Felicity Furey (main photo) is a specialist in emerging leadership and founder of WeAspire Future Leaders. She is an award winning business leader, engineer and entrepreneur who helps aspiring leaders get the practical skills and experiences they need to feel in control and confident to lead.
In a workforce dominated by Millennials, we are presented with an exciting opportunity to future-proof our business with our biggest asset, our people. The emerging leaders of our time are the Gen Y and Z workforce but how do we harness their skills? If we don’t, we risk losing and disengaging our most promising emerging leaders and encompassing organisations in outdated culture.
What we know about work life Generation Y and Z
According to research by the Foundation for Young Australians, young people today will have 17 jobs over 5 different careers.
Generations Y and Z have grown up in an always on, digital world. They are familiar with change and uncertainty being constant in their lives having experienced 9/11, the global financial crisis, Brexit and COVID19.
While regular uncertainty is the water they swim in, they are also not afraid to make change happen themselves if they aren’t seeing it happen around them.
Generation Y and Z are not waiting around until they have spent a career working the corporate ladder to become CEO, getting permission with the job title of a leader or being a career politician to influence from the top and make change. They are doing it now, with what they have got, and it’s working.
If you don’t they will
The emerging leaders of today are no longer waiting for change to happen, they are demanding it and getting it done themselves. If they cannot do it within existing structures and organisations they are ditching the day job, going out on their own and leveraging traditional communication channels like the media to make the change they want to see happen.
A 16 year old named Greta took the day off school and started a global movement. Instead of a career politician making a change to climate policy a teenager can be profiled by the BBC and garner the attention of the European Parliament and influence the Chancellor of Germany to take action.
Or how about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young hispanic female, who became the second most talked about politician after Donald Trump. AOC in her first term managed to get rid of Amazon in Queens with the power of a few sentences delivered on twitter and got campaign-finance to go viral.
Harness the power of the emerging leader before it’s too late
This good news for organisations wanting to future-proof their business, if they can harness the energy and enthusiasm of emerging leaders today. If organisations can harness this they can also ride this wave and be at the cutting edge themselves.
If organisations don’t come to the party and match these demands of the next generations, they face two big risks that could be detrimental to business. They risk losing their most engaged, inspiring and initiative taking leaders and having companies that are stuck in outdated cultures and systems.
How do I know? Because this is what happened to me and I have seen this with many of my peers who are making change in their industries. We are the ones who couldn’t find a fit in with the corporate culture, the ones who found it hard to make change from within, so we left.
We are fitting the bill of the Foundation for Young Australian’s research. I’m onto my ninth job and have had 3 careers since graduating from civil engineering 14 years ago.
How can we engage Gen Y and Z?
It’s all about giving them room to learn. Give them the juicy challenges
Several years ago I heard the owner of a prominent design software company present. He shared how there was a problem that the team had been working on for years and they couldn’t solve it.
This company likes to give these kinds of really hard, seemingly impossible challenges for experienced engineers to the new graduates. Why? Because the graduates don’t know that it’s a really hard problem. They look at it with a fresh perspective and new eyes and more often than not – the graduates actually solve it!
This became incredibly important when this software was needed to find miners trapped underground and it was the thinking of a new graduate that was instrumental in getting them out safely.
This approach is consistent with the research. In Gallup’s latest report on How Millennials Want to Work and Live, it was found Millennials place opportunities to grow and learn as the most important job attribute. Nearly 3 out of 5 of Millennials said these opportunities were extremely important to them compared with about 2 in 5 Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
Are you ready?
How will you engage with this new, emerging leader? Will you ride the wave with them and thrive or be stuck in a rip out to sea and stay stuck in outdated culture? If you don’t ride the wave, you can be sure that the new generations will.
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