How to encourage loyalty from a younger workforce

Youth Day is an apt time to focus on the importance of the youth to our country, and reflect on how businesses can ensure a positive and enriching future for this generation in the corporate world.

However, the findings of the recent 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey reflect a very different reality, where most companies are viewed as failing miserably at fulfilling their societal and ethical roles, and are seen as being solely motivated by profit. This is quite worrying, especially as millennials are considered to be the largest generation ever to enter the workforce and are now taking up positions of influence and leadership within businesses.

Millennials are ‘disillusioned and uneasy’

The recent 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, which was the seventh such study to be conducted by Deloittes in as many years, surveyed the opinions of 10,455 millennials across 36 countries, including South Africa. All of those surveyed had full-time jobs, and were predominately employed by large companies from the private sector. Significantly, for the first time, the research also included nearly 1,900 respondents from Generation Z, the ‘new millennials’, who were born between 1995 and 1999.

Deloitte’s study revealed both generations to be generally disillusioned and uneasy. These generations believe that corporates have fallen short of their expectations in many ways, which does not bode well for cultivating company loyalty and encouraging productivity among younger employees. Forty-three percent of millennials see themselves leaving their jobs within two years and only 28% envision staying with their current company for more than five years. The Gen Z respondents who were employed showed even less loyalty – 61% of them want to find work elsewhere within the next two years. Millennials currently make up the biggest percentage of the workforce, and Gen Z will also soon be a force to be reckoned with in the world of work, so their satisfaction with the companies that employ them is critical for business success and continuity.

Inspiring millennial loyalty through continuous learning opportunities

One of the ways that organisations can encourage millennials to be loyal to them is through ensuring that they are regularly given opportunities to stretch themselves. Forty-eight percent of this generation put opportunities for continuous learning as an important item on their ‘Ideal Company to Work for’ Wish List. In addition, 81% of millennials believe that continuous professional development and self-paced learning will ensure they perform at their best in their job and keep pace with the changes that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will continue to bring.  However, a mere 36% of millennial respondents believed their employers were helping them prepare for this evolution.

In order to prioritise a culture of continuous learning in companies, it is vital that these organisations adopt a growth mindset, and encourage all of their employees, regardless of generation, to do the same. The concept of the growth mindset was developed from the research of psychologist Carol Dweck, who called this “the new psychology of success”. This approach, which is based on recent breakthroughs in neuroscience and neuroplasticity, maintains that people can continuously develop and even transform their capabilities. This is in direct contrast to the belief that a person’s ability is static and cannot be changed. Therefore, when a company adopts a growth mindset, the emphasis is more on improving and developing skills.

How the growth mindset can be a differentiator for employers

The challenge remains, however, that traditional learning environments and organisations place an emphasis on the fixed mindset, and it is this belief that informs how we traditionally hire, fire, and reward talent within compaies. With a fixed mindset, companies often focus on looking smart, acting like a natural, and ignoring difficulty. However, when companies adopt a growth mindset, we know that our ability can be developed, so we focus on working hard to learn, and learning from mistakes. Organisations that can foster a growth mindset can expect higher levels of engagement, resilience, innovation, and performance.

In addition, this growth mindset approach regards ‘failures’ as opportunities to learn and improve. Removing that anxiety around failing means that employees have the freedom to challenge themselves on a regular basis, inevitably resulting in more innovation and collaboration. This is in stark contrast to having a fixed mindset culture in the workplace, where our talents are seen as innate traits measured by a pre-set standard.

To enhance more of a growth mindset among the newcomers to an organisation, companies should focus less on results, natural ability and performance ratings. Rather, organisations should instead focus on growth and learning, and highlight development and progress, not only performance and results. Because an organisation’s culture consists of what that company rewards and recognises, when the focus shifts from employees proving themselves to developing themselves, the company can enhance how employees face change and challenges within the workplace.

Taking the growth mindset past the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Millennials and Gen Z believe that companies are not doing enough to prepare them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and a significant number of them plan to leave their companies as a result. If more SA companies can join larger corporates, such as Microsoft, in applying a growth mindset in terms of how we recognise and develop our talent, we will be better prepared to navigate change and uncertainty. This is because it conveys the message that we are all – both businesses and employees – learning and developing. It is only this continual development that will enable our success and survival – both businesses and employees – past the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Rob Jardine is the Head, Research and Solutions at The NeuroLeadership Institute South Africa.

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