On Shifting Ground

How millennials are changing faith-based culture

It is estimated that in 1900, knowledge doubled every 100 years, but by 2015 it was doubling every 12 hours. This rapidly increasing speed of knowledge makes it more difficult for any one person to know everything needed for their job, including how it integrates with other roles, and what impact it has on the mission of faith-based organizations.

Everything moves faster now, creating more specialization and more steps in the journey from vision to reality. The experience, skill sets and agility employers look for while recruiting employees in this rapidly shifting workplace environment is not a single composite profile anymore.

Social paradigms develop largely as a reaction to the previous generation’s values, as a generation works out its own values in light of the reality of its own time, which is different in many ways from other generations. Each resulting social paradigm is different from the one preceding it. Millennials are the most different of all. The speed of at which both business and ministry develops today has produced a larger shift for them, and there are more of them.

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The average age of the working population in the U.S. is 36.7, with millennials being the largest social paradigm in today’s workforce. With people living and working longer, we find ourselves challenged by the integration of five different social paradigms in the workforce: traditionalists (from 1930), boomers (from 1943), Gen X (from 1965), millennials (from 1977), and Gen Z (from 1996). All are driven by different cultural values.

The challenge for employers is twofold: how do we hire out of social paradigms that hold different values when it comes to work, and how do we provide leadership for a workforce that is increasingly ethnically, socially and motivationally diverse? As a direct result of this increasing generational diversity in the workplace, we are seeing a shift toward core competencies. This has shifted the recruiting, selection, hiring and on boarding of staff toward holistic processes that focus on identifying those core competencies and the value-driven behaviors that align well with a faith-based vision, mission and aim. That includes assessing cross-cultural adaptability for job fit. In other words, focusing on work style, leadership style, interpersonal style and problem-solving style has risen in importance above more traditional person-specific and job-specific evaluations.

Employee satisfaction, wellness and work-life balance are the nearly universally heuristic focus of wellness programming. One emerging trend that spans all social paradigms is the intentional e ort to manage work-related stress. Workforce Magazine, in a national 2015 emerging trends survey, discovered that all social paradigms represented in the workforce are struggling with managing workplace fatigue. The culprit? The speed of work. It’s the pressure to do more, faster, in an increasingly complex working environment, while bringing together people with different values about work, life and spirituality. Work/life balance, part-time schedules and working from home options are very appealing to the millennial generation.

Millennials have divided expectations when it comes to compensation and benefits. The upper half of the pay scale is looking for better benefits and is willing to sacrifice salary to get it. The lower half of the pay scale resents the distraction of needing a second job because they are paid insufficiently to make ends meet. Better benefits is not necessarily on their list. Employers are scrambling to tweak or totally redesign compensation systems to meet these very different expectations.

Millennials value and use social learning technologies more than any other workforce generation. The HCM Advisory Group in 2016 cites this as the emerging methodology for employee training and development. Millennials were generally between ages seven to 15 when the first iPhone came out. They are accustomed to instantaneous information and having 10 to 20 social media platforms open at any given time. Recognize this and don’t fight it. Figure out how to maximize their proficiency with technology rather than oppose it. Chances are good that they would rather be texted or emailed about having a conversation, than having you call them directly to talk.

The IRS reports more and more long-term nonprofits are aging out of business. Most of those organizations were founded at a time when there was relative homogeneity in the work- place. Today, ministry organizations face budget, compliance and fundraising pressures that are reshaping how they do business. Greater collaboration, fatter structures, more responsive systems and processes, and shifting funding sources beyond donors or foundations are causing nonprofits to take on a very creative new look. They must adapt to survive.

There are things we can do to move with these shifts while maintaining ministry equilibrium. For one, as employers, we can give people what they really value. Millennials want professional development in a place that accelerates their growth. They want to connect with an employer in an environment that acknowledges them as a person, not a tool. They want purpose and meaning and are willing to do the work that makes a difference in a place that shares their values. We can develop our leaders in a universal sense that allows them to be a bridge from or to any generational workplace paradigm. We can hire with an eye for those skilled in developing relational capital across social and cultural boundaries. However, we always need to keep in mind the advice Paul gave Timothy to “not be hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Tim. 5:22a). Every new and shiny idea is not necessarily a good idea. Some things should remain the same.

When hiring a millennial, make every attempt to connect with their values. Why are they choosing to work for your organization? Chances are that the organization has values and purpose that deeply resonates with their own values. Sometimes millennials are going to be more interested in the “why” behind a
 job than in the “what” they will
be doing.

Keep in mind that sometimes millennials are jaded when they arrive in the workplace. They saw their parents take out very large mortgages to purchase homes that they couldn’t afford and watched them lose their entire life savings. Many also saw a parent’s employer let them go after decades of faithful service. As a result, millennials can enter their work relationships extremely distrustful. It’s not that they are narcissistic or lazy, as people often think; they are just approaching their employment and overall finances from a different paradigm. Work hard to build trust and loyalty and they will return the loyalty.

In a report published by PeopleFluent in 2015, half of all millennials surveyed say that they value performance reviews at least monthly, if not more frequently. Only 9.8 percent prefer the annual version. Give feedback, and ask for their feedback. Keep a dialogue going.

Provide mentoring and ways for millennials to keep growing as individuals and in their careers. Verbal recognition in front of the team goes a long way, sometimes more than a monetary incentive or raise.

Finally, give millennials a way to help give back through your organization. FaithSearch Partners “tithes” or donates 10 percent of its professional fees to ministries impacted by our clients. In the same way, designate a fund within your ministry where millennials can choose where the money can go. This helps you connect with their values — their purpose for why they decided to choose you as their employer — while building their loyalty to remain a valued member of your workforce.

Jeff Jernigan, PhD, LPC, BCPPC
Senior Vice President, Ministry Team Leader

Kim Moeller
Vice President, Ministry Team Leader