Changing of the guard

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“Seasoned professional” – what is that? I consider myself a seasoned professional. Well seasoned, stopping just short of pickled. I have much respect for our future leaders – most of whom will be Millennials, for the next decade or so, until Gen Zs take over.

I recently spoke at a conference of young people graduating in HR and seeking their first job.

An interesting theme emerged: Millenials versus Gen Z employees, and the kind of leadership required to nurture and retain them.

For boomers, a job was about a paycheque and feeding the family. It was a place you worked hard in, often late and on weekends, to achieve company goals. A position you never left once you started there. A place of security … a thing of the past.

Then came the Gen Xers, slightly different from boomers, but with similar philosophies about work, leadership and expectations.

In a couple of years, the workplace is poised to experience a changing of the guard. With baby boomers and many Gen Xers retiring in hordes, their vacant leadership positions will be filled by Millenials. And a different kind of leader they will be.

As more young professionals take charge, major change will come to workplaces - cultural, physical, organizational. They’re shaking things up with their talents, thinking, values and gusto for life.

Millenials frequently get a bad rap for their expectations on the job, or even before they land one. People complain that they expect too much, don’t want to work long hours, and expect perks and learning opportunities. However, what they offer as employees, rather than expect from their employers, should be highlighted.

Millenials like authenticity. They are loyal to specific causes and to their values. They want to work for employers who are genuine and demonstrate benefit to whoever they serve. They want to know how the company is contributing to social progress and improving the world. Negotiating a salary is not enough – Millennials may even take a pay cut when the company’s values align with theirs.

Millenial leaders will push their causes as they climb the corporate ladder, shaping their own company’s mission along the way and inspiring others by being role models. The leadership style that emerges will be far more open, inclusive and authentic.

Gen Z are entrepreneurial, favouring independent work environments, preferring to create start-ups rather than being part of large companies. They are quick learners, capable of self-learning through non-traditional means, often studying with music blaring through their headphones!

Both generations are attached to their digital devices. To them, Facebook is passe, yet their social circles are truly global. However, while Millenials grew up with internet access, Gen Z were born into a technological world, practically with gadgets in their baby hands. Millenials played Minesweeper and Solitaire on their PCs. Gen Zs play esports with people located around the world. Their need for instant gratification, results and answers, is unparalleled.

Gen Z therefore have different expectations. They want to feel valued. They expect the company and its leaders to be loyal to them, not the other way around. If they don’t feel appreciated, they move on.

Gen Z process information quickly (they use oodles of apps!), but their attention span may be shorter. Millenials are better at focusing on a task, while Gen Z are better at multi-tasking.

Both generations cherish work-life balance and a work-family atmosphere. That’s not selfishness or self-centered – that’s the new world. Quality of life trumps all, and that may just be the secret to life on this earth!

Companies are struggling to retain them and must think of ways to attract and keep them engaged and happy, especially after pandemic shifts.

As a leader, one must understand how these generations are different from those before, without preconceived expectations. Understanding their needs and interests will help guide and appreciate them better. An open mind will bring great results!

Millenials and Gen Z in the workplace are a joy! They will inspire everyone to make the environment around them better, leading to a global shift that brings happiness.

Soon they’ll be ….. seasoned professionals.

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