Tag Archive for: Gen Y

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Quiet Quitting: New Name for an Old Problem?

Let’s consider that most troublesome of conditions that’s much in the press – quiet quitting. Is that a thing? Really? Or actually, are we just talking about people doing the bare minimum, just trying to hang on and draw their pay cheque and keep their noses down? Well, isn’t that what a lot of people have been doing for decades, if not centuries? I wonder if we just put a new label on a condition that we have been too easily ignoring for far too long, and that’s the chronic engagement problem. So how do we as leaders better engage our people?

I was particularly looking at the largest demographic (over 65%) in the workforce in my own research, and that’s Generation Y or Millennials, and what might keep them engaged at work and actually allow them to give more discretionary effort than they ever have before, and I found that engagement has to do with mainly three things.

One is giving them development opportunities and naming those development opportunities explicitly. In other words, if we give people projects, do we actually tell them that this is a development opportunity for these reasons?  When they are shadowing, or attending international secondments or placements, are we explicit about how and why those are development opportunities? Do we give our people mentoring? Most of the things I’ve mentioned are free or inexpensive.

The second thing that we need to think about is culture. What is it like to work around here? What’s the experience? The two questions that Gen Y told me they wish they could ask or would have been asked in a recruitment interview are: Can I meet the team I would be working with, and can you show me where my desk will be? In other words, what they are interested in is: What are the behaviours I observe from the people around me? What they are interested in, therefore, is culture.

Third is work-life balance. Now, this doesn’t mean necessarily working fewer hours, so when we say people are quiet quitting, what they’re telling us is that they’re working the bare minimum of hours, but there might be something behind that, which is that they may truly want flexibility in terms of where they work, and if they have that flexibility then they might actually give us more of their time in terms of doing the work required. I am not suggesting that we kill people and work them to death, but if we think that people are giving us the bare minimum, how do we create the conditions of that work, so that they’re more willing to do what is required to the extent that is healthy and well? That is a two-way conversation of course between employer and employee. But work-life balance is a tricky question because we always have to ask ourselves whether we are dealing with hours worked or with flexibility in terms of where and how the work happens.

For more of my media and speaking, please visit www.adamkingl.com 

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Responding to the Resignation Crisis

One of the topics I discuss in my book, Next Generation Leadership, is how to respond to the resignation crisis. I discovered that, among many tactics, one which appears to be highly effective is cultivating an alumni network. If it is true that Generation Y, or Millennials, are leaving their organisations with frightening rapidity, my research show that this is in fact their expectation.  They are often anticipating leaving every two to five years from one organisation to the next. 

Then, it’s best that we consider how we might allow them to come back at some point in the future. So, they may not stay for more than two to five years at a time, but perhaps we can convince them to come back two, three times over the course of their careers, and in so doing, the develop new, senior leadership skills, customer relations skills, sales skills, whatever it might be, which you didn’t have to pay for, and then you get them back, and you get the benefit of all that new development. So how do we cultivate an alumni network? Well, professional services organisations like McKinsey or Accenture are world class at maintaining their alumni networks, so we can learn a thing or two from them. They even hold reunions in many cases, just as a university would, of their former employees because these people are currently clients, they’re customers, they’re net promoters.  You certainly don’t want them to be net detractors!  

But what too many organisations do, instead of cultivating those relationships, instead of holding alumni reunions, instead of keeping a social network alive, is when someone resigns they say, ‘Oh, you’re leaving? Ok, leave your swipe card on the desk and don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out.’ That’s certainly not the way forward. We want to keep a workforce, whether it’s in one go at a time or two or three goes at a time because we’re living in a world where young employees want mobility from job to job.  Sometimes those future collaborations might be contractor positions instead of full-time employee engagements, and that’s fine.  Certainly we need to make working with us as attractive as possible, so that over the course of their careers, we can collaborate with the high potentials for as long as possible. The only thing is – it may not be all in one go. 

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Humanising Leadership

Work life has fundamentally changed over the last 150 years. We’ve seen technology evolve how we work, we’ve seen scientific management evolve how we work, we’ve seen Six Sigma evolve how we work. We’ve seen other forms of agility, adaptability, etc., evolve how we work. However, the act of management, the habits, processes, and technologies of management have fundamentally not changed since the industrial revolution. As a result, we are facing an engagement crisis, and I don’t need to tell you that we are also in the midst of a resignation crisis. That’s because work is becoming more incremental, inertial, and inhuman. Fundamentally inhuman.  

Covid didn’t cause these crises, but they accelerated the trends, as we were forced home to contemplate our lives and fulfilment.  We’ve seen the engagement crisis evident for years in polls such as the Gallup Survey, which indicates that only about 13% of the global workforce are engaged in their jobs, 62% are disengaged, and about a quarter are actively disengaged, meaning that they hate their employment so much that they would sabotage their organisation given half a chance.  As dramatically depressing as those statistics are, the real tragedy is that most managers don’t seem to care enough to do much about it.  When I share these survey results in front of executive audiences, the most common reaction I see is resigned acceptance: a shrug, a shake of the head, eyes downcast.  

We simply have to get angry about this state of affairs in order finally to change it.  I would argue that you wouldn’t see this reaction in similar circumstances with professionals other than ‘managers’.  If I were addressing an audience of general practitioner doctors and told them, ‘I interviewed all the patients you saw over the past year and their families.  Here are the results.  13% of your patients got better.  25% died, and 62% reported that seeing you made no difference to their health whatsoever.’  Those GPs would be up in arms!  They would be demanding that the practice of medicine be completely reimagined in the face of these results and particularly if they largely didn’t change year to year.  Yet again, corporate managers have grown accustomed to such dire results to the point that they neither act upon nor even dwell on them.    

What’s the solution? Not more management!  At least not more management in terms of the definition of ‘to control’, but more management in relation to being more human, more empathetic, helping our people, and by extension our organisations to be more relevant tomorrow than they are today. This, I believe is the challenge of leadership in the 21st century: humanising management. 

To find out more, please go to my website www.adamkingl.com.

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Work-Life Balance

When I wrote my book Next Generation Leadership, I interviewed Generation Ys, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, and I asked them about work-life balance. My first question was, ‘What do you mean when you say work-life balance?’ What was very interesting is that I learned that there’s semantic discord among the generations about their definitions of that term. 

For most Gen Xs and Baby Boomers, work-life balance is a ‘when’ question. In other words, when they hear ‘work-life balance’ they would interpret that the speaker wants to work fewer hours, which can lead them to conclude, ‘They don’t want to pay the dues that I paid, and so they’re lazy. So it goes, and that contributes to this incorrect prejudice that Gen Ys are somehow lazy. 

When I ask Gen Ys what they mean when they say or hear ‘work-life balance’, they generally say that this is a ‘where’ statement. In other words, technology allows me to work wherever I want. Therefore, what they’re looking for is flexibility in terms of location of work. What they’re rejecting is face-time culture, being chained to your desk, not being able to leave the office until the boss leaves, etc. 

Of course, what we learned since Covid is that we should in fact have flexibility in terms of workplace location. And yes, I know that it does vary based on your function or industry whether it is possible to work from home or elsewhere, but nevertheless this is an important semantic discord for us to notice and understand. A great solution is to ask one another before you get into a work-life balance conversation is ‘Well, what do you mean when you say work-life balance in your context,’ to make sure that you aren’t speaking at cross-purposes. 

For more from my articles, media, book and speaking, please visit adamkingl.com


Inspire Magazine: Next Generation Leadership Book Launch

Inspire Magazine, The Møller Institute: Issue 4, Leadership Mindsets, p. 16

Book Launches

Next Generation Leadership: How To Ensure Young Talent Will Thrive With Your Organisation

  • Adam Kingl

We are on the verge of a seismic shift in a world of work.  Why are we toil, the employer-employee social contract, leadership, retirement and the nature of business itself are changing before our eyes in ways as least as significant as what humanity and served in the early days of the industrial revolution. And it all starts with understanding Generation Y.

Generation Ys (or Millennials), are youngest workers have been slandered for a decade. You’ve heard the accusations before: Gen Ys are indolent, spoiled, coddled, uninterested in climbing the corporate ladder, ever texting, indifferent about what it takes to succeed. Those who aren’t quite so critical merely laugh off these generalisations saying, ‘Oh we were like them when we were young too.’

In reality, to be so dismissive us to ignore macro-trends that have forever altered fundamental models of work and employment.

These trends include insecure retirement, the failures of shareholder capitalism and longer lifespans. What we observe in Generation Y is merely the first, widely shared rejection of their inheritance—the world as we know it.

This rejection manifested itself in what confounds, annoys and terrifies human resources department the world over: scarce loyalty to one’s employer, a trivialising of financial benefits, a hue and cry for work-life balance, a craving for constant development, and an insistence on a powerful, shared, authentic corporate purpose. Kingl’s research in his new book Next Generation Leadership explores what’s behind these shifts in the character of the emerging workforce and the implications for how we might need to manage and lead differently today. How might we recruit, retain and develop top talent?

Most importantly, if Gen Y indeed requires a different style of leadership, then as Gen Y assumes managerial positions themselves, then the nature of leadership and of business itself will also change over the next few decades in irrevocable and profound ways.

“Nuggets of gold which challenge the way we should lead our multi generational teams / organisations.”


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The three things millennials want if they are going to work for you

The three things millennials want if they are going to work for you

Leadership expert Adam Kingl believes a new way of thinking is needed to retain and attract Generation Y talent.

London Business School

The Rise of the Intrapreneur

The rise of the Intrapreneur
Forward-thinking companies are stealing a march on their competitors

01 JANUARY 2015

Jobs required the agility of a start-up, so he created a company within the company. He put together a Mac development team, housed them in a separate building with a pirate flag on the roof and told them to tear up the rulebook. Then, once his team of entrepreneurs had come up with the goods, he harnessed the size of Apple to spark a computing revolution.

Searching for agility

In the last five years, I’ve noticed a big change in what companies are asking us for in Executive Education. It used to be about skills – boosting a company’s performance by boosting the input of its key talent. Today, we’re talking more and more about the capabilities of the company as a whole – and one capability above all: agility.

How, like Apple, can a company be both big and fast? How can senior executives spot threats and opportunities sooner and respond more quickly? How can they have the mindset of entrepreneurs when they are in charge of organisations so many times larger than a start-up?

The answer involves exploding the decades-old paradigm of the ‘all-knowing’ leader. Traditionally managers make decisions and staff act on them. It’s the managers who have the authority, the responsibility and the rewards.

However, the world today is just too complex and companies are too big for managers, senior executives and CEOs to know everything about everything. They shouldn’t be solely responsible for knowing what’s over the horizon or for deciding on the best response to every new threat or opportunity. Instead they need to admit ‘I don’t know what I don’t know’ and make more use of the company’s internal resources. They need to become what I call ‘intrapreneurial’.

Harnessing internal resources

Being intrapreneurial is about pushing authority down, flattening the hierarchy and saying to everybody in the company that what they bring to work is as powerful and as important as what the CEO brings. Take the example of Toyota, as originally illustrated by London Business School (LBS) Professor Gary Hamel in The Future of Management. For many years General Motors knew that its Japanese rival was putting out cars at a faster rate and with fewer errors, but they couldn’t figure out how. They returned to the problem again and again – and Toyota even allowed them to visit their factories – but for decades they simply couldn’t pinpoint a reason.

Finally it clicked. The senior management at Toyota had devolved responsibility for its production line to the experts – the people actually working on the factory floor. They were the ones best placed to spot a problem in the manufacturing process or a way to improve it. And they were the ones given the authority to bring the whole production line to a halt.

At General Motors such a potentially expensive decision could only be taken by an executive far removed from the factory floor via a series of complicated processes and protocols. What Toyota was doing was so alien to the General Motors team that they couldn’t even identify it. But for decades the agility of the Japanese giant’s decision-making had given it a real competitive advantage.

Putting it into practice

For the past five years the Executive Education team at London Business School has increasingly been working with companies to make them more intrapreneurial. We start with the idea of purpose rather than financial performance. We had one company come to us recently with a proud 140-year history and one of the first things we did was to ask what its purpose was. It quickly became apparent that long-held assumptions about the company were no longer relevant, and we challenged them to create a new purpose for the next 50 years.

The next step is to rewrite one’s business plan to match the refreshed purpose. Rewriting a business plan is something that entrepreneurs do all the time and there’s no reason why bigger companies can’t do the same. In fact, it’s often just a question of mindset; many companies tell us that what seemed like impassable blocks on innovation can turn out to self-invented obstacles.

Aligning jobs, teams and functions to be more intrapreneurial can mean a number of things. Often it’s about creating small teams with the authority to shape and execute individual projects – just like Steve Jobs did. This kind of responsibility and accountability is exactly what the Generation Y employees in many companies want, and it means that the company as a whole can benefit from the agility and entrepreneurial spirit of its smaller teams.

Being intrapreneurial also means opening up channels of communication so that knowledge is constantly shared throughout the company. Leaders need to be encouraged to canvass opinion from everyone – even from those who have just joined their workforce. What are they seeing? What do they think should be the company’s next move or product? With today’s communications and media, this kind of information gathering and sharing can be achieved on a much larger scale, so that decisions can be made through a process of open-sourcing. Some of the companies we work with, for example, make great use of the ‘Future of Work Jam’ technology developed by LBS Professor Lynda Gratton.

Another way to be intrapreneurial is via the inorganic path. This means finding start-ups that can help the larger parent deal with issues more quickly and effectively. It also means allowing those start-ups to continue acting like start-ups even after they have been acquired. Then, when their agility leads them to valuable insights or opportunities, the parent can quickly and profitably scale those up, as LBS Professor Costas Markides has described in his book Fast Second. It’s something that companies like Cisco and Google do very well.

Being intrapreneurial involves the type of culture change that bigger companies often struggle with, but the results can be transformational, marrying agility to size and making the most of one’s wider resources. It provides a competitive advantage that can last for years to come. It’s time to join the rise of the intrapreneur.

London Business School

The Price of Doing Business With Generation Y

The Price of Doing Business With Generation Y

05 MARCH 2014

There has been no lack of literature on the different paradigms of the generations recently. I can’t open an HR focused magazine without finding at least one article about Generation Ys or Millenials, sometimes described with admiration and awe, sometimes decried as irrational and even dangerously separated from reality.

The Price Of Doing Business With Generation Y

I had one conversation with a very senior Generation X HR executive who described conducting a job interview with a Gen Y person, and she said that the Gen Y’er sounded as if ‘He was interviewing me! These people are crazy!’

This highly emotional response illustrates a fundamental shift in the employer proposition. Gone is the ‘You should be grateful to work here’ paradigm. The more likely held paradigm by Gen Y is, ‘Why should I work for you?’ This dynamic can dramatically unsettle even the seasoned interviewer, as it genuinely does make us question who really holds the power here? The answer is not so straightforward.

In a job interview, the party who is more willing to walk away holds more power. If I can generalise for a moment, the implication here is that Generation Y has much more employee power than any generation before. They care less about working for a specific employer, and more about the quality of the work environment. They care less about employee longevity and more about employee mobility.

Just think about our own family experiences. I’ve asked this of dozens of colleagues, executive education participants, and clients over the years. It is almost invariably true, no matter the country of origin:

Our grandparents had one to two employers over the course of their professional lives,
Our parents had three to four,
Most of those currently in the workforce have, or anticipate having, at least eight.
This pattern implies a doubling of the number of employers in a lifetime in every generation! Therefore, do those in university now anticipate having 16 employers? If they work until they are 68 to 72, a reasonable assumption today, this anticipation seems very realistic – a new job every three to four years. But ignoring anecdotal information for the moment, let’s see if quantitative evidence bears this out.

Since 2009, London Business School has been issuing a survey to the participants of our executive education open enrolment Emerging Leaders Programme, asking their attitudes toward work, employee engagement, and leadership paradigms. This course is a training ground for the global managers of the future and are almost all Gen Y – average age is 29, representing 33 countries over the past five years. One of the questions of this survey asks how long the programme participants anticipate staying with their current employer:

11+ years
Six to ten years
Three to five years
Two years or fewer.

The results support this startling change in worker attitudes over the last two generations:

11+ years: 5%
Six to ten years: 5%
Three to five years: 53%
Two years or fewer: 37%.

Two startling conclusions from these results are that 1) 90% of those surveyed anticipate staying with their employer for no more than five years, and 2) over a third do not foresee staying more than two!

For the employer, and specifically the HR function, the implications are fundamental. HR needs to focus more on asking their employees: what can you do for us now rather than five years from now? How can we support your development with short, sharp interventions, programmes, mentoring, or coaching? How can we support your career, knowing you will probably explore other opportunities, and entice you back when you are an even more senior, fully developed professional? How can our culture, rather than our employee ‘package’, keep you longer than we would otherwise enjoy? What benefits do you truly want, recognising that those benefits that grow slowly over time may not be relevant to you?

These are not easy questions to answer, particularly because the answers will be idiosyncratic to each organisation, each answer defining or redefining its culture and employer proposition in a manner that supports its unique brand, mission, vision and values. But if talent is key to success, and I see no evidence to suggest this paradigm has changed over the generations, then our answers must be compelling ones and may in some cases represent a sea change over previously held sacred cows.