With four very different generational groups sharing the workplace, what should leaders focus on to be effective today and tomorrow?
By 2020, half of all US workers will be Millennials (born 1981-1996). As Gen Xers take on the senior management roles left by retiring Baby Boomers, Gen Z — born after 1997 — appears. With four very different generational groups sharing the workplace, what should leaders focus on to be effective today and tomorrow?
A Randstad study of 4,100 Millennials and Gen Z in ten countries found 45% plan their careers around technology. Remote work and travel-while-working arrangements favored by over 25% and growing. Younger workers want flexibility and will pick companies that deploy technology to satisfy those ends.
This trend goes past the years-old debate about sanctioning social media at work. For future success, leaders must look beyond what technology should be allowed at work, instead what technology can be utilized for work: how is information shared? How do teams collaborate? How is internal data stored and disseminated? The more leaders integrate technology into their way of working, the more engagement they can expect to get from their youngest team members.
Forget the “quarterly performance review.” For better or worse, the youngest workers want to hear where they stand — and hear it often. Managers who make smaller more frequent interventions will have fewer performance issues escalate into more significant problems.
Feedback should also facilitate learning, not simply evaluate. Common phrases like “well-done” or “that was bad” teach nothing and make the recipient more dependent on validation — a characteristic common among the youngest workers. Leaders should instead include feedback with their observations (“Here is what I’ve noticed...”) followed by a reflective question (“How do you think that...?”). Feedback promotes learning and develops younger workers’ sense of independence.
Millennials cite “lack of growth” as a top reason for quitting jobs. 63% of Millennials feel their skills are not being well developed and 28% feel their companies underutilize their skills. This information coincides with companies worrying about ROIs and questioning L&D investments. As younger workers are being pushed into managerial roles sooner, cutting off L&D is precisely the wrong move — for everybody.
Leaders should provide ongoing training, especially in the areas of conflict management, collaboration, negotiations and communication across cultures and generations. These younger groups will not tolerate personal or professional stagnation. Investing in them will empower them to lead competently for years to come.
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January 5, 2016
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