- January 24, 2020
- Posted by: Alyson Van Hooser
- Category: Generations, Leadership Development, Managing Change, Managing Risk
I’m waving the red flag to you, leader. With the culture of today’s workforce rapidly changing, there’s heightened risk you have to address. Is it a new risk? No. Is it a new risk? Yes. Did you read that right? Yes. Ha! Don’t be late to the game. Don’t be the reactor, be proactive. Let’s dig into exactly what heightened risk you must address in the workplace.
Heightened Risk Leaders Must Address
The risk we’re about to discuss is heightened to a new level because of Gen Z.
Many of the leaders I come in contact with are calling the youngest generation in the workforce “Millennials”. Don’t make that mistake! The youngest generation in the workforce — those about 24 years old and younger — are not Millennials, they are Gen Z. If you’re thinking you should treat Gen Z the same as Millennials, you might be in for a rude awakening over the months, years, and decades to come.
For today’s discussion, I want to get your mind thinking about how researchers are telling us Gen Z gathers information and how it might affect the workplace.
I am using general statements in the paragraphs to come. These statements are based on what I’ve learned from studying the latest research and building relationships with all generations in the workplace. Please know that there may be outliers and the best thing you can do as a leader is to get to know your people individually, then adapt accordingly.
Alright, let’s go!
Old School Perspective
I posted about this very topic on social media the other day and someone commented that I should leave older generations out of this. When I asked them why they never responded. In case someone is thinking the same thing, let me start this part of the discussion by saying that if you don’t stop and consider how things used to be, then you may never realize your leadership is out of date until it’s too late. If you don’t see change coming, then you end up becoming reactive instead of proactive. It’s the proactive leaders that stay ahead of the curve and get the best results. I’m going to help you do that.
For older generations, their view of leadership was very much top-down. When employees had questions on what to do or how to do it, they asked the leader. When the leader told them something, they listened, put their head down, got back to work, and did what they were told.
In that type of environment, it was easier for the leader to manage certain risks.
If most everyone is looking to the same manager/supervisor/leader for a standard of acceptable performance, how to handle any misconduct, what the right answers may be, etc., then the risk of the answers to all of those questions becoming convoluted becomes very low. Why? Because the majority of people are getting the majority of their information from the same source — leadership.
However, as generations in the workplace evolved over the past four to six decades, especially in the last two years or so, top-down leadership isn’t as widely accepted or practiced.
New School Research
Gen Z is still young — approximately 7-24 years old right now — so there is still so much being developed within them and to be learned about them. Because of the stage of life many Gen Z’s are in right now, most of the decisions they are making are based around school and retail. Therefore, most of the research has only been conducted around that focus.
- 86% of Gen Z reads reviews before making a purchase. (The Center for Generational Kinetics)
- 68% of Gen Z reads 3 or more reviews before making a purchase. (The Center for Generational Kinetics)
These two statistics about their purchasing decisions could be a really good indicator of how they will make decisions in the workplace. There is a pretty strong chance that Gen Z will be looking for opinions — from peers and even people they don’t know — as they work to figure out right from wrong, what level of performance is expected from them, and other values that affect culture and performance in the workplace.
Why would Gen Z do that?
Gen Z is the first digitally native generation. They do not know a time before technology. They’ve grown up reading reviews and having better success from that vs. directly asking the company about the product. As they’re entering the workforce, they’re probably going to be more likely to lean towards what they’ve always known — as we all do. They will seek out reviews from co-workers, opinions from people in other companies and industries, all while potentially avoiding the decision-makers companies have put in place.
Hear me clearly, no one generation is better or worse than the other. We all bring our own unique value and challenges to the workplace.
Remaster The Workplace
To navigate today’s multi-generational workforce successfully, leaders must remaster the workplace — mix the old with the new in a way that they blend together to become the bright future we all want! To truly remaster the workplace, you must understand where you’ve been, where you’re at, and where you want to go.
If Gen Z is reading reviews, or listening to opinions from who knows who, potentially someone outside the office, maybe across the world, or simply someone in the office whom you’re struggling to get on board anyway…if younger generations are trusting them for guidance and answers at work, you must realize the heightened risk in regards to compliance, operations, and reputation.
When younger employees are wondering if they should speak up if they see a co-worker doing something wrong, will they follow the companies guidelines or will they follow shady-Sally’s recommendation?
Will the new generation ask the leader if they should keep pushing for more sales even though they’ve met the goal, or will they ask half way-Harry what to do?
If new employees are not getting guidance for your culture’s standards from leaders primarily, how can you as a leader take action to engage the rest of your employees so that everyone is better informed and pushing in the right direction? This is the issue that will take correct, calculated, consistent, action in order to mitigate the risk of the new workforce. Will it be hard to do well? Maybe. Will it be impossible–absolutely not!
No Action Is A Destructive Choice
So where do you even start? How do you manage this potential newly heightened risk? It starts with a conversation with your leadership team about the possibilities. Then you move forward into deeper, focused, conversations with your people to understand where their heads are at. Then you lay down the law — this is where we are, this is where we want to be, then this is how we’re going to get there.
Leading today’s workforce is not for the faint of heart — it’s a job for warriors. Those who do nothing, self destruct. Those willing to step up to the challenges and take focused action will win!
Does your team need guidance on leading in a multi-generation workforce? I can help. Let’s talk!
#multigenerationworkforce #understandingrisk #leadershipdevelopment #takeaction