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Put the “Pro” in “Productive”: Balancing Traditional & Nontraditional Practices in Workplace Culture

Jason Richmond
Jason Richmond

Each new generation in our workforce is a catalyst for change in workplace culture.

Whether you’re Team Millennial or not, one thing is for certain, millennials are here to stay in our workforce.

The inevitability of each new generation becoming the majority in our workforce, and therefore becoming the most influential demographic group in the corporate world, has been one of the primary catalysts for change in the dynamic of workplace culture for some time now. The exponential growth in technology and its subsequent innovations, paired with the growing millennial influence, has put productivity in the workplace in jeopardy.

In startup and Silicon Valley culture, we can see a lot of new, nontraditional practices in workplace culture. In older, larger corporations, in which change is difficult, slow, and often discouraged, traditional practices still dominate. What if your company isn’t a startup or tech-based company that’s parallel to the Silicon Valley trajectory, but also isn’t a huge global corporation that’s been around for half a century? Balancing traditional and nontraditional practices in workplace culture becomes an issue that’s not only important, but crucial to employee productivity, and ultimately, your business’s success.

Traditional Practices: What They Are, and Their Benefits:

These days, it’s easier to identify traditional culture characteristics and practices from their potential drawbacks than it is to conduct a simple online search. Companies with traditional workplace cultures are often bureaucratic, and on the bright side, this can mean that they benefit from stability, structured communication, central authority and decision-making, and consistency. Within such companies, there is a certain level of professionalism when it comes to work hours, personal space, and work-related responsibilities and communications.

While 9-to-5 workdays and cubicles are disappearing in favor of flexible hours and open-office layouts, established corporations are still finding success in traditional office spaces and uniform work hours and even dress codes. When your employees are expected to arrive at the office on time, maintain a professional appearance and conduct their work within their designated work areas and with respect to their coworkers, which ultimately amounts to an organized and respectful workplace, companies stand to gain. How? Such traditional organizational cultures and practices feature highly efficient and productive employees that thrive in a relatively stress-free environment. Furthermore, valuing traditional practices based on professionalism have been seen to trickle down to clients and customers, and it’s no secret that this is the key to success for your business.

Nontraditional Practices: What They Are, and Their Benefits:

Nontraditional practices in workplace culture don’t necessarily mean the opposite of traditional practices. What it means, for the most part, is that these practices are employed to accommodate a company’s geographic barriers, per its digital workplaces, as well as its employees’ individual and collective needs, be it from diversity or otherwise.

The key to nontraditional practices in workplace culture is flexibility. Being flexible with your culture refers to granting some or all of your employees the freedom to organize their schedules and work hours to meet their needs as long as their work is completed on time, flexibility in holidays and days off, and opening most or all workspaces to allow employees the freedom to create an environment that fosters collaboration and productivity. Some companies even go so far as to provide a full kitchen, including food, beverages, and snacks. One of the most successful companies at implementing this type of nontraditional workplace cultures and practices is Google. It’s Mountain View, California headquarters features Wi-Fi enabled shuttles, free healthy meals, laundry and fitness facilities, and on-site childcare. Certainly a progressive work-life balance!

Google’s culture and practices, while they’ve proven to be wildly successful, provide a sound framework for the fundamental structure of how nontraditional practices in workplace culture can foster productivity. This structure includes practices such as working from home, private rooms for designated activities, wellness programs, evolving workspaces, and equal opportunity in regards to diversity.

Indeed, these nontraditional practices contribute to the success of modern companies worldwide, via employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity, but much is lost in the way of professionalism. Is it worth the potential costs? That’s where balance is important.

Put the Pro(fessionalism) in Productive: Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

Let’s assume your company’s workforce is comprised of equal-parts baby boomers (Gen X) and millennials (Gen Y). How do you balance the needs of two generations, of which the age gap pits traditional and nontraditional practices against each other? It may be easier said than done, but flexibility is the answer, and of course, exceptional leadership.

Here’s a list of several characteristics and practices with which to be flexible, and the role that leadership plays in helping create a (healthy) balance of professionalism and productivity:

Work hours: While older, tenured employees may be used to and dependent on routine work days and hours, younger employees tend to benefit from dynamic hours. Great leaders will ensure that a company’s needs are met first and foremost, while bridging the gap between employee practices in work hours. Professionalism is the key to creating an understanding across all employees, no matter how flexible a work schedule they require to be their most productive selves.

Coworking Spaces: Is it possible to have closed offices and cubicles, but also open rooms and non-assigned desks and rooms? Certainly. To reduce costs and benefit most from flexible office layouts, your company might need to designate certain spaces and offices to certain employees, tasks, and meetings, while allowing a free-flowing, open-office layout in other areas. As a leader within your company, this means setting and enforcing certain rules and regulations, especially when it concerns noise levels, personal space, and personal items.

Management: Traditional practices in management feature the bureaucratic top-down approach. Millennials don’t seem to enjoy the layers this seems to add in communication, and are deterred by the “command and control” element it adds to workplace culture. While digital collaboration platforms, which companies have had no choice but to adopt, have assisted in the way of opening lines of communication, your company’s management needs to restructure its policies towards task-delegation, communication, and other relevant issues. In regards to leadership, leaders must be more approachable, cooperative, and willing to individualize management policies and practices to fit the needs of each employee.

Above all, you and your leadership must value and focus on professionalism in creating this balance. When integrating both traditional and nontraditional workplace culture practices in your business, balance is key. The tool to achieve this balance – one that’s healthy and results in increased productivity amongst your employees – is professionalism.

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Jason Richmond
Jason Richmond Member
My ongoing goal of continual growth started with one objective - to learn from everyone and apply those lessons to my life. My life is dedicated to understanding how I can better help others, and that’s why I’ve travelled all over the world. To take a step back, it all started with Dale Carnegie. I took the Carnegie course after three years in Australia and embraced the methods and philosophies behind it. I embraced them so much, in fact, that I dedicated my life to them. I became a partner with Dale Carnegie because I saw the impact the program had on careers around the globe. It was a genuinely enlightening moment in my professional life. In fact, it was a legitimate moment of clarity. This path led me to become a consultant for various organizations, acting as an HR partner as I developed partnerships for my clients. I had the opportunity to travel the world and work with amazing people everywhere. But why Carnegie? My passion is to learn and share what I’ve discovered. It’s to take away an experience from every situation and apply it to my life and the lives of my team members. You won’t learn if you remain stationary, and I want to learn and grow. Ultimately, my position now is a way for me to provide for people and make their lives better. I do so by uniting individuality and fostering outstanding culture. I’d rather be a leader than a pusher because people respond positively to it. After all, if I’m not energized and committed, why should my team be? I am who I am because of because I’ve had the opportunity to be a student of different cultures around the world. I don’t see myself as a CEO. I don’t see myself as an executive. I see myself as a resource for my team and my clients. If I can’t serve them, I’m not doing my job. And if I can’t serve you, I can’t say I’m doing my job, either.