The dominance of the baby-boomer “generation” in the workforce is giving way to Millennials with new thought patterns after starting work during and the great (horrible) recession. Now Gen-Z has entered the workforce through a pandemic which has further changed worker mindsets. A recent Deloitte Gen-Z and Millennial Survey examines how the recent disruptive events impact their viewpoint and provides insight on leadership of a multi-generational workforce.
The Role of Work in Life
Past generations often described themselves by the work they did. I am a carpenter, a CPA or a housewife. The Deloitte survey shows how work as central to one’s identity is decreasing in younger generations. Whereas 62% of millennials say work is central to their identity, only 49% of Gen Z does. Work life balance and hybrid work environments are increasingly important to younger workers. Qualities admired in peers included:
- Ability to maintain a positive work/life balance
- Ability to live their live on their own terms and not necessarily live up to societal expectations.
- Ambition to continue learning new skills.
- Willingness to continuously reinvent themselves/make big changes in their lives.
- Passion for work.
Leaders need to adapt to a workforce that is willing to make changes and reinvent themselves (aka quit) if work does not meet their requirements. For example, 16% of Gen Z respondents and 15% of Millennial respondents would immediately start looking for a new job if asked to return to on-site work full time. The younger generations view hybrid and remote work as reducing costs, helps save money, drives greater productivity, and is positive for their mental health.
Always On Workforce
TGIF! Friday used to mean the end of the work week and the beginning of the weekend. Cloud computing and carrying that computer in your pocket has created the ability to contact anyone anytime. Combine availability with social media, Amazon next day delivery and similar “customer comes first” attitudes has created an immediate gratification culture.
Always on workplaces have assumptions that workers will check their e-mails, chats and text messages “outside normal working hours” in order to:
- Stay up to date on the latest developments.
- Be responsive to their superior/supervisor.
- To enhance their career advancement prospects.
- Work anxiety/struggling to turn-off/disconnect from work.
Providing location flexibility in an always on environment can provide balance. Remote workers tend to respond after work hours more frequently than on-site workers. So if you provide flexibility younger workers will adapt and respond. Just don’t make it a cultural expectation to avoid burnout.
Multi-generational Leadership Goes Home!
The average lifespan in America has increased almost continuously: from 69.66 in 1960 to 70.36 in 1970 and peaking at 78.94 in 2015. Consider that at the same time the average retirement age went from 57 in the 1990’s to a medium of about 62 according to US News. Simultaneously, the NY Post report that in 1971, just 9% of adults of the same age were living in a multigenerational home, while in 2011, roughly 20% were, and now 1/4 of adults 18-25 are living with their parents. Credit Karma and the New York Times also found that 29% of Gen Zers are living at home with parents or other relatives.
With multiple generations living together 24% of Gen Zs and 29% of Millennials have daily or periodic caregiving responsibilities for both children and parents or older relatives. 13% of Gen Z/s and 17% of millennials have daily caregiving responsibilities for both. Given these responsibilities it is even more imperative to offer flexible work schedules to workers. The Deloitte survey funds that “over half of Gen Zs (57%) and millennials (55%) acknowledge that their employers are taking mental health seriously, and roughly the same percentage (56% of Gen Zs / 53% of millennials) believe this is resulting in positive change. Employer responses include:
- Vacation and/or paid time off.
- Access to mental health applications and/or services.
- Paid for counseling and/or therapy.
- Supportive senior leadership and regular check-ins with managers focused on personal wellbeing.
Leading a multigenerational workforce requires an understanding of the dynamics outside the office.
Action Steps for Multi-Generational Leadership
This article has focused on the circumstances surrounding the changing dynamics of the workplace. However, leadership requires action.
Provide a platform for hybrid work
Although not all jobs can be performed remotely, far more than originally thought can! However, remote work requires proper tools for collaboration, along with processes and procedures to provide guidance and controls.
- Cloud Computing – Whether you go full Cloud ERP or enable mobile sales, service and/or support, a cloud platform simplifies and secures remote work. Cloud Optimization refers to redesigning and integrating your processes with cloud technology. Digital Transformation is the process by which we help companies redesign their business for growth and efficiency through technology.
- Collaboration Tools – It takes more than Zoom video conferencing to collaborate remotely. File sharing, chat, and project management tools can greatly increase the productivity of remote workforces.
- VOIP Phones – Many collaboration tools like Microsoft Office and Teams can now be combined with regular telephone numbers, equipment and services. Most VOIP systems also have applications for receiving calls on computers or mobile devices to make extension dialing a snap.
It is also important to recognize that individuals should have dedicated workspaces in their homes to increase remote work efficiency. Providing extra monitors, headsets and/or an allowance for office equipment increases productivity and job satisfaction.
Setting Guidelines for Communication
Guidelines create expectations and mitigate burnout. Expectations include both performance and boundaries:
- When is it acceptable to send or expect a response to communication outside of standard working hours?
- Unless a condition of work, or during the final phases or a time bound project, respect for an individual’s personal time is expected by most generations!
- Use of ! high importance flags should only be used for urgent items that need immediate or after hours attention. Abuse of the ! can result in it being ignored!
- When asking for after-hours assistance, be appreciative of the employee’s efforts and be sure to let them know why you are asking, why it is important, and that it is appreciated!
Properly Formed Requests –
- When remote working requests require specificity. A properly formed request includes:
- Objective of the request and specifications and parameters for the response. What should be included in the response or assignment?
- Timing of the response, and any interim communication requirements if the task will take some time.
- Why the request is important and consequences to company if not fulfilled or delayed.
- The opportunity for the request recipient to ask for help, involve others, or push back on the timing or parameters.
- Meetings can be a time kill and a de-motivator in a hybrid work environment. Set proper expectations for meetings, such as:
- Only require in-person meetings when the importance is high and brainstorming or other collaboration is required.
- Let everyone who is invited know why each individual has been invited and what they are expected to bring to the table in terms of knowledge, experience or action. Allow individuals to delegate if appropriate or decline with proper communication.
- Everyone within the team should share their calendar contents and have permission to mark items as private or confidential without question.
- Provide ample advance notice if possible. Be courteous of others by checking their calendar prior to creating the invitation.
- Everyone should arrive early. A few minutes of time before the meeting promotes comradery and shows respect for each other’s time.
Providing training for the new tools, procedures and guidelines must also be multi-generational in nature. Where some individuals will adapt to tools quickly, others may require different learning techniques. The same is true with adapting behaviors to the new normal.
The first requirement of resolving any issue is to gain an understanding of the problem. Leading a diverse multi-generational work force is harder than it used to be. Remote and hybrid work, multi-generational responsibilities and the new work life balance expectations require adjustment of “tried and true” management techniques. Providing greater flexibility in working conditions, new collaborative tools and clear guidance can improve productivity in a multi-generational workforce.
It is never too late to lead. Sometimes a little consultation from one of our CxO partners can help take your team to the next level. Schedule a CxO Exploration call to see if I-BN can provide the resources you need to