By Joshua Robert Mikutis, for MAJNM ‘17/ Rabbinic Ordination ‘18
Millennials are increasingly working at startups and tech companies with indulgent work cultures, including free gourmet food and foosball tables. Are perks like these appropriate for Jewish nonprofits? This study examines the experiences of nine millennials who work at three different Jewish nonprofits in New York City. The interviews attempt to discover what millennials appreciate and desire in the workplace. Despite awareness of Google-esque perks, the millennials I spoke with did not find them to be of particular consequence when they thought about ideal workplaces. Five areas of importance emerged from the interviews: 1) opportunities for workplace collaboration and a physical space that facilitates that, 2) a culture of caring, 3) mentorship and supervisors who encourage personal and professional growth, 4) opportunities for professional development, and 5) aspects of material comfort. Although some of the interviewees perceive these five aspects at their workplace, others find their workplaces lacking. They tend not to see a cohesive strategy of culture in their workplaces but see it instead as a random assortment of priorities and preferences. They value organizational cultures that make them feel nurtured personally and professionally with opportunities for personalized professional development. They appreciate office spaces that allow for free movement and collaboration.
These findings are discussed in the context of previous research on office culture, including among millennials and Jewish nonprofit professionals. Most of the theories focus on how the individual employee feels at work, emphasizing health, intellectual engagement, and alignment with the pre-existing interests of the individual. Based on these findings, I encourage organizations to engage millennial employees in discussions of what culture looks like presently and what millennials desire from their workplaces.