Can’t Attract Employees?

Unhappy GenZ Employees 1

Business owners and big company business executives often say they have a hard time finding employees or that there is a shortage of workers. Excluding the possibility that such concerns a) reflect an unwillingness to offer sufficient pay for the work, b) is not an excuse to drive down wages, or c) an excuse to automate and thus reduce headcount, one wonders why they cannot see the problems that potential employees see.

Millennials, and especially Gen Z, are not interested in experiencing the same type of workplace stress and personal sacrifices that their parents had to deal with. Rightly so, they are looking for much better working conditions and flexibility. Not everyone needs to be in the office, not everyone is comfortable being in the social office environment (think introverts, for example), and not everyone wants to be in a leadership position or climb the corporate hierarchy.

Overall, there is little respect from leaders for employees’ individual preferences, interests, or desires. The younger generations are responding to that. They are unhappy with the continuation of old ways of leading and managing people. Traditions such as “command and control” leadership, supervisory surveillance, strict working hours, and what amounts to forced unpaid overtime are seen as archaic and unnecessary. Gen Z is much criticized for their work ethic. Is that really the problem? No.

And so the younger generations rebel in their own unique ways, such as ghosting employers (payback for bad interview process, low-ball offers, the ever-present lack of loyalty to employees); taking more sick days for mental health, wellness, and recovery from constant stress; favoring digital rather than face-to-face communication; job-hopping; union organizing, etc. In my view, the younger generation is smarter than the prior keep-your-head-down, nose-to-the-grindstone, compliance-oriented generations. They are doing exactly what they should be doing. Employers hate it and continuously complain and blame the young employees, but they are simply getting what they deserve for not changing with the times.

Business leaders talk endlessly about the need for change and innovation, but they remain locked into the leadership and management preconceptions, beliefs, behaviors and competencies of the past. The blame for that lies solely with top business leaders because they want to maintain the status quo, not with the employees who seek reasonable changes reflective of the time we now live in.

Given that the reason most people leave a company is due to poor management (direct supervisor or above), the obvious solution is to improve the practice of management — and that includes how people are led by those at the top of hierarchy. There have been at least a dozen major management innovations over the last 75 years whose intent is to improve the practice of leadership and management. But instead of taking root, they are more akin to fads that come and go. Rather than adjust to changing times and understand employees and the workplace, leaders regulate progress in ways that assures they are perpetually in arrears.

Hiring and retaining younger employees will not be so difficult if the interview process and job description are greatly simplified. And leaders should listen to the concerns of potential and current employees rather than ignore them. Business owners and big company business executives should think of themselves as providing a leadership and management service to employees. If they want to attract employees, they need to provide an excellent service to others, not just expect others to provide it to them. And the work environment, whether onsite or remote, needs to not be just pleasant, but contributive to inspiring creativity, innovation, and teamwork.

The flaw in any argument for improved leadership and management practice is that those atop the corporate hierarchy are socially constrained by their peer group. Top leaders’ peer group has the rigid expectation that those in the group will resist changes that are beneficial to employees, or, if forced, do slightly less than the minimum necessary to appease them (and be quick to rescind the changes when the opportunity arises). They always see only costs — money, business, and personal — and and are unable to see any benefits.

Were it not for the power of peer pressure to maintain the status quo, leaders, particularly of large companies, would have long ago transitioned to better methods of leadership and management.

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