What will the future of Millennial and Gen-Z leadership look like?

5 mins

Millennials and Generation Z professionals are starting to take on positions of responsibility within workforces, bringing new skills, priorities and ways of thinking to the table. Harnessing their talents and incorporating them into a multigenerational workforce will be integral for businesses in the coming years, enabling them to thrive.

Demographic evolution and generational transitions are causing a shift for society as a whole, and this is reflected in the world of business as well. As new generations of professionals enter the workforce, they bring their own unique experiences, values and priorities with them, and it is necessary for organisations to adapt to this in order to ensure they remain ahead of the curve.

The growing and promising influence of Millennials and Generation Z workers in the business world is a prime example of this. Businesses across all industries are already benefiting from the significant skills, knowledge and social awareness that these younger professionals bring to the table - but as they move into leadership roles, it will be necessary to ensure they are prepared to navigate the challenges of leading multigenerational workforces to success.

Here, we will examine what the future of Millennial and Generation Z leadership could look like, including the qualities they will deliver for businesses, and the adjustments that may need to be made to ensure that workers from all demographics can function effectively together.

The emergence of a new generation of leaders

Although some business leaders still perceive the Millennial generation as the workforce of the future, the truth is that they are already here. The oldest Millennials are already in their 30s or early 40s, have worked in professional roles for many years, and are occupying positions of significant seniority and responsibility.

Even the younger Generation Z has already started to progress, with many of these future leaders now reaching the final years of their university education, starting formal training or making their first steps into the workplace. Inevitably, the emergence of these young professionals into the workforce is leading businesses to make significant adjustments to the way they operate.

Already, organisations across sectors - even the most conventional and traditional businesses - are adjusting to become more agile in order to attract the talents of Millennials and Generation Z workers, who are digitally savvy and accustomed to more flexible and remote working patterns, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.

Businesses are realising that they can no longer offer workers a five-day, office-based week, nor can they afford to ignore IT investments that are necessary to provide younger professionals with the digital tools they need to work effectively from any location. In a competitive, candidate-short marketplace, it will simply mean losing out on the next generation of talent if companies fail to adjust.

As such, younger professionals are already starting to reshape the working landscape even before they move into leadership roles - and this influence will only increase in the years to come.

What qualities can Millennial and Generation Z leaders deliver?

For ambitious businesses, the emergence of this new generation of leaders does not need to be seen with apprehension, as Millennial and Generation Z workers promise to bring with them a host of valuable skills, knowledge and perspectives that can help to transform industries for the better. Of course, this is not to say that current and long-established workforces don’t offer these attitudes and abilities.

These qualities include:

  • Creative, innovative and ambitious mindsets, married with a desire and willingness to openly challenge accustomed ways of thinking and working.

  • A high level of ingrained technical and digital proficiency from being raised in the digital/smartphone age.

  • An openness to working more collaboratively, rather than sticking to a rigid professional hierarchy, allowing for more fluid team structures and easier transfer of skills.

  • An affinity for dealing with people on a more personal level, both when communicating with colleagues and with customers, allowing them to provide more individualised services and support, and show a genuine interest and understanding of the psychology of why people do what they do.

  • A desire to create a working culture with purpose, meaning and shared vision, driven by their own motivations to deliver work guided by passion and personal satisfaction, rather than simply working for a paycheque.

Additionally, the younger generations of leaders share a strong social conscience, which means they will expect their employers to exemplify the following qualities:

  • A commitment to environmental causes and sustainable operations, both within the company and along the supply chain.

  • Dedication to giving back to their community with charitable initiatives and industry-wide collaborations.

  • Pushing for high standards of diversity, equality and inclusion by creating a team environment that is welcoming to people of all backgrounds, and actively works to correct historic prejudices and obstacles to fairness.

  • An openness about mental health and wellbeing, and a willingness to speak frankly about issues affecting mental wellness and the need for better self-care.

  • Providing opportunities for tailored, bespoke learning and development throughout the organisation to give everyone a chance to shape their own careers.

All of these leadership qualities and goals have the potential to be hugely beneficial and transformative for any organisation, equipping companies for the challenges of the modern era. However, there is no doubt that some of these values and systemic changes may be daunting and challenging for businesses with a more traditional workforce - which is why these future leaders may need to learn how to tailor their approach.

How should business leaders approach the challenges of a multigenerational workforce?

In order to ease the transition to a multigenerational workforce led by Millennial (or, later, Generation Z) business leaders, the current management should be looking to make a number of adjustments to the way they work. These include:

Providing wellbeing support and benefits dedicated to ensuring a better work-life balance, such as extended lunch breaks, yoga sessions, counselling support and flexible schedules to allow people to spend more time with their children and families.

Highlighting the purpose and meaning that is involved with the work being done to create more workplace satisfaction. This can be rolled out in continuing professional development meetings, reviews and general day-to-day discussions.

Eliminating unnecessary requirements for in-person workplace attendance, making greater use of phone calls and video meetings instead of in-office conferences. This includes making greater use of remote interviews, which can open up the pool of talent available to you.

When staff are required to be in the office, ensuring that time is spent wisely and focus is placed on collaboration, training and development, teambuilding as well as learning from each other.

A better digital infrastructure for the business to make it easier for workers to interface with operational systems and important organisational information from any location, improving efficiency and further reducing the need for unnecessary commutes.

Adopting a more open approach to new suggestions and ways of working, allowing younger workers with fresh ideas to make their mark and feel listened to.

At the same time, there needs to be an acceptance of the ways in which Millennial and Generation Z leaders will learn how to lead and work with diverse colleagues of all ages and backgrounds, as multigenerational workforces pose their own unique challenges. Specifically, there must be an acceptance that people of varying ages may have different personality types and values, and that accommodations need to be made to allow everyone to succeed and thrive on their own terms.

The next generation of leaders will therefore need to learn that their instinct to challenge conventions and tradition will not necessarily be welcomed or suitable in all situations, and will need to find ways of compromising with older colleagues who may have good reasons for favouring a more established approach.

There will also need to be an acceptance that older and younger colleagues may experience difficulties with preconceived notions of each other, and that they will sometimes require time and mutual understanding to overcome this potential cultural clash.

Young leaders must also remember that their more experienced colleagues have plenty to teach them, and that they can learn from tried-and-tested values such as tenacity, resilience and problem-solving experience. This is particularly important at a time when many businesses are facing economic challenges, and the knowledge of those who have been through such periods before will be invaluable.

Above all, the secret to the success of any multigenerational workforce is creating a culture where leaders and colleagues from every demographic can work together without prejudgement, with a willingness to learn from and share with each other, taking the best values and ideas from each individual for the benefit of the greater whole. By ensuring that the next generation of leaders are able to exemplify these qualities and embed this throughout the company culture, you will be able to create a bright future for your organisation.

Find out more

For more insights into the future of business leadership and how to ensure you have the right management team in place to secure the long-term success of your organisation, get in touch with Sellick Partnership.

Take a look at our Senior & Executive recruitment services hub for more information on how we can help to identify the right leaders for your organisation, or get in contact with a member of our team today.