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Winning the Hearts and Minds of Future Leaders

· Leadership,Tim Noonan,Tim Noonan Lockton,Entrepreneurship

Among your company’s constituencies is the crucial segment of next-generation talent. 

Today, your company’s success is measured by more than its financial statement. A healthy bottom line is simply the baseline upon which other yardsticks are stacked.

It’s part of a “people first” philosophy that companies are being encouraged to adopt – not to the exclusion of profitability, but as a precursor to it. As Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has said, “When it comes to business success, it is all about people, people, people.”

If that sounds overly inclusive, it’s meant to. While the internet has extended a company’s reach far and wide, it has also spawned review sites that invite anyone with a smartphone to praise or protest how a company delivers on its mission. And, with Glassdoor and other sites posting insider compliments and complaints about a firm’s performance, little of what happens in a company is likely to stay in the company.

This alignment to people-first business culture has been in the works for years, but it got a big boost during the pandemic. Then, with so many sent home to work under lockdown, the isolation brought personal reflection and life perspective. The result has been something LinkedIn calls the “Great Reshuffle.”

In a 2022 LinkedIn report on changes in the field of Learning and Development (L&D), its data suggests that “individuals are prioritizing flexibility and fulfillment [and] Organizations are reexamining business strategies, workforce models, values, and culture — often steered by new demands from employees themselves.” 

Circles of Concern

It’s no exaggeration to say that, while employees are first among the “people first” constituencies, there are many other groups to be considered. Picture concentric rings rippling out from that center core of full-time employees. There’s contract labor and consultants, vendors and suppliers, clients and customers, and members of the community in which your business is located.

Further out are the groups that, while not engaged directly, may raise issues or offer informed public opinions that – positively or negatively – impact your reputation. These include industry colleagues and competition, government agencies and their representatives, and last but not least the traditional as well as social media.

However, staff and management remain within the bull’s eye.

“Employees come first,” Branson added. “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” This is embedded in our culture at Lockton, and it is one of many ways that we offer “client-first” services and solutions. 

A Ring for Future Leaders

There is another group of key individuals, mingled among the rings, who have the potential to make the greatest long-term impact on your business. They are the next generation groundbreakers, your industry’s up-and-coming stars. These include talented young men and women you really want on your team … and really don’t want on a competitor’s team.

Today these candidates are Gen Zs (born 1981 through 1996, according to Pew Research) and to a lesser degree the older Millennials (1997-2012). Research shows they are looking to join a company dedicated to people-first practices of diversity and inclusion, fair compensation, flexible scheduling and support for education and advancement. However, according to “The Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey,” they want to be part of an enterprise that, for example, prioritizes mental health and well-being and promotes environmentally sustainable choices within its operation and its choice of business partners.

“They press their employers to tackle climate change, particularly when it comes to efforts they can get directly involved in. … And they have inspired organizations to take action to address workplace mental health challenges,” the report states.

Adopting a corporate philosophy and practice of this nature can’t be done by press release fiat. It takes time and investment. But, as the research suggests, it is a wave of the future and the tide doesn’t look likely to turn back. How your company is perceived across a wide range of socially based, humanitarian and global concerns may continue to be of make-or-break importance to the best candidates for your leadership and management teams.

As Davis Smith, Founder & CEO of Cotopaxi Pacific U.S., told YPO earlier this year, “I’m a big believer that business leaders have a responsibility to find a way to think differently about capitalism. What should it look like 100 years from now? How can we do it better? How do we create a movement around business as a force for good where we’re using profits not to just enrich shareholders, but to focus on stakeholders — stakeholders being everyone that lives on this planet?”

Many believe the answer begins with people, first.

 

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