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Part II: Transforming Leaders: Catering Next-Generation Employees

Part I of our article revealed interesting insights about understanding the future workforce and its inherent qualities. Check it out before hopping onto this one!

Change is inevitable. Whether it’s upended by technology, a wavering economic curve or impeded by a global pandemic. Today’s workplace is an ever-changing environment that requires immediate adaptation for sustainability. In this given VUCA environment, what actions can be taken by the organisations to prepare and future-proof themselves? The answer is a transforming workforce. A type of workforce that is digitally agile, entrepreneurial and, at the same time, deemed to be the most adaptive is arguably what the organisations can look for in the days to come. The new generation, Generation Z, is beginning to enter the workforce to find their place and purpose. These younger employees bring with them a variety of skills and aim to add value through their ways of thinking.

Like any other generation, they have a specific set of criteria in mind when it comes to picking the right company. As a result, providing what they seek in a workplace can attract a large talent pool of new Gen Z aspirants. The impact of COVID-19 has provided Gen Z with a unique crisis experience. They recognise the need for adaptation and have the potential to leverage it in the organisations by adding value and driving innovation. That’s what makes them an integral next-gen workforce. Keeping this in mind, organisations will have to find the right mix to efficiently manage these digital bloomers.

Let’s dive deeper into these new perspectives and expectations that they have from their leaders:

1. Life-long learnings and skills progression

Gen Z is here with the aim to upskill. They want their leaders to provide them with lifelong learning opportunities to advance and challenge their readiness in the ever-changing work world. With the majority preferring a dynamic work environment, leaders will have to determine a way to address and hone the skill gaps, as well as the expectation to be future-ready.

Growth is top of mind for Gen Z, and they are constantly looking for unique ways to stand out. Research suggests that 76% of Gen Z said that they believe learning is the key to a successful career. They expect their leaders to provide them with goals that align and resonate with their strengths and career paths. Leaders who remain flexible and adaptive in providing these learning opportunities will remain at the top of the list as new graduates hit the working world.

2. Transparency, ethicality and trust

Ethicality is no more just a public relations or compliance issue anymore. Next-Gen workers in the workplace want to know if their work has an impact on the greater good of the world, apart from the practices the organisation pursues in securing the same. This younger generation is particular about having transparent leaders who tell them the truth no matter how hard it is to digest. They want to be encouraged to experiment, take informed risks, freedom to be curious, make decisions and be dealt with straightforwardly.

Wanting transparency is not limited to Gen Zers but when it comes to the workplace, they are the first to openly demand it from their leaders. They want to establish an informal rapport with their leaders that is built on trust and mutuality. Having honest conversations helps in building trust that fosters a much stronger foundation and unleashes the true potential in the workplace.

3. A seat at the table

As the youngest generation in the workforce, they are sceptical about raising their voice and sometimes step back from expressing their opinion, despite their general disposition to be candid and communicative. Organisations who wish to benefit from their views, howsoever unconventional it be, will need to seek their participation, only to ensure a well-rounded perspective.

It is, therefore, necessary for leaders to convey to Gen Zers that their perspectives and ideas are valued and are being heard. This will meet their stated and often unstated need to be included, while also enabling the organisation to earn the dividends of innovative approaches, which is the need of the hour.

4. A strong sense of community

It is interesting and unique that Gen Zers want to belong not just to their organisation, but also to their peer group outside the organisation. They seek to relate to what is happening in their chosen field in the community at large. Their world is not confined to the confines of their workplace but embraces their professional associates, ex-colleagues, interest groups and social circles. Equally compelling is their need to secure recognition in social media and not just in the organisation they are working for. While being fiercely independent, they also want to be connected and experience belonging to the associates they value.

77 % of leaders themselves believe organisations that fail to provide the right environment for young workers will be at a serious competitive disadvantage. Leaders who have traditionally been used to organisation-centric opportunity creation and recognition will need to sensitise to this new reality.

5. Break monotony

Stepping out of their comfort zone is, in essence, their comfort zone. Gen Zers embrace the newness and can’t engage in mundane and repetitive tasks that lead to burnout, and disengagement. They want their leaders to challenge them on a daily basis, teach them new skills, and work on a variety of projects. They are observed to be more resilient and adaptive when it comes to managing change and looking for opportunities even in turbulent times.

Another way to break the monotony is to create vibrance and fun in the workplace. This is beyond the ‘Friday Parties,’ which many organisations in BPO & KPO latched on to. In a recent study “Humour Seriously,” Behaviour Science Professional; Jennifer Aaker writes ‘Why Humour is a secret weapon in Business and Life.’ There cannot be a greater glue to an organisation for a Gen Zer than be working for one such place, where the humour serves as an energiser as well as enables them to contribute their best.

6. Psychologically safer workplace culture

It is no brainer that Gen Zers expect their leaders to demonstrate care and concern for them, both as individuals and as professionals. While the expectation of Gen Zers as professionals has been covered in the earlier part, what also needs to be addressed is the leader demonstrating concern and helping them meet their personal needs of leading a respectable life.

Another aspect is supporting them to coexist with members of other generations who may have the advantage of greater organisational familiarity coupled with better subject knowledge. The needs of different groups being varied, Gen Z expects their leader to lend them a supporting hand when needed so that they get into an awkward situation. They are capable of looking after themselves, but surely seek reinforcement from the Organisation.

There have been comments and criticism of the Gen Zers, some of which may be relevant. They are perceived as being shifty, losing interest fast, looking for quick rewards and at times without corresponding efforts, willing to take responsibility only selectively and as such, not bankable. However, the issue at hand is that there is a reality to the future of any organisation. The need, therefore, is to focus on how leaders and organisations leverage what they can bring to the table rather than getting caught up in the debate or judgement of what they may, in part, be.

In the near future, the success and sustainability of every organisation will be measured by efficacy in ensuring what they look for. Addressing these concerns and bringing about a change cannot be done in a single day. They must be fully integrated into your culture and leadership styles in real-life interactions to cater to these next-generation employees. Gear up leaders! Take a step back and try looking at things from their perspective and be the leaders that they need in order to contribute to the bigger picture!

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