Spring is almost here, my favorite season. Nature starts to rejuvenate and we all start thinking Spring cleaning inside the house, and planting new colors outside. I wonder why we don’t take this mindset to our workplace.
Recently I was asked to moderate a panel in Atlanta titled “Developing the Next Generation of Leaders” which is a great fit with my expertise and vision. As I started to think how I would frame this important dialogue, I realized that it starts with a Spring Cleaning mindset of our workplace and business policies.
There are overwhelming amount of materials available on this topic, essentially focusing on the same issues….do we have a vision, do we have a winning strategy, do we have the right team for the right positions, are we getting the best results from our team, are we maximizing their output and leveraging team strengths, are we achieving business & financial objectives, do we have the right training/development initiatives, etc. But I believe there are 3 missing components—or even if they exist, they are lost in the tactical piles instead of being starting points.
1. Create a modern day workplace – think work/life balance and flexibility in business policies
How long has it been since any of you worked a traditional eight-hour workday from 9-5? This notion is rapidly fading from the traditional business world. It is not just a gender issue, Gen Y issue, or a small HR initiative—it is now a business imperative.
I wrote a blog last year, An Honest Discussion About Gender Gap in Leadership, which outlined inflexible schedules, unrelenting travel, insistence that work be done in the office, lack of descent maternity leave and better affordable child-care as key issues to resolve in our business/social policies to achieve healthier gender parity and ultimately better financial results. I remember my own struggles with my conventional C-suite years ago, fighting to keep the jobs for women who needed flex hours to conduct great work. Protecting traditional orthodoxies, command and control, lack of trust, fear of reduced productivity without structure. This is ironic, given that the modern day workplace allowing flexibility and work-life balance breeds trust, productivity, motivation and engagement. Besides technology keeps people connected to their jobs way after they punch out of offices.
Now a recent Vodafone U.K. survey indicates that 90% of employers offer flex hours. Perhaps because this is no longer a gender issue, it is also a generational issue. According to a Time Magazine article, more than one third of Gen Y workers would take a pay cut if it meant more flexibility on the job, and more than half prioritize social media freedom over a higher salary. And guess what? By 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be Gen Y. As early as next year, Gen Y will comprise 60% of the employees at many companies like Ernst & Young, Aflac and MITRE.
Businesses must re-evaluate the false notion of how, where and when the work gets done and re-define their policies in order to succeed and able to recruit and retain great diverse talent that can drive higher, profitable, sustainable growth.
2. Add Purpose and Values to strategic frameworks and business models – think emotional
Customers don’t buy what and how you sell products, but why you do it. A purpose-driven company outperforms rivals by establishing a difference it can sustain. Similarly, people want to join companies with a purpose and shared values aligned with theirs. Who is not passionate about making the world a better place? Certainly not our next generations of leaders.
An MTV survey revealed that 80% of Gen Y think it’s important to do “something meaningful with my life,” and 66% said it was important to help “those who are less fortunate in your community.” For them, there’s no question of whether to recycle or mind one’s carbon footprint…they don’t think about it, they just do it…it’s ingrained.
What is the “purpose” of your company beyond increasing shareholder value? What are the “shared values” you adhere to, believe in, and execute at every level of your organization? Trust, respect, honesty and integrity are shared values in The New World Marketplace. There are many more. Are you aligned with and breathing daily any of these values in your business practices? I’m not referring to the words you put on your web site, packaging or promotional videos…or, simply selecting a narrow ‘cause marketing’ initiative that you may allocate a small budget for. This is a brand promise to your customers and employees and must be a big part of your strategic frameworks and business models.
Success in The New World Marketplace demands that all businesses not only learn to channel the rapid cultural and social shifts, but also align themselves with the shifting values of our next generation of leaders.
3. Place more emphasis on people than numbers – think engagement, caring, relating and profit sharing
Numbers are manifested through people’s action. A simple phenomenon often forgotten by businesses. All great leaders want to make a difference. Why not offer that early on to emerging leaders by engaging them in decision makings and empowering them to make a difference versus assigning generic, repetitive tasks a machine can do. I often refer to Gen Y as Harry Potter Generation….standing up for your beliefs and rights, distrust of those in power, fighting injustice, equality for all races and genders, and feeling responsible to make a difference in the world. These are the values of our next generation of leaders.
This goes beyond fancy charts on development/training materials. It means being and acting personal, responding to needs, concerns and aspirations, which drive engagement and performance. The business leaders who care the most have the greatest impact on their people, who will, in turn, feel valued and become successful leaders in the future.
This does not, and should not, minimize financial responsibilities. Winning in The New World Marketplace is ultimately about performance and financial results. But if you’re spending more time on products, processes and IT than caring, relating, partnership and profit sharing, you’re not investing in the long-term success of your people, companies and financial outcomes. Think profit sharing to drive loyalty, engagement, and performance. Relate emotionally on how your business decisions will impact people’s lives–your employees as well as your customers–and ultimately your profits long term. Do the work that inspires your people. And remember, only way to do great work is to love what you do.
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