Why knowing it all isn’t enough for leaders today

Leadership

By AGSM Oct 5, 2017 

A few years ago, the Australian job market faced a retention crisis. Unlike previous generations, Millennials weren’t staying in jobs like their older counterparts and experienced leaders were struggling to find ways to incentivise them to stay. The old rules no longer applied and for the first time, the job market became a candidate’s market. Que the age of the job hopper.

According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, the average time a millennial stays in a job today is 1.3 years. When you consider it takes between six months to a year to acclimatise to a new job and for workers to start adding true value, the businesses who have succeeded are the ones who adapt to the mindsets and values of its people today.

Professor Julie Cogin, Director of AGSM agrees, “It doesn’t matter how novel, distinctive, or great your (business) strategy is, if you haven’t got the people to implement it, it becomes meaningless.” She goes on to explain that to build a resilient, engaged and high-performing workforce, “organisations need to focus on engaging young people differently, ensuring they feel their work is connected to the company vision, offer opportunities for reverse mentoring and provide more flexibility by shifting success measurements to output rather than time in the office.”

More than any other generation, Generation We Not Me Report reveals, Millennials are motivated by organisations that encourage them to do something (beyond just signing a petition). Professor Cogin reinforces this, “Young people want to have impact and influence and value in their work.” So how can leaders tap into the 80 per cent of millennials (as reported by Deloitte) who say their loyalty to their employer increases if the company has ‘purpose’? Empower and engage them to lead CSR and purpose projects. The benefits are twofold: it not only empowers them to lead new thinking within the organisation but learn new skills in the process. 

Another skill leaders should consider investing in to elicit the most out of their teams is reverse mentoring. “Reverse mentoring is really important,” Professor Cogin says. “They (Millennials) love to help other people and love to have their expertise called upon.” Implementing programs where teams and peers are mentoring and reviewing each other will pay off – exposing teams to fresh ideas and insights into consumer behaviours not explored before.

Millennials may be the Immediate Gratification Generation, but using this to your advantage should be key to any employer program for millennials. Regular feedback, recognition and a fluid HR system are areas leaders would benefit in investing in. “The annual performance review? Get rid of it, it’s too long,” says Professor Cogin. She recommends shorter review cycles that ladder up to specific learning projects. She says, invest in “reasonable rewards and pay increases associated to learning” to get the most out of teams, while removing the focus on hours-worked to project outputs.

Leaders of today who leverage Millennial behaviour to make it work for their business will reap the rewards. One startup attributes adjusting its employment relationship to its success. Rather than fighting the job-hopping behaviour of its young team, the company empowers them to leave. To manage this, they’ve developed knowledge management systems to capture their expertise and the knowledge that is required to teach future team members. Maintaining the relationship beyond employment has even resulted in them returning to the business as well as a strong organic talent referral program.

Leaders may cry time-poor when it comes to adapting and creating new systems to suit these Millennial behaviours. But employing disruptive solutions and embracing change will set successful businesses of tomorrow apart from the successful businesses of yesterday.

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