YOUNGER #GENERATIONS DON’T SEEK TOP POSITIONS? What’s Up?
I was asked why, with the coming leadership gap as Baby Boomers gradually “retire,” younger generations don’t seek top positions. Really, they don’t? Here are some thoughts.
First, several surveys in the last year have indicated that there are major gaps in what employers think they need and how they are evaluating candidates. The surveys often contradict each other, so it’s hard to know what the real deal is. Also, young workers think employers are not making use of their talents to a significant degree, and they think they could be much more valuable.
Succession planning is so challenging because few organizations have been taking serious steps to do it at various levels and consider potential leaders who are not similar to the current and former leaders. Generation X, the natural place to look for leadership now by age and experience, has been pretty much overlooked in many ways in the marketplace in favor of attention to the much larger and vocal but younger Gen Y/Millennials.
For those who were not yet working or have forgotten, when Gen Xers were the youngest generation at work, many said they didn’t want the top spots and were labeled “slackers.” Since then they have been working hard and aspire to leadership. They have been frustrated suffering with the “Prince Charles syndrome,” waiting for the Boomers to finally hand over the reins. Gen X is ready.
HOW TO EXPLAIN GEN Y AMBITION
My experience and research suggests that Gen Y/Millennials do want to lead and occupy top positions. However, many Millennials are turned off by the cultures typically find in organizations. What they say in every survey is they want training, opportunity to advance, do meaningful work (doesn’t everyone?) and to have an impact. They also want to change the structure of how work is done to fit today’s requirements and capitalize on technological resources they feel comfortable with. If they get heard and get responsibility to make change, like their Boomer parents, they will stay and step up to the plate to lead. Otherwise they are motivated to move on.
Meanwhile the leadership gap in the near future will be ably filled by Gen Xers with the support of Baby Boomers, if both of those generations are treated respectfully and made to feel continually valued for what they can contribute. It’s not so complicated. If anyone of any generation is disrespected, made to feel needlessly obsolete and not fitting a preconceived mold, they are likely to be disengaged or uncooperative or less productive than either they or the employer wants them to be.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com