As labour markets strive to rebound from the impact of the pandemic, a talent shortage of historical scale has catalysed. Three out of every four companies (75%) globally have reported talent shortages and difficulty hiring – a 16-year high. The global phenomena dubbed “The Great Resignation” is not helping matters, with many job markets having seen staggering levels of talent mobility over the previous 12 months. One demographic, in particular, are major drivers of this global “job hopping” trend: the Gen Zs and millennials of the world. Why? In large part because their priorities are different to the generations that came before them, having been shaped by the impacts of the pandemic. Written by By Vincent Belliveau, Chief International Officer, Cornerstone

In March, the World Health Organization reported that anxiety and depression increased 25% worldwide during the first year of the pandemic – with young people among those worst hit. It’s no coincidence then that workplace happiness is now high on young people’s wish lists. More than half (56%) of the youngest generation, globally, said they would quit a job if it was preventing them from enjoying life. Conversely, a little more than one-third (38%) of those aged 55–67 felt the same way.

]In this new climate, leaders need to be in tune with the ever-evolving needs of their employees and need to find new ways to retain and engage talent. Putting people at the heart of their business, and adopting a leadership style that resonates with this next generation of employees, will be crucial in allowing leaders to drive success.

Tuning into the millennial mindset

 Many workforces have reached, or are nearing, a tipping point – as baby boomers filter into retirement and the job market becomes increasingly populated by Gen Zs and millennials. As established, these younger generations’ priorities and values when it comes to the world of work are different to what has come before. For instance, globally, 40% of Gen Zs say they would rather be unemployed than unhappy working in a job they didn’t like. Separately, a global Deloitte report found that 40% of Gen Zs and 24% of millennials would like to leave their job within two years, and that 35% Gen Zs and 32% of millennials would leave even without another job lined up.

To many, this might seem shocking. Often, this willingness to leave a role and look elsewhere is misconstrued as laziness, as a “quitters” attitude, or even as naivety for the realities of what the working world entails. However, a great deal of respect is due to the younger generations for their low tolerance of workplace unhappiness, toxic environments and poor management. The younger generations are, in fact, hugely ambitious and are seeking personal development and professional progression from their employers. A survey from LinkedIn earlier this year found that, globally, 75% of Gen Zs would consider changing roles because of the relevance and quality of Learning & Development programme. Additionally, more than half (54%) said they had left a job because of the training and development prospects not being what they expected.

These findings should be a wakeup call for leaders worldwide. Gen Zs and millennials are the future of the workforce, and a hugely valuable resource for organisations across the globe to tap into. As leaders, it is vital that we listen to the younger generations’ needs and, not only match them, but supersede where we can.

Standing out from the crowd – let’s get personal

 There are two really crucial areas that global leaders should focus on to hold onto their Gen Z and millennial cohorts. The first is the people and workplace culture, and the second is personal and professional development of employees. According to a Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) survey, millennials report that the people they work with are integral to their experience. To accommodate this, leaders should establish a working environment that fosters a mutual respect and understanding of each employee. Leaders should make time to connect and build relationships with their workforce to create a sense of community and belonging. The CCL survey speaks to the importance of “managers and mentors are trained and have time to connect and build relationships”, and this really is crucial. Poor, or unpleasant, management can be enough to drive this generation away, and as leaders it’s our job to ensure a positive workplace environment is being created.

Next, is personal and professional development. A recent Cornerstone report found a worrying 30 percentage point difference between employee and employer confidence in their organisation’s prioritisation of skills development. Put simply, for the organisations that this problem persists in, the younger generations will leave. Globally, leaders need to reassess the personal and professional growth opportunities they are providing their people with – Learning & Development (L&D) and Training is a clear starting point. However, just compiling a set of materials for these younger workers to consume is not going to cut it. The Gen Zs and millennials of this world are used to multi-media content, to consuming information in bite-size formats – in large part due to the social media platforms they frequent. Leaders looking to engage their younger workforce should seek to replicate this experience, offering learning materials that are highly varied.

Personalisation should also be a core part of the L&D strategy, and leaders can harness technology like AI to select the most relevant content for each individual based on their personal skills and goals. This helps to develop a culture of self-directed learning, allowing young employees to map out their own development and progression – something they clearly crave. As employees pursue their own development, their organisations will benefit in turn – as the bank of skills grows, along with the potential for growth and innovation. With employees able to see potential career development, as well as the training needed to get there, internal mobility will also likely increase, allowing companies to train and retain their best talent.

As the world of work continues to evolve, leaders should always adapt themselves to the fluctuating priorities of employees. By embracing the expectations of the younger generations, leaders will be able to create flexible and agile workforces. This will place them, and their businesses, in strong stead to weather the next global storm – whatever it may be.