There seems to be a lot of discussion about generational gaps in the workplace with understanding how millennials fit into today’s organizations. A recent Deloitte survey found that many of the performance drivers once associated with previous age demographics do not motivate many of these young people in today’s workforce. From their research, Deloitte surveyed 10,455 millennials, defined as people born between January 1983 and December 1994, across 36 countries, who hold college or university degrees, are employed full-time, and currently work in large, private-sector organizations. The poll found that 43% said they plan to leave their jobs within two years, while only 28% are looking to stay beyond five years. “After narrowing last year, the gap between the two groups is widening again” (Brinded, May 15, 2018).
Richard Andrews in his article “6 Ways Your Company can Adapt to an Aging Workforce,” noted that some companies are conducting changes to workplace environments even in lighting and color schemes arguing that “Simple changes can be made without catering to just one group. Rethinking of colors, making sure acoustics and audio technology makes provision for those harder of hearing, and introducing (and allowing) easy access to mother’s rooms are some of the easy wins which won’t impact the office overall, but will cater to an aging workforce.”
What this data suggests along with the research that we constantly are conducting with our associates at The Frisina Group and The Center for Influential Leadership is that leaders must be purposeful and intentional about managing dynamic states of nature like culture, generational gap, and brand image. These dynamics are not problems to be solved but states of nature that require constant attention. How people experience the external effect of your organizational culture is a by-product of the internal dynamic of your organizational culture. Tony Hsieh the CEO of Zappos said it best that “culture is your brand” and that culture is driven and created as a direct result of the level of engagement you have as leader in your organization.
Generational engagement is not a new concept. The baby boomers of the 1960’s became the “suits” of the 1990’s. Today’s millennial are becoming tomorrow’s leaders in our organizations. How we sustain performance and success in our organizations is how people will identify with and cultivate the core values, ethics and workplace culture that we, as leaders, choose to create. If you want a dynamic, healthy, performance driven culture, then as leaders you have to create it. As Henry Cloud and others have written about so eloquently, you as a leader are ridiculously in charge. Consequently you get in performance outcomes what you create or what you allow, and culture is fundamentally something that is either deliberately created or it’s something that takes on a life of its own.
As an organizational expert, I have witnessed too much “millennial blame” and the effect on workplace culture, and not enough emphasis on leaders driving the workplace culture they need to thrive in …and not just show up to work in.
Influential leaders are highly practiced with the skill of ‘Positive Presence’ and it places them in a position to model emotionally balanced behaviour. More important, it enables them to be responsive to others’ needs, which is a primary contributor to employee engagement and workplace culture. Becoming an influential leader is going to require you to learn to understand yourself. The ancient Greek aphorism, “Know Thyself,” can be attributed to at least six Greek sages, the most notable being the philosopher Socrates. For the more modern generation of folks you are probably familiar with its Latin version that hung above the Oracle’s door in the Matrix film series. Suffice it to say, virtually every kind of performance problem links to relationship dysfunction that stems from a lack of self-awareness – how our quirky traits and habits that we do not see in ourselves affect the most important people around us.
Influential leaders are aware of their behaviour tendencies and preferences. They know how to manage their emotions, and they are keenly aware of the need to be highly skilled in social management – creating and sustaining highly effective interpersonal relationships. They are empathic, in that they can sense the emotional states of other people, and they are also compassionate in their acknowledgement and response to the emotional messages of others.
You will never lead other people successfully, influentially, if you do not lead your own self well. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” Would you follow you as a leader? Are you the kind of leader others desire to follow? The answers to these questions impact on your willingness to be purposeful and intentional about managing dynamic states of nature like culture, generational gap, and brand image.