A worthwhile conversation: Find out what your emerging workforce wants from its leaders

“We don’t manage people. We manage the agreements we have with people.”
– Steven Covey

As an owner of an organization or as a leader of people, do you have agreements in place? Discussed, written, agreed upon, clear, not-left-to-chance agreements? Do you know what your people want? Do they know what you want?

Today let’s focus on what your people want, specifically your emerging workforce. If you haven’t asked, I encourage you to ask them the following questions:

  1. What is important to you in terms of your workday?
  2. What are you looking for from your leader?
  3. What are the ways in which this organization is meeting the preferences that you have?
  4. What are the ways in which this organization is not meeting the preferences you have?
  5. What are the ways in which I, as your leader, am meeting your expectations?

What are the things that I, as your leader, could be doing differently to better meet your expectations?
I met with a group of young professionals recently and talked with them about their answers to these questions. This was done at the request of the CEO of the company. This, by the way, should be on the minds of every CEO. Let me share a few of the things I learned. It is pretty likely these may translate to your organization, as well.

What is important to you in terms of your workday?

  • “I want my day to be very organized with the ability for spontaneity.”
  • “It’s important for me to get feedback on my work and learn how I can improve.”
  • “I need achievement.”
  • “I’m looking for focus and clear priorities.”
  • “I’d like flexibility. As long as I’m meeting my work requirement, it’s nice to be able to come in early one day and leave early another. Occasionally, I’d like to work from home.” (Did you notice? He says, “As long as I’m meeting my work requirements….”)
  • “I want to be able to accomplish daily goals with an innovative approach.” (One third of this group described baby boomers as set in their ways, rigid, and as having a “this is how it is done” attitude.)

What are you looking for from your leader?

It was evident that the professionals in this room were conscientious, passionate about their work and interested in being high performing. And, they want a leader who is involved and intentional. The list below indicates this:

  • Direction
  • Trust
  • Recognition of my efforts
  • Clear priorities
  • Training
  • Someone who is interested in my growth as an employee
  • Someone who will guide me
  • Feedback, both good and bad

What are the ways in which this organization is meeting the preferences that you have?

I like the list below. This shows us that members of the emerging workforce recognize and appreciate an organization with an intentional culture, one with contemporary thinking.

  • “I am given opportunities for growth.”
  • “The flexibility and independence I have is great – just enough that I’m able to set my schedule. My manager trusts me.”
  • “The owners and executives truly care and want everyone to be successful, as well as the business.”
  • “There is a focus on success.”
  • “The company is highly involved in the community.”
  • “I’m able to think freely, and my opinions are valued.”

What are the ways in which this organization is not meeting the preferences that you have?

Please notice that this list does not have a theme of “please coddle me more than you do” and “please don’t make me work hard.”)

  • “Lack of focus. Too many changing priorities.”
  • “I would like more work variety, more opportunity to cross departmental lines. Colleges are moving to more all-around education so we have skills in many areas. I’d like to be able to put this to use.”
  • “I would like to see more focus on continuous improvement with cross functional groups. And, I would like to be a part of one of these groups. Instead, too many people seem to be stuck in, ‘This is the way we do it here.'”
  • “I would like more vacation time. I work hard. I’d like more time to also just get away.”
  • “Let tattoos show. Everyone has them! It’s outdated to say ‘cover them.'”

How is your leader meeting your preferences?

  • “My leader shows trust by giving me a lot of work to do.”
  • “My leader is open to my ideas.”
  • “My leader has a lot of knowledge.”
  • “My leader does not micromanage me.”
  • “My leader praises my successes and holds me accountable.”

What would you like your leader to do differently?

  • “Be more available. My leader is always too busy and consumed with their own work that they can not adequately assess my progress and my work. (This, by the way, was the most consistent theme in the feedback).”
  • “I would like more regular conversation to lay out priorities clearly.”
  • “Be more engaged in what I’m doing.”

If you read my column regularly, you know that I have a high regard for emerging workforce. At this point in time, every organization needs to be moving beyond assumptions and generalities. If you haven’t begun having conversations, this is a good time to start.

Aleta Norris is a co-founding partner of Brookfield-based Impact Consulting Group LLC and Living As A Leader, a leadership training, coaching and consulting firm. Send Aleta your Leading Generation Y question to anorris@livingasaleader.com or visit www.livingasaleader.com.

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