What's next for large companies? Are they ready for the shifts taking place as a new generation defines today's workforce? Or will they remain stuck in their old ways?

Answering these questions is critical as business leaders face multiple shifts at once. The workforce is changing, becoming younger. Boomers are retiring and being replaced by Millennials, who now make up the majority of the workforce. Technology is also requiring enterprises to rapidly innovate and adapt to new attitudes and preferences.

These shifts are impacting how companies think about customers - and employees. Says Peter Hinssen, Founder of Nexxworks, "Large organizations are trying to rethink their place in a world that is going faster than ever before. We are seeing markets transform; they're becoming tightly linked networks of relationships and data. Companies are rapidly rethinking their purpose. They're asking, 'why do we exist as a corporation?' And what does that mean for our people?' "

Shane Green, author of Culture Hacker, agrees. He says that companies need to better understand the mindsets of the people they're hiring. "Statistics show that more than 50% of people leave within the first year of being hired. That's due in part to a disconnect between what employees are seeking, and what they get. It's a misconception though, that younger people are less loyal now. They are just more particular about the type of companies where they are willing to work."

So, what is the younger generation seeking?

The New Generation Seeks Opportunity

Statisticians tell an unflattering tale about Millennials. Gallup has labeled them "the job hopping generation" and says that 60% of Millennials they surveyed are open to new opportunities and do not plan to remain with their employers long term.

But why? That's a question that may have multiple answers: among them are educational and child-rearing practices that emphasized collaboration over authoritarian structures, and greater skepticism about the gap between what companies say and what they actually do. These generational tendencies were likely exacerbated by watching parents and older siblings struggle with financial problems and job losses over the last decade.

To overcome these challenges, enterprises and large companies should invest in younger generations to help them find and take advantage of opportunities to grow and develop within the organization. Says Green, "People want to grow personally and they are looking for companies that can help them do so. They will leave quickly unless you invest in them."

The New Generation Seeks Purpose

The news isn't all bad about Millennials. One positive is this generation's belief in the power of companies and individuals to build a better world. Deloitte's 2017 survey of Millennials found that 76% of them believe business has the power to make a positive social impact, although only 62% believe that it actually does. This is an area where millennials may differ from previous generations: as individuals they feel both accountable to make a difference and empowered to do so. This leads to greater commitment to ideals and purpose.

Green says, "This generation is all about purpose. They want to know why they are doing something. Purpose is something all generations sought but this generation doesn't just seek purpose, they require it. They're looking for companies whose values reflect their own."

According to Green, Millennials are seeking more from the companies where they choose to work. Paychecks and benefits are a given: this generation seeks companies that don't just state but truly demonstrate their commitment to making a difference.

Says Green, "Values can't just be statements that sound cool for the brand, they have to be lived values that result in a reputation they can verify online. They're looking for transparency, how well your stated values align with how you're really doing business. Your values aren't just words - they have to be actionable and measurable."

The New Generation Seeks Teams and Culture

How does the new generation determine if a company's purpose and values align with what they actually do? They look at culture - the intersection of clear purpose, strong values and daily habits that determine what it's actually like to work at a company.

Lex Sisney, is the founder of Organizational Physics, a company born out of trying to scale a company without compromising on values. "There's a clear difference between traditional and values-based organizations. Values-based organizations make decisions based on clear values. Traditional organizations look at the bottom line."

Sisney says, "Values are open to interpretation. For them to impact culture, organizations have to develop rituals and repeatable systems so they're continuously doing things in a purposeful way. They need to tell stories to communicate and demonstrate how their actions express their values. And there needs to be consequences and coaching to ensure that they're abiding by those values."

The New Generation Seeks Leadership

Leadership is also important to Millennials. They're looking for leaders who can inspire, and they're also looking for opportunities to become leaders themselves.

Says professional speaker, author and coach, Amanda Gore, "The mantra is, 'Change beliefs, improve performance, grow your business.' Organizational leaders have to understand that they have a three-fold job. First, is to help people change their behavior. Help them understand how to be better at their job. Second, create an environment where they can be their best. And third, help them believe in themselves."

Isaac Lidsky, a corporate speaker, author and entrepreneur, agrees. "Purpose is about people. You have to link them together to build a culture where there is belief that makes people want to come into work and be a part of it."

For Lidsky, connecting culture and purpose starts with leadership. Says Lidsky, "Start by identifying a small and manageable executive team who are responsible to drive the business forward with intention and purpose. Leaders are ultimately responsible for culture, but they can't do it alone. If it's just top-down, it doesn't work. They have to be willing to be vulnerable, to learn, so they can do it together with the team."

As the face of the workforce changes, understanding the new generation - both as customers and as employees - is key to success for large businesses and enterprises that want to survive and thrive. As Nexxworks' Hinssen says, "What's changed is that people don't want to be lumped together as a group anymore - they want to be seen as individuals. That's true of customers and employees. They want to be understood."

Published on: Jul 13, 2017
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