New Leadership for a Changing Workforce

Guest post from Warren Wright:
If
you’re hiring and leading a team of freshly-minted college graduates, you may
be noticing some differences in their behavior and preferences compared to
previous graduates. That’s because they’re from a new generation—we are calling
them Second-Wave Millennials
(Second-Wavers). The fact is, they still share many of the same traits as their
older counterparts (First-Wave Millennials)—raised to feel special, high
achieving, tech-savvy, but Second-Wavers (born 1995 – 2004) have some distinct
differences that are making managers sit up and take notice.
Who Are Second-Wavers
and How Did They Get That Way
Second-Wavers
are mostly children of GenXers, as opposed to First-Wavers who were mostly
children of Boomers. Both generations were raised with strong parental guidance
and involvement in their lives. But while the Boomer parents were perfecting
hovering like a helicopter, GenX parents were more likely to be the lawnmower
parents who mowed down every obstacle that lay in their child’s path so a clear
and clean path toward their future could be followed.
Furthermore,
the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 assured that over 70% of Second-Wavers
were streaming and chatting from mobile devices before they reached puberty. This
brought them the tools to express themselves as individuals and they were
exposed to brands that marketed to them as
individuals
.
This
combination of attachment parenting, digital sophistication toward the
individual, and placing more value on the importance of social and emotional
learning as well as a broad cultural shift toward making a difference in
people’s lives has dramatically shifted these Second-Wavers’ priorities.
The Three P’s of
Second-Wave Leadership
So,
how do leaders practically manage this new batch of workers in the workplace,
and what do these Second-Wavers need from an employer? As a GenXer myself, I
like to keep things simple and make my recommendations memorable. So, for these
Second-Wavers, I’d recommend focusing on the three P’s: Personal Attention,
Professional Development, and Purpose.
Personal Attention
From
Facebook pages to Twitter handles to Instagram posts, Second-Wavers have always
had the tools to create and curate their own brand. Yes, like a snowflake, they
are their own person—unique and special. Ironically, they are extremely
collaborative, but they still require hands-on individualized attention when it
comes to their career path and goals. Consulting firm PwC has a unique approach
to this issue. They assign every new hire with a team of three different mentor
types: An on-boarding ambassador—who gets you up to speed on how things work at
the firm, a Relationship Leader—who provides direction in your career, and
finally, a Career Coach, who is there to manage you in the moment—they call it managing
real-time, or play-by-play. Companies would be well served by following PwC’s
lead.
Professional
Development
This
is a big one. From a very early age, Second-Wavers were conditioned to plan for
their future and gaining skills has always been a priority. After all, in video
games, they get badges, gold stars, and rewards for getting to the next level!
They are hungry for professional development, and in fact, according to
Deloitte, the #1 reason they would leave a company is because of lack of
professional development.  In my
experience, the development they need most is in soft skills, not hard skills.
Soft skills like critical thinking, communication, and social
interaction—things we older generations take for granted, are simply not taught
in college or acculturated at home. 8+ hours of screen time a day has an effect
on in-person interaction, and believe it or not, this is area of growth for
these Second-Wavers.
Purpose
After
observing focus groups of Second-Wavers, one thing really stands out: They want
to know not just what to do and how to do it, but why. I like to say that ‘why’ is the new ‘what’ for Second-Wavers.
This is an extremely purpose-driven generation—one that we have not seen since
the GI or Greatest Generation who worked on mission-driven projects like saving
the world from a fascist scourge. Research consistently shows that this generation
is more mindful of the products they buy and services they use gives back to
the community. Money is important to them for sure (especially with their high
debt load), but mission is still #1.
And
not only do they want their work to make a difference to the world, they want
to know how their work fits into the bigger workflow picture. For example, if
they are updating a database, they want to know—where does their update go? Who
uses it next? How does this contribute overall to the company’s mission?
Finally, They’re Worth
The Investment
My
last point about Second-Wavers is that they bring skills to the workplaces that
have been lost by older generations. From an early age, they’ve been immersed
in social and emotional learning techniques that, when used properly, can
really bring people together into a more effective team dynamic. But you have
to give them a chance. They’re smart (best educated generation is US history),
they’re techno-gurus who have solutions you have not even thought of, and they
are committed and loyal… as long as you are committed and loyal to them.
Part
of being a great leader is adapting to change. Second-Wavers represent a new
shift in behaviors and priorities, so this is a good time to press the reset
button on how you lead. 
Warren Wright is author of Second-Wave Millennials: Tapping the
Potential of America’s Youth
. He is Founder and CEO of Second Wave
Learning
, a talent development company that helps companies attract
and retain newly-hired Millennials in the workplace.