Next Gen Leadership: How to Attract, Motivate and Retain Younger Workers

Last week’s 52INSIGHTS was Part One of Next Generation Leadership. Welcome to the second part. This week looks at better leadership from a workplace culture perspective; and youth expectations of leaders around them today. From fostering a youth-friendly work culture to celebrating victories, this week’s edition is designed to empower and inspire you to become a better leader.

Young people lead the way, they always have

History proves that young people are the disruptors. They always have been. Alexander the Great conquered lands at the age of 18; Mary Shelley published Frankenstein at 20; Zuckerberg founded Facebook at the age of 19 and Greta Thunberg launched the global climate movement when she was just 15.

So why do older generations still reject the youth? “Boys don’t get it these days. They’re outspoken and challenging—they don’t accept that it has to be that way.” “It wasn’t like that in my day.” “This generation doesn’t have the work ethic that my generation has.” It doesn’t take a thorough internet search or thousands of conversations with older generations to find comments like this.

At The Youth Lab, one of the most common business challenges we work on is bridging the cultural divide to ensure organizations (and brands) remain relevant, engaged and attractive to younger audiences and a motivated and engaged cross-generational work culture release. A combination of youth insights, reverse mentoring, the establishment of youth panels and meeting young people to hear and experience things first hand; has an extraordinary effect on executives. It changes their worldview and has a positive impact on how they lead.

“A boss is a person who dictates something to others; but a leader is someone who paves the way for those who come behind him. Good leadership is knowing your team and how to motivate them for their individual needs (Maslow triangle/pyramid) and not just relying on money to motivate them. A good leader is one who works just as hard as their team and appreciates the contributions of those who work with them, rather than recognizing the work of the entire team.” Niamh Bakker, 2022 THINKHOUSE Breakthrough Grant Recipient

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An appetite to understand the youth perspective

Young people, especially Generation Z, who were born into a digitally connected world, are not bound by a systematic, one-sided approach. Indeed, their modus operandi is to ask, “Is there a smarter way to do this?” In the workplace, this can lead to intergenerational conflicts between those who are more eager to repeat a tried and true model and those who are more open to exploring new ways of approaching challenges.

Working with Frank & Honest, Ireland’s #1 self-service coffee brand, to build and grow a brand disrupting the competitive coffee market, one of our secret weapons was listening. Rosemary Walsh, Marketing Manager, Frank and Honest, Musgrave; “Listening and understanding the young audience helped us establish a brand that was able to revolutionize the coffee market and connect meaningfully with a new generation of coffee drinkers. We always remember to laugh a lot with the brand’s cheeky, knowing tone. For me, it’s the only way to keep learning about the changing habits and attitudes of the next generation.”

Claire Hyland, director of The Youth Lab, THINKHOUSE said; “The key to cross-generational collaborative workforces is understanding and appreciating that younger and older employees have a lot to learn from each other. The organizations I’ve seen that consistently exceed the norm are the ones that value listening. In an age of such rapid and disruptive change, the establishment of systems that provide a platform for young voices to be heard while also offering young workers the opportunity to learn from the expertise of older workers (their ways of failure as well as theirs success stories). , now serves as a competitive advantage.”

Covid-19 fueled The Great Resignation. This was a moment when workers reassessed their commitment to jobs and companies that they didn’t necessarily appreciate or didn’t align with their values. For many, it was a case of “just not worth it”.

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The burnout generation

Gen Z has learned from the mistakes of millennials. Millennials entered the labor market during a global recession and were forced to “hurry” to get a job and then forced to “go the extra mile” to keep that job. You give yourself completely for the role. This was presented as “desirable”. And where did she take that? Millennials are now generally considered to be the burnout generation. Burnout was only officially recognized by the World Health Organization in 2019, not as a disease but as an occupational health phenomenon “resulting from chronic stress at work that has not been successfully managed”.

Gen Z is more measured in their job prospects – there is no longer a desire to work long hours for little in return. Instead, in their longing for a less stressful work life, they place limits on what they consider acceptable in an employer-employee relationship. Flexibility in terms of work location and time is highly valued as it gives them the opportunity for work-life balance. Employers’ prioritization of flexibility shows that employers value the health and well-being of young people. Leading with trust rather than power, choices rather than predetermined ways of working, prepares employers for success in young employees who feel more confident and in control of their work schedule.

Empowerment can be done in other ways, e.g. B. through honesty, transparency and high emotional intelligence of managers. Leading by example is also valued as it creates a sense of togetherness and thereby gains genuine acceptance and loyalty.

Working environment, culture & values

About a decade ago; Ping pong tables, fun office slides, and free lunches made it. Today’s young workers are turning their backs on work environments, companies and brands that don’t serve them.

Instead, they look for opportunities to develop and advance skills within like-minded, diverse companies that consistently demonstrate that they value and support their employees. Diversity in the workplace can be a critical factor for many graduates, who themselves belong to the most diverse generation of all time — according to a recent Monster Report on The gen z Workforce in the US, a third of college grads say they want a job in a Company that does not have a diverse workforce. Another quarter say they “wouldn’t work for an organization without women (26%) or diversity (25%) in leadership positions.”

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Where they can’t find diverse work environments, they go and create them. In fact, in a recent Nielsen study, about 54% of Gen Z said they wanted to start their own business.

Psychological security, a sense of belonging and, erm, mating.

A sense of belonging to the workplace is also high on young workers’ priority lists, and in this new era of hybrid working, workers and employers alike will face additional challenges. Employees want to feel safe, trusted, and included, whether they’re sitting in person at a desk or on screen in a virtual office. The cost of living crisis (still living with parents, expensive gas) is forcing young people into the office – so make it a place worth going to. Make it a place that focuses on the sense of belonging and brings fun to the work day.

“Why isn’t anyone talking about mating? Everyone knows that work is where many people meet their life partners. Without a place to flirt, play and socialize, young people have one less place to hang out and find their partner. An office environment is important to our overall social cohesion.” Human Resources Consultant, Ralph P. Merriman.

By creating a workplace culture that celebrates and recognizes contributions, companies can strengthen their sense of belonging. At THINKHOUSE, we do this once a week in a structured and open way with our “Kudos” program – an inspirational feel-good kick-start to every Monday at THINKHOUSE.

HBR research on psychological safety and books like Marcus Buckingham’s Love + Work further examine work culture.

branded takeouts

Listen to, be inspired by and collaborate with young people – or accept that your brand, organization and/or leadership role is at risk of becoming irrelevant

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