"The next generation's leaders don't want to work at [big companies] (if they don't have to)."
--John Battelle in an article on LinkedIn Pulse
Well, that's a bold statement. As the owner of a small company that exists to serve the needs of big companies, I find myself vacillating between a few different feelings.
First of all, as the owner of NogginLabs, I can proudly say that we have the best and brightest staff anywhere. I would put the Noggins up against any custom e-learning developer out there, and I know I would win. NogginLabs is a small, 18-year-old company with the agility of a start-up and the stability of a household brand.
Like so many companies out there, our greatest competitive advantage is in our talent, many of whom are Millennials. And if you click that link, you'll learn that our general feeling about the Millenial buzz is that it's ridiculous and largely useless. Stop making sweeping judgments based on your employees' age bracket and start paying attention to the things that the vast majority of workers need and want from their employers and lives.
But. There's always a but.
I happen to agree with Battelle's statement that future leaders are not looking to work for big companies--at least the ones we hire. People come to work for NogginLabs because they seek creativity within process. We offer an entrepreneurial environment that has a background of stability. It's a mix of cutting edge in a comfort zone (e.g. no one ever wonders if taking a big risk will mean we won't meet payroll the next month).
We offer an environment that's not so different from many of the hot startups: creativity is our driving focus. We're nimble to our very core, as we push the envelope and push parameters. But it's not creativity unchecked. We have a well-defined process, which has been fine-tuned as we have grown and refined our core ideals. It is that process that provides the support, the very foundation, of our creativity. All of us are entrepreneurial to our cores. If the printer is broken, the person who finds it fixes it. Everyone is empowered to speak up, to suggest change, to move forward with purpose and greatness. We laugh together, and we have tough times. Everyone knows everyone, and we are a second family in many ways.
At the same time, we have all the maturity of a successful, 18-year-old company. We have handbooks, safety manuals, training, blue-chip benefits, and a sense of stability that start-ups have not yet developed. That 18-year history underpins our values and keeps us focused on our business.
We also don't believe we are any better or worse than the big companies competing for the same talent we are. We know that a small company environment isn't right for everyone--regardless of whether they're Millennials or Boomers. I was struck by a point that Battelle made at the end of his piece--that big companies "have decades, if not centuries, of experience in answering" questions about building a company that will last for generations, or working within regulatory frameworks as an established player in the marketplace.
I know that any Noggin would do well within a traditional, big-company structure. But I am so lucky that they decided to go small at NogginLabs.