 

Fostering a culture of learning is at the core of a healthy organization. Millennials want more and they are leading the change in the way organizations engage in, and promote a positive and fulfilling workplace. 


* Gallup Study - Millennial Engagement


This article was written for my friends at Kashida. You can read the original post here