Memo to the CEO: Encourage Innovation

Memo to the CEO: Encourage Innovation

Welcome to the real world

You’re in your early twenties, fresh out of college, eager to take on the working world. As you’re handed your diploma you ascertain a certain knowing of ‘this is it’ only to soon find yourself as a very small fish in a large pond of desperate job-seekers.

You wake up one morning and realize there are a lot of companies out there that simply aren’t interested in you – they don’t want your disregard for “meaningless work” – they want someone who will come in and get the job done without asking questions – someone with experience and qualifications who requires little training and minimal hand-holding.

But that old school ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality is losing ground. The most successful companies, or at least those who are aspiring to grow and develop into the future, are realizing that growth requires a staff that is willing to grow with you – and that when employees can claim ownership and find meaning in their work – knowing not only the ‘what’ but the ‘why’ – they’ll contribute above and beyond simple expectations, and in doing so, will make your job a heck of a lot easier.

Generation Y, collectively, presents an interesting challenge to hiring managers and supervisors. We are, as they say, a force to be reckoned with. Bringing something new to the table – something extremely valuable – a fresh perspective and a drive that cannot be ignored. As a memo to all CEO’s, here are three ways to encourage dedication and innovation amongst your twenty-something staff.

Make yourself approachable

We’re young, and while we may think we know it all – we really don’t – at all. But we are hungry for knowledge. We want to learn. We want to be smarter than you. The only way to grow and develop is to learn from each other, and more importantly, learn from those who have come before us; the people who have been in our shoes, achieved success, and live to tell the tale. As with any relationship, if you don’t take the time to invest in your employees, they won’t bother to invest in you. It takes very little effort to make a big difference. Simply knowing that you’re there with an open door and open mind when approached goes a long, long way.

Give the job meaning | Explain “why”

There is a dividing line between Gen Y’ers – those who think micromanagement is the devil, and those who think we need to be told exactly what to do. I find myself somewhere in the middle, and I think most people my age can relate. While we don’t want to have someone standing over our shoulder at all times – we do want to know the ‘why’ behind everything. Our biggest flaw (or possibly our greatest strength) is in our reluctance for doing mundane work. We want meaning, we want purpose, and we want to know our role in the grand scheme. You (as a supervisor) need to go an extra step and explain the ‘why’ behind even the most mundane tasks. Why? Because when we understand why we’re doing something and how it’s important to the big picture, we’re much more likely to commit to the overall success of the company vision.

Just trust me

There are VERY few CEO’s who welcome in new ideas, innovation, and approaches from their young staff members. For most, entry-level means keep your mouth shut and do your work. Maybe the ideas of a young twenty-something should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s my opinion that the companies with the best culture are those who welcome the opinions from their entire staff, whether your on the 101st floor or in the mail room. You (hopefully) hire top-notch people for a reason – you do it because you believe they will bring value to your team, that they offer something unique, and that they will contribute to more than just the bottom line.

My memo to the collective CEO: Expect your employees to do what they were hired to do – but trust them to do more. Hear them out, promote a creative environment, and encourage innovation.


What advice would you give the CEO’s and supervisors of the world? How do you give your job meaning? Are we entitled to be entitled? Share your good (or bad) experiences in the conversation below.