By Catherine Joyce (United Kingdom)
Fifteen years into the new century, we live and work in a faster changing business environment than ever before. The business leadership landscape is changing constantly and not only is it moving fast, but it is complex, uncertain and ambiguous for many leaders today.
Communications are faster than ever before; technology is sprouting new apps faster than they can be assessed for value; employee retention and engagement are stretching managers in many workplaces which now have employees from 17 to 70 years of age.
These and countless other challenges make now an interesting time to be a leader and a manager. At a practical level, there are pressures; here are three that leaders need to be able to navigate in today’s fast-changing world of work.
Balancing the needs of three generations at work
Over the past few years much has been written about the three Generations known as Baby Boomers born 1945-1960, Generation X born 1960-1980and Millennials (or Gen Y)born 1980-1995. More interesting than the definitions/descriptions,are the challenges and the opportunities that face employers now, as the landscape is changing and shifting.
The concept of the three generations helps us track history and discuss societal, economic, legislative and technological changes; help us to understand the implications on behaviour and values at work, so as to be able to manage and anticipate the inevitable continuing changing nature of the world we work in.
Employers who are stuck in the mind frame that “Millennials” are a massive challenge to be ‘fixed’ are now experiencing a reality check. Those who haven’t already done so, need to face up to the massive potential that Millennials (and iGen) offer to organisations. Those who do, will be able to harness their strengths and be agile enough to attract, develop and retain them.
Intriguingly, you may notice in your own organisations that BB and Gen X are changing how they do things and find themselves adapting their approach, processes and tools to ‘fit with’ our increasing technology world that the Millennials are so comfortable with. Even though it’s two years old, this blog by Phyllis Weiss Haserot on Maximizing Social Media for Each Generation makes interesting reading 
Understanding something of where those of each generation come from and what influences their way of thinking different, can go a long way towards easing communications, maximising collaboration, while preventing small issues from becoming large challenges, between employer and employee and among employees themselves.
The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016 predicts they will make up 75 per cent of the global workforce by 2025.
“44% of the Millennials surveyed say…they would like to leave their current employers in the next two years.”
What’s important to Millennials? The most consistent findings about what motivate them as a group (and remember, individuals may differ), is
- Opportunity for skills, technical and personal development
- Leadership skilldevelopment
- The opportunity for career progression
- Alignment of personal and organisations values
- Work- life balance and
- Flexible working using technology
However, there is too little focus on and belief in the real potential of every employee. Talent pipelines in place in many organisations are often based on ‘more of the same’ rather than on looking wider and deeper into the needed skills and future potential of our younger generation.
Leaders need to find and address employees’ individual drivers, preferences and values. If you as a leader learn about what is important to your employees, you will have a better handle on how best to motivate, engage and retain them.
You will also be in a position to notice ‘early warning’ signals of disengagement etc. and be in a position to explore what’s going on and hopefully, to reengage them. In doing so, set yourself and your business up for success. After all, your responsibility as a leader-manager is to be agile in your approach to maximising every employee’s contribution and performance.
Retaining future talent
Your best people are your best investment. Staff turnover across the UK is at a high right now, following the stagnant period we experienced during the recession. Many employees stayed in jobs more for financial security than enjoyment or engagement. The recession is over, business confidence is improving and people are on the move.
“Organisations are increasingly looking for talent outside of their organisation – three quarters are recruiting key talent/niche areas. Skill shortages are escalating – over four-fifths feel that competition for talent has increased over the past two years. Nearly two-thirds report that the skills needed for jobs in their organisation are changing.”
This means your best people are being attracted elsewhere…. unless you know how to retain them.
Now that Baby Boomers are retiring in large numbers (3.6million are expected to retire in 2016 and the estimated cost to replace an employee can run over £30K, today’s leaders need to find a way to identify talent and develop robust strategies to engage and retain them – whiling stemming the flow of your talented employees leaving the organisation.
Millennials have very different expectations about jobs, length of service in a firm and remuneration than their predecessors. Several surveys suggest that they value a good work/life balance, working for a firm with strong values and having a sense of purpose beyond financial success or having a job for life
One underlying contributing factor to ‘attrition’ numbers is the changing attitude to what constitutes ‘acceptable’ when it comes to length of service with an employer. Twenty years ago most people would say ‘three years’ in a role demonstrated you could settle into a role, make a contribution, deal with a number of key challenges, see it through and prove yourself.
Today, a very different attitude exists. Younger people are more likely to resign and move to another role or career after a short period of time, often in search of promotion or a better work/life balance, or if they feel the current role, manager or organisation isn’t for them.
Leaders who wish to retain ‘future talent’ will be more successful if they scan the constantly changing landscape for trends, patterns and signs that may impact their ability to develop and retain Millennials. Furthermore, in ten years’ time, the next generation born 1995 – 2010 (iGen, Gen Z or whatever they will be called) will be beginning to make their presence felt in the workplace. Will the work-life balance be as blurred as it is for Millennials, or will we see something else emerge?
Letting people go
What’s important right now is to assess and identify who your future talent are. This might sound easy, but for many leaders and employers, this is a challenge. If they are not aware of the changing landscape of employment; have little insight into where technology, for instance is taking us; focus more on delivering a short term business strategy, then anticipating ‘future talent’ needs will be a challenge indeed.
Leaders need to ask themselves these questions, in the context of the next 3, 5, 10, 20 years
- What direction is your organisation and industry going?
- What is your business vision for the next 20 years?
- Who will your customers be? What will you be selling/providing?
- How will your business be best placed to deliver efficiently and cost effectively?
- What will have changed profoundly in how you deliver (compared to now)?
- What skills will be needed not only to survive in business, but to thrive?
- What future-proofing skills does your organisation need to develop?
- Who has unique skills that you can leverage for greater impact/profitability/productivity?
- Who is developable into roles that will become available through business growth/retirement?
At the same time, think about?
- Who might soon be ‘past their best’ either because of their inability to adapt new working practices, develop new skills or add value to the changing workplace environment?
- Who is in a role that will become redundant because of technology, changing client base or associated requirements?
Managers who fail to discuss these changing needs with individuals may think they are being kind, but don’t fool yourself (you won’t fool them). They may be ‘reading the writing on the wall’ as you read this. If so, in the absence of caring and clear conversations they will be stressed and worried. This alone could contribute to lower productivity, higher absence rate and un-engagement. Better to sit down and have an honest conversation.
These three pressures are connected. All three need leadership. If you can understand and appreciate the richness, the diversity you have in your organisation, you are more likely to engage them. When you engage your future talent and they have identified who are key to the future of your organisation and are courageous in letting go of people, so that they can thrive elsewhere, you free up space for your talent to blossom.
Leaders need to navigate these three pressures successfully; using caring, courage and candour will give you a great start.
About Catherine Joyce
Catherine Joyce is an international consultant, exe coach and author of Being An Agile Leader-Manager published January 2016 by Panoma Press. Catherine has dedicated her career to being a business leadership consultant and confidant to Directors, Senior Managers and Emerging Leaders in blue-chip companies across a range of industries. She draws on 20 years’ experience on developing agile leadership and helping individuals achieve business success. She is Managing Director of BlueQuay Limited.
 Jason Dorsey, The Centre of Generational Kinetics www.genhq.com
 Source: CallisonRTKL: 2016 Trends in the Workplace