I was sitting at the head of a small table in an incredible office looking over Regent street. Everything, it seemed, was purchased out of the millennial section of the IKEA catalogue. At the table, arriving to sit in front of me, were heads of department from Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and some consultancy folk running the event.
I had 10 minutes with them to solve a problem they all had: how to engage young, emerging talent for the long run.
The people around the table were very capable and very talented. I was a 26-year-old entrepreneur with a few small successes to my name, who had just finished a global research project on millennials after working ‘on-the-ground’ and ‘in-the-trenches’ with them over the last five years.
I got asked the key question right away: "What makes the real difference in managing young people effectively?"
My response: “Focus on being the main contributor to their happiness and well-being and you have won.”
The reality is that the fastest growing companies, exciting start-ups, and the fresh-faced founders who are leading the charge into the future know that putting their employee happiness & well-being happiness at the heart of their day-to-day strategy is how you win long term.
I am going to show you it is way more than just offering meditation or reading a 400 page book on millennials/Gen Z by someone looking outside-in, and that true well-being is attained through five main pillars, that for this generation of young people, are attained in a particular way. This will help
emerging talent flourish, and therefore your organisation wins with more retention and engagement.
– In my global study of what gives young people a strong identity, meaning and self-esteem in their lives, what became obvious is that 67% of people feel they don’t belong to
the people in their work. Belonging is a need for any human being, and one that our young workforce struggle with due to the current emphasis on being connected but often missing the true connection. So, to have an engaged talent, we need everyone feeling they belong to their team, it’s function, and you as an organisation. Too many organisations do not create a positive relationship between the individual, their immediate team, and the organisation. These are not relationships in which everyone smiles and agrees 24/7, they are instead open, honest, transparent and giving relationships. These types of relationships only come through experiences, and these can even be difficult or challenging experiences. Although away-days and team building exercises are a great way to do this, surrounding your up-and-comers with role models they can aspire to and mentors they can learn from is key. So is giving people in teams the responsibility to create social experiences and solve non-urgent but important organisational problems. All the above adds meaning and build a person's positive relationships at every level.
– Simply being at ease with yourself and who you are is the cornerstone of a person with good well-being. Much of today's emerging adults' day-to-day interactions with work, media and personal relationships cause them to question themselves. Your rising talent needs more than ever to both understand and accept who they are, and be taught to celebrate that – warts and all! This can be achieved by you helping your people understand what they really value, their core strengths, and how their experiences in life have shaped them. It is also vital that they create a
healthy relationship with both failure and personal progress. Patience - as you may empathise - is often a trait that young people struggle with!
– Purpose is where most organisations go a little wrong. They tend to think about their people buying into the big picture of the company mission and vision. This is important, but if your goal is for people to perform better and stay within the company, a more effective
strategy is to get their immediate managers to have them buying into the ‘why’ of the immediate future. This is because young people today thrive off meaning in what they do, and in order to put all their talent and efforts into something, they need to know why doing this project, this call, or this
meeting, is important. This is what I call ‘connecting the dots’ with clients. You need to reinforce how daily tasks are directly linked to a bigger picture that is tangible to the individual. This can be as simple as explaining the ‘why’ when you give out a direction or command, so that every hour, or
frustrating phase of the project, or client, is connected to getting closer to something that the person values. This is something preached, but rarely implemented well by managers and organisations as a whole.
– As previously mentioned, younger people are generally more impatient, and this is especially true today due to the nature of their world being highly accessible and therefore comparing themselves to others. The fact is that the process of personal growth is obviously up and
down, with times of confusion, failure and doubt often occurring. However, this is something that a generation used to instant gratification and high expectations struggle with more than generations before. For your young talent, their development must be in learning to appreciate the tough times
that come with personal growth is just as important as the growth itself! Managers and leaders of your talent must set a positive culture of failure and rejection, so that it is used as a gift, or signpost, toward personal growth.
– Everyone values freedom, but the up and coming generations value it even more in work with more options to travel, freelance and more. The famous phrase holds true, freedom isn’t free, and freedom in work without boundaries often cause your young staff more harm than good as
they try and decide where they fit in the world. A key part of freedom is the discipline to create freedom, and work must be done to set a precedent to your talent that their discipline and commitment will lead to more freedoms in their role. It does not come overnight, but a clear, simple structure of how gaining more freedom can be set and motivate positive ways of working.