No. 1: The Rise of the Millennials
By 2025, Millennials are going to make up 75% of the US workforce, and that’s creating a dramatic change in the way Boomers and Gen-Xers must manage. The good news is that Millennials bring unique strengths to their work—creativity, drive, and a technological aptitude—but some of their needs are presenting challenges to managers. For instance, they are demanding more individual coaching and feedback, more focused career development, and more recognition for their achievements—and most organizations have not made the shift to meet those needs.
The best managers are discovering that when they truly understand their employees’ motivations and begin to sculpt jobs to help Millennials feel purpose and growth, and they can cut younger worker turnover. In our latest book The Best Team Wins, we quote placement executives with the Harvard Business School who say today firms recruiting their MBAs have a huge competitive advantage when they emphasize a real commitment to helping younger workers develop their careers—and then following through, of course. After all, it usually takes years to affect an employee’s compensation in a meaningful way. And yet what every manager can do is help their people learn and grow.
No. 2: Culture & Engagement
According to a global study of 32,000 executives by Willis Towers Watson, 90 percent of senior leaders recognize the value of employee engagement and 79% consider engagement a key driver of business success, but only 24% of executives believe people in their work cultures are engaged enough to drive their businesses forward. Despite all the effort organizations have put into engaging their people over the past few decades, employee engagement levels remain flat overall. Obviously there’s something missing.
We have surveyed more than 850,000 people now on workplace issues, and we’ve found that the best cultures manage to the one. Let us explain that: Conventional wisdom was that all employees should be treated the same because it’s fair. That’s old school thinking and our most sophisticated clients have found it prevents their managers from getting the best out of each individual. What the best are doing is forging customized engagement paths to help employees do a little more of what they find motivating and little less of what frustrates them—and this is significantly increasing engagement levels in workers. It’s a new paradigm in employee engagement—managing to the one—and it can lead to big results.
No. 3: Growing Despite Agile Competition
In today’s turbulent markets, it’s vital to develop organizational agility—the ability to identify and capture opportunities more quickly than rivals. McKinsey found the benefits of enhanced agility include higher revenues, more satisfied customers and employees, improved operational efficiency, and faster time to market. All good stuff.
While most leaders we speak with know their competitive advantage comes from their people, few really know how to get their people to be truly innovative. As our team conducts trainings within organizations, it’s amazing how often senior leaders of old school businesses ask us to push their people to take more smart risks and challenge the status quo. They are desperate for agility. The solution comes as you start developing a culture where people feel psychologically safe to speak up and have their voices heard, all with a positive emphasis to achieve. That begins with defining what agility means in your culture and making concrete commitments to change, and it means creating a safe place for taking risks and debating issues.
No. 4: Diversity and Inclusion
In a study done by MIT engineers, researchers found the most successful teams were the most diverse. Every day we speak with leaders who are concerned about diversity and inclusion issues. Many think about of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, age, etc.—and those are important—but the smart leaders we work with recognize another kind of diversity and inclusion that is just as powerful: Differences in work styles, or the ways in which people think about, organize, and complete their tasks. When members of a team all have the same style, and this happens a lot, they tend to underperform. For instance, if everyone has an analytical approach to work and dislike disruption, then out-of-the-box new product development is almost impossible.
Managers must start to think about what motivates each of their people, to make assignments that can best utilize people’s specific drivers and help them work better with their teammates. The goal is to create teams of diverse employees who look at work challenges in different, innovative ways.