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I recently reviewed a survey of chief executive officers about talent development, which confirmed my suspicion that most organizational leaders have lost touch with how to effectively manage and motivate their increasingly younger workforces.
More than half the respondents planned to use more nonfinancial rewards to motivate staff, deploy more staff on international assignments, and work with governments to improve skills in the talent pool. While this made sense, here’s the troubling data: less than half—46 percent of CEOs globally and just 31 percent of CEOs in the U.S.—believe in giving younger workers different incentives.
Today, 50 percent of the world’s population is younger than 25. The changing demographic profile within all organizations makes it critical to understand that this generation does not respond to the same triggers as those preceding it. Furthermore, the organizational structures in place today are not meant for this demographic.
Generation Y workers have grown up as digital natives in an interconnected world. They are open-minded, collaborative, and exploratory by nature. They seek answers rather than directives, rendering command-and-control management methods ineffective. They crave empowerment and responsibility. Consequently, people-management strategies must adapt so that they look more like Facebook and less like pyramids of hierarchy.
As the CEO of a company with than 50 percent of its employees Gen Yers, I’ve adapted as a leader by following a few principles:
1. Lead through inspiration. We need to inspire today’s young employees as we do our own children—by giving them responsibility, rather than enforcing orders. To encourage them to create value for the business, we must give them control, rather than control them. Empowerment is crucial.
2. Recreate the human element. Post-recession, talent management is a global concern. Employee trust of management is at an all-time low. Treat your employees with the respect they deserve in order to build long-term trust and loyalty.
3. Put employees first. Certainly shareholders, boards, and customers are important to any business, but frontline employees create the ultimate value with your customers. Shift the responsibility for change away from senior management and toward the rest of the workforce.
4. Become an effective enabler. Help your people to excel, discover their own wisdom, engage themselves entirely in their work, and accept responsibility for making change.
5. Push the transparency envelope. This is accomplished by sharing more information on finances, by becoming more transparent about plans or changes ahead, and by being obsessively communicative. Make your managers as accountable to their teams as their teams are to them and create an environment where employees come first. It should be characterized by trust based on transparency.
Most of all, we business leaders must appreciate the transformation of our own roles from chief executives to chief enablers. It is only by empowering and enthusing our people that we can spark the spirit of innovation and drive real change in the workplace.
Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman
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