Workers under 35 are tomorrow’s leaders. The lessons they learn at work today will shape their ideas of leadership and the type of leaders they will become. It’s our responsibility to set the stage today for tomorrow’s leaders and the Best Workplaces™ for Today’s Youth are making this a priority through workplace practices that are caring and respectful for all. Solidifying the message today that all people are valued will ensure that the workplace of the future is full of people who bring their best and who do their best work.
The Best Workplaces for Today’s Youth are actively setting an example for their young workers that they matter. These organizations know that their young people are full of enthusiasm and desire to make a difference and they want to ensure their practices nourish these attributes. This means taking an active and interested role in helping them achieve success in all aspects of their life so they can achieve their career goals and assume the responsibilities of tomorrow’s leaders. Unfortunately, the workplace is full of potential pitfalls and hazards that can extinguish young people’s fire – from the productivity at all costs attitude, to the manager who believes all career progression follows the same path, to the colleague who actively discounts any new ideas or suggestions – these are all de-motivators that can derail even the most enthusiastic young person. That’s why it is vitally important that today’s best workplaces adopt practices and build a culture that inspires young people to grow and fulfill their potential.
How can workplace practices play a role in nourishing tomorrow’s leaders?
Emphasize the Importance of Camaraderie
Feeling cared about is an element of the workplace that young workers consistently say matters. And at the Best Workplaces for Today’s Youth they are delivering:
When you join the organization, you are made to feel welcome. 96%
I can be myself with my team. 95%
People care about each other here. 94%
For young people, work is as much a social network as it is a professional one. They don’t want to be just a number who only matters based on their production. They are interested in working hard and having fun at the same time. This is the time in their lives when they are less encumbered by family responsibilities, they may be looking for life partners, or they simply want to connect with likeminded people beyond the work setting. This is also the time in their careers when they are looking for mentors and people they can lean on for advice and guidance. By creating a workplace that nurtures relationships, organizations facilitate bonds that last, and this is fundamental to developing tomorrow’s leaders.
- Work to find a healthy balance of virtual and real-life exchanges. Email and messaging have a place, but so do real-life, ad hoc conversations and team meetings. Pay particular attention to your remote and hybrid workers and make sure they have opportunities to create bonds and connect.
- Make the office experience enticing to encourage collaboration and socialization. Use flexible scheduling, add fun elements to your everyday operations, and ensure people have ample opportunities to meet in person and socialize.
- Encourage people to meet one another across the organization. Setting up cross department coffee-dates that bring different people together is a great way to encourage friendship and interpersonal relationships.
Provide Ample Development Opportunities
Young workers are keen to learn and grow and they are looking for someone who will help guide them on their career journey. At the Best Workplaces for Today’s Youth they are making this is a priority:
My manager recognizes honest mistakes as part of doing business. 95%
People here are given a lot of responsibility. 93%
My manager involves people in decisions that affect their jobs or work environment. 92%
Encouraging tomorrow’s leaders means taking time to build their skills and develop their confidence. As managers, making time for young workers is one of the most important parts of the role and the best organizations make this a priority. They encourage lots of responsibility and they understand that young workers will make mistakes and that is just part of the learning process. A culture that encourages workers to explore and innovate is also conducive to developing leadership skills and keeping people engaged. Giving young people the space they need to discover their talents and learn by doing helps them build self-reliance and resiliency, two characteristics that will serve them well in future leadership roles.
- Encourage and incentivize managers to delegate responsibility and support autonomous decision-making.
- Provide formal mentoring programs that bring people together both from different levels of the organization and different areas of expertise. This allows young workers to explore their career options and discover career paths they may not know exist.
- Create individual development plans that allow people to grow and develop skills they want and need. Tomorrow’s leaders will come from varied backgrounds and experiences so lateral moves are just as important as those that progress up the traditional career ladder.
Young workers want to know that their opinions matter and that despite their age or level of experience, their contributions are valuable. The Best Workplaces for Today’s Youth ensure their young workers feel respected and valued:
My manager genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas. 94%
I am treated as a full member here regardless of my position. 94%
My manager shows a sincere interest in me as a person, not just an employee. 93%
Respect is a universal desire and at work it is especially appreciated. In reality, young people tend to have their opinions discounted simply because of their age or lack of experience. It’s important to actively address this bias and ensure that all people in the workplace feel their contributions are valued, because when people feel valued they perform better, they are more committed and engaged, and they are willing to take on more responsibility as it is given to them. And the more respect young workers are shown early in their career the more likely they are to give respect to others when they assume the role of tomorrow’s leaders.
- Encourage teamwork and collaboration as a way to share skills and optimize outputs. Young workers can share their knowledge of the latest technology while at the same time learn operational basics from those who have been with the company the longest.
- Talk about respect in the workplace and make it a priority. At the same time, train people to recognize disrespectful behaviour and address it immediately using open and straightforward communication techniques.
- Use one-on-ones as well as team settings to acknowledge individual accomplishments and showcase people’s talents. Make sure managers take time to learn about their team members as individuals and celebrate their successes.
Tomorrow’s leaders are learning much of what they need to know about leadership from the people they work with right now. These lessons, good and bad, will either set them up for future success as tomorrow’s leaders or promote a legacy of disconnected organizational behaviour. Setting a strong leadership example by showing young workers they are cared for and respected will go a long way toward creating great leaders for the future. And that is the legacy that should be encouraged, creating enthused and capable leaders who in turn create great workplaces for generations to come.
Great Place to Work® is the world leader in building high-trust, high-performance workplaces. Whether you are just getting started on your journey or you’re already well on your way, we can help you build more trusting relationships at work and achieve better business results.