Preparing for an Emerging Workforce

By Todd Corley

Millennials first filled my world in November 2004, when I accepted the job of chief diversity officer at Abercrombie & Fitch—a position mandated by the settlement of discrimination lawsuits against the company totaling nearly $50 million. Millennials, by then, were not only the retailer’s workforce but also its market.

As a member of Generation X, I was fascinated by the drastic differences in culture between my own peers and this younger group. I quickly came to admire their openness, their generosity, their friendships, their priorities and their effortless command of accelerating technologies. I heard my peers and older people disparage their supposed laziness, self-absorption and lack of work ethic, but these traits were not present in the young people I had come to know.

As the Millennial workforce swells and members of Generation Z (iGens) increasingly join them, the demand for trusted, transparent and authentic leadership is reaching unprecedented heights. By leveraging social media and manifesting a remarkable openness and quest for inclusion, these younger generations are forging cultural shifts that upend traditional leadership values and practices.

Traditionalists and Baby Boomers who resist the call for more-equitable and more-ethical workplaces and who seek to maintain “business as usual” leadership place themselves and their organizations at grave risk, regardless of industry or sector. By 2020, Millennials and iGens will make up nearly 60 percent of the U.S. workforce. Preparing your leadership and organization for that eventual reality is mission-critical: Transparency has become the new normal.

My new book, FITCH PATH: A Cautionary Tale About A Moose, Millennials, Leadership & Transparency (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015), explores these themes by going inside the iconic Abercrombie & Fitch brand to examine how Millennials and iGens are forging a cultural transformation.

Recently, Corley answered questions from HR Magazine about his book:

Why did you write the book?

To offer solutions to help prepare leaders and organizations for the inevitable realities of today’s emerging workforce. But three reasons, actually:

  • To present research and expert observation that validates the cultural paradigm shifts currently taking place in today’s organizations.
  • To demonstrate how a generationally driven shift in values has altered the way we manage today’s workforce and create engaged teams.
  • To address the issues of inclusivity, equality, transparency and authenticity and add new perspectives to the discourse and dialogue around diversity.

What immediate steps can HR professionals take in implementing cultural change in their organizations?

Several things:

  • Diversify your personal advisory circle. Surround yourself with “unlikely friends”—those who are of different cultures, genders, ethnicities, ages and so on who, through the exchange of experiences, will enrich your perspective, challenge your assumptions, raise your conscious around hidden biases and inspire you to think more inclusively.
  • Remember, “more is more.” “Less is more” should never apply to managing performance or engagement. Don’t wait until the annual review to provide feedback. Share with more frequency and consistency. Use “in the moment” opportunities to suggest corrective actions. Coach rather than criticize. Focus on individual actions and behaviors, not character or personality.
  • Promote community. Capitalize on moments in between projects to engage Millennials and iGens. Encourage volunteering, reverse mentoring, peer coaching, teamwork and other “people-centered” efforts that promote community.

Why do you urge readers to create mutual accountability and respect in their organizations by equally and equitably distributing responsibility as well as recognition and rewards?

Gone are the days of centralization, departmentalization and silos. When it comes to strengthening the organization and positively impacting the bottom line, it takes a village—a network of employees working interdependently, sharing in decision-making and pursuing shared goals.

Todd Corley@corleytodd on Twitter is the founder of The TAPO Institute, a consultancy focused on the generationally driven shift in beliefs and values that has redefined the meaning of “inclusive” leadership.

Originally posted on the SHRM Book Blog.



The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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