Managing Director, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa Project Management Institute
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Gen Z workers
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Building Gen Z into a culture of changemakers

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Organisations should seize the opportunity to nurture and support the next wave of changemakers from inside the business to reap future rewards.

3rd Nov 2021
Managing Director, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa Project Management Institute
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The past 12 months have provided a landscape of disruptive change. It has been an undeniably difficult time for businesses, but also an incredible opportunity for internal talent to develop and improve. Many business leaders have highlighted that this period is an unpredictable yet once in a lifetime chance to reflect on the ways in which we operate and learn to adapt. 

Now more than ever the ability to stand out is important

What has become strikingly evident is the critical role Gen Z play in this adaptability. As the group that represent the future of work as we know it, it is our role as leaders to create the environment and training that will enable them to thrive. 

The next generation

Gen Z have not had it easy, with recent data showing that entry-level job openings are 40 per cent lower now than before the pandemic - the class of 2021 will be joining a talent pool already bloated by unemployed graduates from previous years. 

Now more than ever the ability to stand out is important, and while this can feel like a thankless task it is also an opportunity for their employer to support them in finding where their true value lies. With businesses also engaged in periods of transformation, either digitally or culturally, the opportunity to welcome new energy, skills, and thinking is an invaluable proposition that young people can offer.

A responsibility to nurture 

Attaining and retaining a new generation of talent relies on the learning and development opportunities a business can offer, ultimately, they have a responsibility to nurture a new way of thinking and a new set of skills.

By providing young people with the freedom to innovate, while clarifying expectations of performance and teamwork, they also develop resiliency and adaptability. If the last 12 months have proven anything, it is that those are two invaluable properties in any professional skillset. 

The changemaker is someone who combines human skills, business acumen, and adaptability to effectively shape the future of themselves and their organisation

An effective way to integrate this culture into an organisation is to introduce knowledge-sharing sessions. These can either take the form of mentoring, town halls, or even inter-organisation networking events. They should address successes, but also failures, as both provide vital learning.

By building a tightly knit community group, stakeholders can share insights on management, collaboration, and other key skills for younger colleagues to learn from in an environment that encourages open conversation and promises not to penalise honest discussion.

Traditional boundaries are disappearing 

Arguably, the traditional boundaries of finance, HR, and legal are falling away and are instead being replaced by agile, cross-skilled teams operating across cross-functional areas. These teams take a laser-focus on just a few key deliverables, and work to an output cadence of just a few weeks. Those that take ownership of this transition– the changemakers – can both conceive and drive meaningful change.

The changemaker is someone who combines human skills, business acumen, and adaptability to effectively shape the future of both themselves and their organisation. This dual impact, at a personal and collective level, means that changemakers can enable the short-term benefit of hitting objectives while also building a team of leaders that will foster a successful long-term future for their organisation.  

How can we encourage changemakers?

A vital part of developing changemakers is ensuring that team members have the environment and resources required to upskill themselves. The individual must take the initiative to instigate this process but, ultimately, they do need the right tools, and the right infrastructure to achieve this. 

Soft skills – collaborative leadership, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and empathy – should now be considered as power skills

Recent research commissioned by PMI found that only 51 per cent of Brits have taken any kind of project management training, yet 81 per cent are expected to manage projects at work – an inequality that suggests leaders much take a much more active role in helping upskill their staff.

Part of fostering a successful upskilling environment is assessing and valuing the right skills. The skillset previously referred to as ‘soft skills’ – collaborative leadership, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and empathy – should now be considered as ‘power skills’. As routine tasks are increasingly automated, a higher premium will be placed on those with the ability to lead teams and think critically as well as creatively.

In order to help enterprises and individuals master these skills and develop the confidence to deploy them regardless of their seniority, organisations should consider facilitating knowledge-sharing in business community groups. This is where stakeholders can help to share insights on management, collaboration, and complex problem solving.

The freedom to innovate also brings resilience and adaptability

Looking to the future

As we return to the office and continue adapting to the new world of work, this period of transition has presented businesses with the opportunity to create a new paradigm for how they welcome young people into their team.

By promoting the ethos that anyone can learn the skills be a changemaker, organisations can empower the next generation to make their mark and feel comfortable in doing so. The freedom to innovate also brings resilience and adaptability, qualities that have been heavily relied upon throughout a challenging 12 months.

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