I’m writing this column fresh off of ASA’s Emerging Leaders conference in Nashville where more than 150 attendees gathered to network, share best practices and reconnect. Chances are any hot-topic or challenge you’re facing was brought up by someone at the event, and it was the perfect setting for peers to bounce ideas off one another. Stay tuned for more details on the most-discussed items and a recap of the panel Q&A session in next month’s issue.

Since the Emerging Leaders Division aims to develop the industry’s up-and-coming talent into our next generation of leaders, age was discussed — and quipped — pretty often throughout the event. Of course, attracting and retaining a talented next generation remains a prominent topic. One thing that stood out to me was the discussion of balancing work-from-home with developing and maintaining a strong, positive company culture.

We’ve all discussed work from home in terms of productivity, and how some employees want to stay working at home, others are itching to get back into the office, and many companies have adopted a hybrid approach. But I hadn’t thought too much about how company culture can be affected in this new work from home world.

Most companies in our relationship-based PHCP-PVF industry pride themselves on great culture, and that pride shines through any time I get the talk with employees or leadership teams. So how do you balance offering your employees the flexibility they desire while maintaining your invaluable company culture?

Distributors at the event pointed out that employee relations have remained strong even as many employees work virtually because it’s easy to rely on a strong foundation. But the challenge comes when you try to include new recruits in that culture; offering work from home opens your candidate pool but limits the ability to show-off your great culture in person.

O.C. Tanner, a global company offering employee recognition and workplace culture services, found some interesting bits in its 2021 Global Culture Report:

  • 87% of employees say their organization's recognition program is stale, outdated or used as disguised compensation;
  • Only 44% of employees say their organization's diversity and inclusion efforts feel sincere, while even fewer (34%) feel they are effective; and
  • Organizations with healthy cultures are 16x more likely to retain their Generation Z employees.

Although the next generation is known for desiring healthy work-life balance and flexibility, according to the Reward & Employee Benefits Association and O.C. Tanner, culture still remains important.

“Workplace culture is important to Generation Z employees as they care less about the brand or reputation of an organization, and more about a sense of community and wellbeing (things like paid time off and a focus on healthier lifestyles and mental health),” says David Watts, culture and engagement strategist and O.C. Tanner. “They feel highly connected to social issues and want to make a difference in their jobs, as opposed to climbing the corporate ladder. In fact, 30% of Gen Z employees would take a pay cut to work for a cause they care about, craving in-person connection and wanting to feel they belong.”

So the notion that plumbing isn’t “sexy,” likely matters a lot less than we think. The younger generations desire stability, fair compensation, inclusivity, flexibility and a great culture — they want it all. And you can probably offer all of those things.

When strategic planning for recruiting the next generation of your company, take some time to focus on how to shape your current great culture into one that transcends into your team members and future employees who want work from home.