Listening to Younger Workers Could Be a Key to Organizational Success

Millennials and Gen Z have spent their entire lives witnessing disruption, so they are experienced navigating a tumultuous world. In addition, their priorities have been forged by adversity, not blind deference to hierarchy. Their hard-earned perspective could help organizations thrive.

Millennials and Gen Z are leading a dramatic cultural shift that will drive many benefits, including improving organizations that are open to that change. But leaders need to adapt their thinking.

Any business that wants to stay relevant needs to take input from younger workers, said Rajeev Kapur, president and CEO of 1105 Media and author of Chase Greatness: Enlightened Leadership for the Next Generation of Disruption.

Over the next couple of years, the majority of the workforce is going to be Gen Z or millennial and the traditional, top-down leadership model isn’t going to cut it anymore, he said. These younger generations have endured a lot in their lifetimes, including 9/11, the 2008 recession, social justice challenges, environmental crises, and a global pandemic, to name a few.

Those major disruptions played a big part in shaping their priorities. Both millennials and Gen Z equally value work-life balance and mental health benefits, according to a June 2021 Deloitte Global Talent report [PDF]. They also have a more activist mindset, and they want their CEOs and other leaders to demonstrate a purpose and a vision that goes beyond just making a profit.

Notably, according to the Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey [PDF], 49 percent of respondents said they have based their career choices and decisions about potential employers on an organization’s values and ethics. That means CEOs need to look at their organizations and ask, “What is our purpose beyond just the bottom line?” Bringing in revenue and value is essential, but also look at what purpose-driven value the organization can bring to the table.

Kapur practices what he preaches. For example, he gives employees paid time off to vote. “They love it,” he said. “It’s a small thing, but it really adds value.” The company also donates money from its marketing campaigns to Operation Smile. “We’re trying to create more value beyond the walls of the business,” he said.

A democratization of the workforce is also happening globally. “People can now work anytime, anywhere, any place,” Kapur said. There has been a lot of discussion about a four-day workweek, and a bill was recently proposed in Congress to implement one. That’s not going far enough, according to Kapur. “I don’t think there’s going to be a four-day workweek,” he said. “There’s going to be a work-whenever-you-want-to-work-week, as long as the job gets done.”

Ninety percent of Kapur’s employees work remotely. “They’re doing a great job,” he said. “The CEOs who are so adamant and having a hard time getting over it are probably the ones surrounded by a bunch of ‘yes people’ who are not letting them see the forest for the trees.”

CEOs have two kinds of customers—internal and external. It’s important to listen to your employees and make sure they feel like they have a voice. “Decentralize your decision-making to get as close to the customer as you can get,” Kapur said. “If you give them the tools to do their jobs—and get out of their way—you’re going to experience great things.”

(Oleksandr Shchus/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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