One thing is certain: the events of the last few years, resulting in the phenomenon we now know as the ‘Great Resignation’, have seen the power of ‘how we work’ move into the hands of employees. This may sound ominous for senior management but, living in a democratic society that we celebrate, business leaders should see it as an opportunity to present an evolved way of working; one that will harness and nurture a new symbiotic relationship between employees and the workplace.There’s great fear in change, but there’s also room for opportunity. One thing that history has taught us is that those who don’t embrace change, or aren’t open to it, are those that get left behind and are at risk of eventually becoming obsolete.
A shift in workplace expectations
We can’t ignore that today’s employees, especially Millennial and Gen Z workers, have grown up with unlimited knowledge and information at their fingertips. This privileged access to knowledge has led to a heightened awareness of the deep-rooted issues that plagued our society. The global events of the past years, beyond just the pandemic, such as outcries against social justice and natural disasters, have pushed worldwide to question their life and work choices.
There is particularly a movement towards the idea that, if one is to spend most of their life working, they must be provided with a greater sense of ‘purpose’ at work to align with their personal lives and improve wellbeing. In the context of work, purpose encompasses all the values that drive people’s choices, actions and attitudes – from broader social and environmental goals, to professional and personal objectives of a healthy work-life balance. This sense of ‘purpose’ is now one of the key business themes of our age.
This sentiment has been solidified in the findings of recent Cognizant research, which found that young workers (between the ages of 20 and 40) now expect employers to be highly committed to having a positive impact on the environment, wider society, and to take interest in their purposes at work on a far more personal level. More than half of respondents in the study define purposeful work as being passionate about what they do and achieving a healthy work-life balance. With this shift in expectations also comes a shift in how we expect to be led within a company.
A new era of leadership
This ‘enlightenment’ among workers has already begun to greatly affect the business world today and has been the main accelerator of “The Great Resignation”, which has left employers scrambling to fill a never-ending and increasing number of vacancies. But as older millennials reach their early 40s and Gen Z the future of the job, the career moves of these “purpose-led” generations are becoming increasingly central to businesses’ ongoing viability. Meanwhile, millennials are now those seeking leadership roles, and therefore must be nurtured into a new sense of leadership to continue to attract the newer talent: Gen Zs.