What would you do if you woke up tomorrow morning, walked into work, and half of the employees weren’t there? The desks were empty, the halls were quiet, and you find yourself panicking when you come to the realization that half the workforce has resigned.
As crazy as this may sound, it’s entirely possible.
The Star Tribune recently reported that 84% of employees plan to leave their jobs in 2011. That’s a horrific game of musical chairs that will cost American employers billions of dollars in recruiting and training new employees.
Why are they leaving? Because they are unhappy.
While employers were busy riding out the worst economic storm in 70 years, many went into survival mode. Senior management engrossed themselves in budget talks, tightened controls, micromanaged, and cut costs to make sure companies could stay afloat.
Unfortunately, management neglected to care for the people who were helping the company stay afloat. Talent management took a backseat and employees started to feel frustrated, disappointed, unmotivated, and neglected.
Many workers have gone without salary increases for three years and are now doing the job of two or more people. Moreover, they see and hear less from senior leadership about their vision for the future.
Generations X and Y are the most unhappy. We knew that was the case even before the economy took a nosedive. The average amount of time employees under the age of 35 spend on a job is 20 months.
Generational differences aside, losing 84% of any employee base anywhere is way too much turnover. Perhaps there’s still time to change your employees’ minds. If your organization wants to try to curb its employees’ enthusiasm to leave, here are a few tips:
Don’t underestimate anyone’s potential. Employers need to be concerned about discontent throughout their ranks, not just among management. Discontented workers spend a certain amount of work time seeking out new opportunities and bad-mouthing the company which hinders productivity (at best) and sabotages the company (at worst).
Take action. Solicit employee feedback in a variety of ways including employee surveys, exit interviews, and small and large group meetings, and take appropriate action in response to the feedback.
Be fair. Now more than ever, employees question whether senior leadership has their best interests at heart. To keep employees engaged and committed, eliminate nonessential work, pay workers fairly, and give them the resources to do their jobs.
Share your vision. Clearly and honestly communicate the vision of the organization, its priorities, values, challenges, and how employees’ work fits into the larger picture.
Have fun. Studies show there is a definite correlation between happiness and productivity on the job. A lack of positive relationships is also the number one reason young professionals leave a job. All joking aside, if you aren’t having fun at work your company will struggle to survive.
In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.
Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.
Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.
In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.
With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.
Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.
Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.
Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.
Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.
In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.
While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.
The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.
Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results. Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.
When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.
Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.
Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.
Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.
Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.
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