In a rapidly changing world, a significant number of individuals are hinting at a desire for less work-centric lives, pushing leadership models to the brink of reinvention. This evolution is not just about changing work dynamics but is also deeply intertwined with generational shifts, as exemplified by Gen Z’s work values. With seismic shifts like COVID-19 and the dawn of AI altering our professional terrain, leadership isn’t just evolving – it’s being disrupted. This blog delves deep into this disruption, exploring the pivotal challenges and solutions for leaders and employers post-pandemic.
The Leadership Revolution: Decoding the New Era Dynamics and Challenges
In a recent article on the BBC News App, Professor Bob Duffy revealed that 43% of people surveyed stated that it would be a good thing if less importance was placed on work.
It’s an interesting statistic, and I must say, in part, I agree with it that work can define us and consume our lives if we allow it to.
The other side to this is the changing shift in attitudes, not just in the young but amongst older people in work – they don’t want to be defined by it.
Amongst Gen Z (Born between 1997-2015) – They cite Work-life balance, fair pay, and alignment to values as critical factors in the employer they choose to work for or how much they feel connected to their work. (Francis, A-2022)
This is a multi-generational challenge for all employers, across all sectors which requires fundamental change.
Want to know what you should do to address it? … Read On!
What’s the Big Picture?
History can be defined as driven by world events. Historians and Academics talk about post-industrial revolution, post-war era, etc. We are now living in the post-Covid Era and changing our lives daily. Perhaps making us realise that some things are no longer fit for purpose, and it requires systemic change on many levels to address them.
To cover all the challenges would require a book rather than a blog, so I will focus in on Leaders and their relationship with their people. (Followers)
In the UK alone, we have lost 450,000+ people in the workforce who are now on long-term sickness benefits. Evidence suggests that a similar number have withdrawn from the workforce after the life-changing effects of COVID-19.
On top of this, the inflation crisis is leading to industrial unrest and massive cost increases across both the public and private sectors.
But this is not just our problem in the UK it is a significant issue across most major economies globally.
Stepping into this void is the increased presence of AI and greater automation, and we are only just scratching the surface of the changes these will bring to human interaction and productivity in the workplace and as consumers.
How is this impacting Employers?
In the face of these events, employers are faced with challenges in:
- Recruitment and Retention
- Delivering products and services to the required standard
- “Quiet Quitting” and its impact on productivity/morale
- Employee Engagement and Connection to their work
- Embracing Diversity – as the labour market becomes tighter, how can organisations harness the power of diversity in their workforce?
- Getting people in some sectors to spend time in a physical workplace and embrace hybrid working
- Rising costs and legal obligations of employing people
What should Leaders focus on in order to address these challenges?
Before we consider this, I also want to give you a challenge.
To deliver on what I suggest, you must address how you select, develop, and retain leaders in your business. There is still a need for Competencies, assessments, job descriptions etc, but these only deliver against fixed expectations.
Given that we operate in a world that wants flexibility, learning agility, resilience, and competence in leading and managing change, some of the more traditional approaches we use to identifying and developing these skills will no longer work – more about this later.
VUCA was a term coined by the US Military in its Afghan operations in the early 90s. Faced with a completely different territory for warfare it had to adapt. I firmly believe Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity will define the leadership operating environment for at least the next ten years and perhaps beyond.
So here’s my take on what you need your leaders to not just focus on but have as part of their DNA:
- A Growth Mindset (Dweck 2015) – fixed or closed ideas won’t help. People won’t change independently to suit us; we need to help them change.
- Resilience – by this, I mean learning to cope with the inevitable setbacks we all experience as leaders and harness what we learn from these experiences to become better leaders.
- Visibility and Communication – Hybrid working, in particular, presents challenges as to how leaders stay in touch with their people in order to foster engagement and alignment with organisational goals and priorities.
- Fostering Diversity and Inclusivity – recognising that there is a wealth of untapped talent not just in different sectors of our population but also in those with Neurodivergent profiles. Considering 15-20% of the population is neurodivergent, embracing these insights can be a game-changer for your organisation. We cannot continue to exclude people from the workforce when, in reality, the workforce is shrinking, ageing, and increasingly looking at other ways to enrich their lives.
- A focus on building trust and being aligned to a strong value set. Followers are looking for leaders with principles, who give and seek to build trust and, most importantly, display and act on a genuine interest in us as individuals.
What should organisations focus on to Select, Develop and Retain Leaders?
In a past life, I was often involved in assessment and development centres as well as recruiting leaders to my team.
Often, this would involve HR presenting me with a Job Description, Role Competencies and Question Sets linked to scoring matrices. Designed to “tick the boxes and gain the required points to press the recruitment button.”
Whilst we still need some direction for people about what skills they need and how they should fulfil their role, we need to reimagine how we assess “organisational fit” and how we develop people to their full potential.
Here are my challenges/suggestions for you to consider:
- What are the Strengths and Skills required to do the role – how can you measure these to establish the ability to do their role now and map out career progression in the future?
- How can you assess the “value-set” of individuals not just to see how it fits your organisation (still important!) but also how they will relate to people, how they will treat them and how they will interact with diverse workplaces and the people that populate them?
- What conditions will you need to put in place to help your existing and new people thrive in their roles? Development Programmes are great solutions, but how can you introduce agility, flexibility, and real-time inputs to these?
- Are you recruiting and developing leaders for “the now” or a new paradigm-leadership in an AI-dominated world, for example
- In today’s world, should you expect to lose people? The most talented do not always want long-term careers, security, and a steady state; they want progression, challenge, variety and the ability to “step off the world” sometimes. Are you geared up for this?
Want to know more?
We work with individuals, Teams and Organisations to help them:
- Reimagine how they recruit and develop their people
- Look at individuals from a different perspective, namely the Strengths they bring to an organisation
- Devise development programmes which ensure people can operate effectively in “the now” but develop the skillset and mindset to embrace VUCA Leadership