It's Time To Adapt Your Leadership Style

It's Time To Adapt Your Leadership Style

Just over a year ago, I wrote a three-part series focused on the generational divide in the workplace. Today, I’m seeing the gap widen as leaders look to understand Gen Z and Gen Z is challenged without the skills required to successfully integrate into the workforce.

In January, released a survey stating that 31% of hiring managers avoid hiring Gen Z and 30% of hiring managers have fired a Gen Z employee within the first month they were hired. Metrics like this leave any P&L owner questioning the cost of that churn, the financial impact of leaning into more experienced – and more expensive – workers, and how an organization is supposed to profitably grow without hiring a cost-efficient, entry-level, workforce.

The solution is not to avoid hiring but to look in the mirror to understand how your leadership style needs to adapt and how you can take the lead to modernize your work style. Certainly, the responsibility for this gap is on both sides but as successful leaders, we are the ones who have acquired the skills to change our work behaviors. Most young people have not learned these skills yet and it is our job, as managers and mentors, to create environments that nurture young professionals’ growth and carve a path to their success.

Here are the top areas of generational disconnect with some suggestions on how to solve:

Workplace Preferences and Values: Gen X tends to prioritize work-life balance and stability while Gen Z prioritizes flexibility, new technologies, and social impact. Going deeper, Gen X’s understanding of work-life balance is far different than Gen Z’s ideas around flexibility.

  • Solution:  Challenge yourself and your team to design an outcomes-driven organization and stop being so rigid in your beliefs on how to get there.  Co-design your future organization with input from all generations to recreate how you operate and how your teams collaborate.  Think through not only the use of new technologies, in-office or remote work but also what boundaries mean.  As Millennial and Gen X leaders race their kids to soccer games, it needs to be respected that younger generations have their personal needs as well.

Communication Styles:  Studies examining communication preferences and styles across generations showcase potential friction points and opportunities to connect better.  Gen X, for instance, tends to prefer email and phone calls while Gen Z prefers instant messaging and social.  With so many different channels of communication available, leaders may become resistant to change, but by not adapting, you and your business can be left behind.

  • Solution: Let Gen Z introduce you and your organization to new technologies to advance your workstyle and communication channels.  Today we have Gen Z, but Generation Alpha is right behind them, and you will quickly be left in the dust if you do not adapt your own communication style.

Leadership preferences: Research on leadership preferences shows that Gen X prefers more of a “hands-off” leadership approach whereas Gen Z prefers frequent feedback, and mentorship, and seeks out jobs where there is a clear path for skills development.

  • Solution:  Leaders today must consider implementing more formalized training and development programs for younger hires.  Simply throwing people into the water and hoping they will swim will result in your company achieving the 30% churn numbers that are across corporations today.  Implementing a more formalized system to on-board, train, and provide continuous feedback to new employees will enable to them to feel valued and ultimately find success.

Remote vs. In-office:  Regardless of what your opinion is on remote vs. in-office, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has left a massive gap in workstyles and the dynamics between generations.

  • Solution:  Acceptance of a hybrid workforce and implementation of virtual skill building is essential for long-term corporate success.  The reality is that there are many talented individuals who have moved to more remote areas for lifestyle or financial reasons.  You will be missing out on great talent, as well as better margins for your company, if you don’t think broader about hiring and developing your talent.  

Let’s accept it, Gen Z is struggling, and it is impacting our workforce, and it will impact our bottom line, if we don’t become part of the solution.  Great leaders are constant learners and learning how to manage, teach, and lead this generation may feel like an uphill battle but, for those with a growth mindset, this represents an opportunity to up-level your teams and bring the next generation along.

Many friends and colleagues have asked me to talk with their kids who are looking for their first job.  Because of this, we are launching a NEW newsletter called RoadMap that provides young job hunters with tips, tools, and resources for their job search.  

If you are curious to read this past week's edition, shoot me a note and I will forward it to you.
If you have an upcoming or recent college graduate in your life, please tell them to subscribe to RoadMap here to help them with their job search.