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Leading the next generation of employees

Vincent Belliveau

Chief International Officer, Cornerstone

As labor markets strive to rebound from the impact of the pandemic, a historic talent shortage has emerged. Three out of every four companies globally have reported talent shortages and difficulty hiring – a 16-year high. Compounding this is “The Great Resignation," driven by Gen Zs and millennials’ changing priorities, in many cases fueled by the conditions of the lockdowns.

A key aspect here is a good work-life balance, with more than half (56%) of the youngest generation, globally, saying they would quit a job if it was preventing them from enjoying life. In this new climate, the question becomes, what can we do as leaders to retain and engage talent? Fundamentally, we must put people at the heart of our business. This will involve adopting a leadership style that resonates with this next generation of employees and staying in tune with the ever-evolving needs of our employees in order to drive success.

A wakeup call

A great deal of respect is due to the younger generations for their low tolerance of workplace unhappiness, toxic environments and poor management. It is clear that they are hugely ambitious and are seeking personal development and professional progression from us as employers. A survey from LinkedIn earlier this year found that, globally, 75% of Gen Zs would consider changing roles because of the relevance and quality of Learning & Development programs. Additionally, more than half (54%) said they had left a job because of the training and development prospects not being what they expected.

These findings should be a wake-up call for leaders worldwide. Gen Zs and millennials are the future of the workforce, and a hugely valuable resource for organizations across the globe to tap into. As leaders, it is vital that we listen to the younger generations’ needs and strive to not just match but exceed their expectations.

How to hold onto Gen Z and millennial talent

There are two really crucial areas that we as global leaders should be focusing on to hold onto our Gen Z and millennial talent. First is the importance of workplace culture. According to a Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) survey, millennials report that the people they work with are integral to their experience. To accommodate this, leaders should establish a working environment that fosters a mutual respect and understanding of each employee. It is crucial that we make time to connect and build relationships with our workforce to create a sense of community and belonging.

Secondly, is personal and professional development. A recent Cornerstone report found a worrying 30 percentage point difference between employee and employer confidence in their organization’s prioritization of skills development. We need to reassess the personal and professional growth opportunities for our people with Learning & Development (L&D) and Training being a clear starting point. However, just compiling a set of materials for these younger workers to consume is not going to cut it. Their generation is used to bite-sized multimedia content, in large part due to the social media platforms they frequent. If we are to engage our younger workforce, we have to make sure we are offering highly varied learning materials.

Additionally, we should strive to develop a culture of self-directed learning. Personalization should be a core part of the L&D strategy, harnessing technology like AI to select the most relevant content for each individual based on their personal skills and goals – something they clearly crave. As employees pursue their own development, our organizations will benefit in turn as the bank of skills grows, along with the potential for growth and innovation. This will all have a huge effect on internal mobility (-%20), a big driver of retention.

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