The Tide Has Shifted

46% of the full-time workforce is made up of Millennials and Gen Z.  And just like with a rip current, resistance is futile. Companies must adjust or get pulled out to sea.

Is what Millennials and Gen Z want so much different from the generations that preceded them?

Younger employees want:

  • A company that provides for their family needs.
  • To belong to a company that is ethical and respected in the community.
  • A company willing to invest in them professionally and personally.
  • A company that treats people with respect and empathy.
  • To feel valued as a team member.
  • To be part of an organization that exhibits values and behaviors that match their own.
  • To be part of an organization where leaders are open and honest.

The expectations of the workforce have not changed all that much. However, the nature and conditions of work have changed considerably. Two significant challenges companies are facing are:

  1. The workforce doesn’t have to wait and is unwilling to wait for their needs to be met.
  2. The competition for talent is greater than the competition for jobs.

For a more in-depth look into this, take a look at the following chart from the IBM Institute of Business Value from 2014.

A generational approach to employee engagement

In his book The Leadership Decade, Buddy Hobart goes into great detail about generational leadership. Buddy demonstrates where the fulcrum of leverage has been set through time.

Generational Leadership and Change:

  • During the industrial age (1760-1960s), companies called for employees to adapt to what leaders demanded.
  • During the Information age (mid 19th-century), companies called for everyone to adapt to one another.
  • Today the demand is for leaders to adapt to their employees. This is more important than ever.

Buddy says, “Traditional concepts like career ladders, going to the office, presence equals productivity, and paying your dues, were in a tug of war with concepts like job jumping, remote work, work/life blur, and looking for what is next.” This tug-of-war between employers and their employees has forced both groups to become more adaptable.

What has changed?

  • Portable retirement accounts
  • The internet and access to information
  • Remote work (Technical Friendless)

  • Family dynamics

Portable retirement accounts have allowed workers to transfer retirement savings between employers. No longer are employees bound by golden handcuffs.

The internet and access to information have allowed employees to see behind corporate curtains. They have access that few mid-level managers had during previous generations. Anything we’d want to know about a company can be found in the public square. They know where corporations stand on political, social, and ethical issues. They also have very detailed and accurate salary and compensation visibility.

Remote work has allowed folks to work nationally and internationally without having to move their household.

Family dynamics are different today. Only 44% of Millennials are married, and there is a trend of delaying marriage until their 30’s. Instead of needing accommodations for their children or spouses, they may be seeking time to care for their pets. 

Swimming Out of the Rip Current

Leadership matters, and it is critical to set expectations and work to be as transparent as possible in addressing this new reality. This starts at the top, with leaders.

This begins with the recruiting and hiring process.

  • What are your company’s vision and values?
  • Define your company culture.
  • Build role avatar.
    • Define the role and expectations.
    • Create a blueprint for success that connects performance to compensation and promotion.
  • Interview for cultural fit first and skills second. Skills can be taught faster than behaviors.
  • Choose wisely.

Onboarding, Sponsorship, and Regular Engagement

  • Develop a sponsorship and onboarding program.
  • Regularly engage employees through scheduled and unscheduled interactions.
  • Invest in team members’ development.

Gallup produced a group of 12 questions that measure a healthy work culture.

Questions 1 and 2 answer the question, “What do I get?”

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

Questions 3 through 6 answer the question, “What do I give?”

  1. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  2. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  3. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  4. There is someone at work who encourages my development.

Questions 7 through 10 answer the question, “Do I belong here?”

  1. At work, my opinion seems to count.
  2. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel that my job is important.
  3. My associates and fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  4. I have a best friend at work.

Questions 11 and 12 answer, “How can we all grow? “

  1. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  2. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Succession Planning

  • Create a succession plan at all levels of your organization, from the front line to the c-suite.
  • Promote from within first.
  • Build a bench.

This all seems simple, but it isn’t easy. Setting a fulcrum that allows a company to be profitable, provide a place where employees can thrive, and be a value to the community is no easy task. Creating organizational behaviors to grow a positive company culture is critical today and into the future. The questions above are very powerful and, if used as a measuring stick, are an incredible tool for leaders across the entire organization. Just like the rip current, there is no going back. We need to be able to adjust to meet the expectations of our employees. This starts by setting the expectations for employees and the organization up-front and creating an organization that lives its mission and