So, I found myself sitting in a conversation at a Shriner’s event, (Yes, I am a funny hat guy) and they were all frustrated with falling membership participation. They couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t get their younger members to participate in events. As I look around the table, I see a bunch of old men recycling the same old ideas and strategies that they have been doing for the last 75 years…
All I could think about was the current business climate that we find ourselves in. I see these companies of old men recycling the same old ideas and strategies that they employed their entire careers. They are completely dumbfounded as to why these strategies not working anymore. The only conclusion they can come up with is that it must be the ineptness and lack of motivation of the younger generations.
The world changed in March of 2020. The pandemic combined with a divisive political environment forced a colossal shift in thinking, goals, values, business, and work. Traditional work environments changed dramatically. Things are opening up again but people have different attitudes about what they want their lives to look like. As a leader you should be asking how do you keep your employees happy and productive as they rethink their own professional lives? Not how to get back to where we were.
Listen first, talk second. Make sure you're listening to your millennial and Gen-Z employees relative to how and where they believe they excel in their positions. Be willing to reexamine what environment you think they need to be successful. If they've already proved they can be successful remotely and they want to remain so, you should be willing to figure this out. You may need to realign your HR department to support this new model.
Spend some time reflecting on your own bias around work and what that looks like. As Boomers and Gen-X we were taught that the harder you work, and the more you commit to your career and company, the more successful you will be. We refuse to recognize that the side hustle is a part of the younger generation’s strategy. We refuse to recognize that making money sitting on your couch on the internet is a real thing. We refuse to recognize that these generations are not driven only by money, but by life experience. We refuse to recognize that if we push these employees to abandon their principles, they will leave.
Employees that feel supported, valued and empowered to do their jobs well will almost always outpace expectations. They will show up with creativity, innovation and determination to be the best and give their best to you and the overall success of the company. If you are clinging to fear or "old-school" ways of operating, you must evolve or you will lose.
Pay attention to the possibility that productivity can increase as a result of creative working environments and new technology investment. If you need help opening your mind to something other than “old School” strategies, get the help, and get it now. Don't underestimate the impact of new technologies and happier, more productive people.
Welcome to the new world. If you are having this conversation, you are already behind your competition, and if you are not changing your entire operational strategy right now, then you are a dinosaur. And we all know what happened to the dinosaurs. Rethink. Reimagine. Succeed.