We hear a lot these days about the challenges of an inter-generational, diverse workforce and I certainly see this in my own leadership consulting work with organizations. Leaders are struggling to reconcile how they learned to lead, with how their diverse workforce wants to be led. The consequences of not figuring that out can range from frustration and miscommunication to having a disengaged team or employee base.
Who do we mean by today’s workforce? The keyword is diversity – across culture, gender, generations and every other intersection. Younger generations, millennials and gen Z will make up to 75% of the workforce by 2025 (1,3). Women, in particular have lost ground due to impacts from Covid, but we know that the differing needs of women in the workforce have already begun to transform organizations. Each of these workforce groups contains even further diversity. For example, if we look at women, close to 1 in 4 (23%) women are immigrants and Indigenous women and girls make up 5% of the total female population in Canada, 2% identified as bisexual and 1% identified as gay or lesbian (2). Take that inherent diversity and multiply it for every group within today’s workforce and it’s obvious that one approach to leadership does not fit all.
By 2025 75% of the workforce will be made up of Millennials & Gen Z
So, what is today’s workforce looking for from their leaders? Well for starters employees are no longer interested in devoting their lives to the pursuit of profit for shareholders above all else. We’ve always wanted meaning from our work, but now more workers are demanding it and if it’s not happening where they are, they are willing to move and take risks to find it. According to the Deloitte Millennial survey, “The message is clear: Young workers are eager for business leaders to be proactive about making a positive impact in society—and to be responsive to employees’ needs.” (1) Along with flexibility, the ability to connect to meaning is now a key leadership skill.
What are those employee needs? Opportunity for development and growth ranks in the top three, right after pay and opportunity for advancement (1,3). But the development offerings of the past no longer fit the bill. Programs where experts share knowledge gained in a landscape that may no longer be relevant isn’t engaging. The today’s workforce wants to participate, create shared vision and goals, to be fully engaged on all levels, and have a human-to-human experience. They want to know what they’re doing matters and they matter. Essential leadership skills such as coaching, mentoring and sponsoring are way more critical than an ability to have the answers or give direction.
We need leaders to develop not only these skills but the mindsets that go with them. We can’t wait to build the leadership skills of tomorrow. We need tomorrow’s leaders today.