Pia Kirkeskov Andersen has more than 10 years of experience with McKinsey & Company in London, working with major global companies and organisations on essential strategies, while leading a team of driven and motivated consultants. Since, Pia has pioneered the market for aesthetic storage of personal belongings with her company, August Sandgren.
What is different about leading the next generation?
The current means of motivation do not suffice for millennials. If I ask a millennial to do an Excel model, the response won’t necessarily be “yes mam” but rather “why me instead of him” or “me instead of you”. I may of course be exaggerating, but the point is that a clear understanding of millennials is needed to lead them properly.
One driver of this different attitude is that we are at a much higher order in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs than we were 50 years ago, which is what our current ways of leading is built upon. And as our more basic needs have been fulfilled, our expectations to our jobs have changed. The nine-to-five job with a steady income and orders to follow is not sought after by millennials in the way it has been by previous generations. Millennials seek self-fulfilment and meaning instead – or in addition to – a big raise or a promotion, which is why they turn down large corporations to go work for start-ups. Acknowledging that humans are seeking something else than merely compensation for their job, a leader must motivate by outlining the sense and meaning of their unit and the corporation that they are a part of.
What impact will the next generation work-mentality have?
Firstly, I think there is a tendency to exaggerate the speed with which changes come about. We must avoid misconceiving the “millennial change” as something revolutionary, when it is rather an incremental and steady adaption. Naturally, the changes are happening faster in the developed world and where the leadership style is less hierarchical, like in Scandinavia, probably because the dynamics between boss and employee are already different than in the rest of the world. Conversely, there are countries – even developed countries like fx. United Kingdom where I live, where the work-mentality is still more traditional, which corresponds well with the fact that these countries still have needs and concerns that are more important than self-fulfilment fx., title and salary.
One well-known implication is that the singular career path and lifetime employment is slowly dying because nobody needs or believes their purpose is to be with one corporation through their work-life. As the pace at which we change jobs increases, employers change the abilities they seek. Firms will focus more on the employees’ skills applicable to specific tasks as well as their ability to manure in the culture of the organization. You will still need experts but on the margin the human skills will be more important – it will be important to be able to make things happen with and through people – this will be hard to automate whereas a lot of the expert knowledge can be automated.
Leaders will need to be as human as possible. With a generation of privileged millennials, it is insufficient to lead by stick and carrot, and a strict leader will not be able to promote the needful feeling of sense and purpose that millennials are looking for. Going forward, a leader must understand his or her employees at a higher level than we do today, and be more considerate towards their preferences – if they fail on this the employee find other challenges – the workforce is global and extremely dynamic today so the war for talent will intensify.