Thanks to the Great Resignation, employers got their first inkling of what employees would no longer tolerate in the workplace. And whoever failed to heed that warning was floored by the next shockwave, the labor shortage.
Correction: The “labor shortage” is actually a staffing struggle. There are plenty of people of all ages able to work, they’re just reluctant to relinquish their time and effort to people who don’t appreciate them.
The problem is, before the pandemic, many companies thought of employees as an unlimited resource that they could burn and churn their way through and there would always be more. In the aftermath of the pandemic, they’ve learned how wrong they were.
A Fresh Start with Gen Z
Within these next few years, Gen Z college graduates like Aidan Gran, son of Work Excellence CEO Steve Gran, will become approximately a third of the workforce. It’s an opportunity to start afresh, adapting your business model to the expectations of a new workforce.
But it’s hard to shed old habits. Aidan, who since joined his father at Work Excellence, can shed some insight on that. “I was at a freight company,” said Aidan, where “being young and very new in a position,” he admitted, “you’re not asked for ideas. They pretty much want you to just do what you’re told.”
Aidan, however, is not just any entry-level employee. He had been raised “on the same page;” namely, Work Excellence. “Throughout my time in high school and college, said Aidan, “my Dad had me help him with various projects, like building page sets for subject-matter experts, doing industry research, or engaging in workshops. I had experience with the Work Excellence method before I got work experience through internships in college and jobs after college.” As such, he has posed these areas of improvement, starting with the most urgent, to help woo and retain Gen Z talents to your organization:
1. Do You Have an Onboarding Process for New Employees?
“One of the biggest problems for new employees,” said Aidan, is onboarding.” In some companies, management thinks of “onboarding” as an HR department dog-and-pony show. In fact, HR regards its responsibility as making workers aware of their rights and company rules and benefits, and it leaves actual job training to the other departments.
The most common method of haphazard training is trailing one of the more competent employees. As people who have been trained in this manner are aware, watching someone do something without knowing why can be intensely frustrating. It can lead to, as Aidan put it, “Speaking out of emotion: ‘I feel that this is fine, but you’re telling me it’s not, and now I’m defensive.’
“What makes the Work Excellence method so effective,” said Aidan, “is it provides a baseline structure and removes the emotions from situations where people might be defensive. When you get everybody on the same page, you can clear up misunderstandings a lot faster.”
2. Do You Know What’s Going On in Your Own Company?
As a result of getting on the same page, you may learn a lot about how your company functions… that is, actually quite important. For example, a conventional management attitude is that if we can get through the issues caused by the pandemic, we can get back to normal.
Back at the freight company, “I was probably working 11-hour days on the first shift,” said Aidan. “People would say, ‘It’s COVID. Once we get back to normal, it is all going to be all right.”
Aidan then advanced to operations supervisor, where he ran the inbound dock. Using his Work Excellence perspective, “I built a work system: Say a truck got dispatched to us from another terminal. It arrives at our terminal, we get it to the dock, open the doors, unload the freight onto the dock and load it up to other trailers. At the end of the day, the dock’s clear.
“I laid out the whole operation in the work system and presented it to my boss. I put my thoughts down on paper about what my job entailed and rated all these steps green, yellow, and red, which translated to ‘fine, needs improvement, and warning.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. Let’s talk about that later.’
“Three weeks went by, and he’d forgotten about it. In the meantime, “our trailers were breaking down, and we didn’t have enough equipment for drivers to go out into the city. All of a sudden, we get hit with a huge wave of freight, and we don’t have the equipment. Our system is bogged down for two weeks after that, and then we’re losing money on that side of things.”
Nobody likes to get blindsided. Not the investors, not the C-suite, and not the frontline workers who depend on their jobs the most.
As management, you are committed to your company’s success. But when everyone in the company is on the same page, everyone – including you – gets the support they need to recognize and fix issues before they turn into big problems.
3. Can You Use Listening FTW?
Gen Z is coming into your company and looking at it with fresh eyes. They may see things that your more experienced workers are missing. Can you afford to shut out their observations?
Depending on how long your company has been in business, it may have a lot of duplications and artifacts in its workings. Experienced staff may get defensive about their procedures. In fact, you could have a fight on your hands. “From a traditional mindset,” Aidan observed, “when someone brings issues up, it seems like they’re attacking the boss, because the boss’s actions (or lack of) have created that environment. They’ll be defensive.”
With the Work Excellence method, all members of the organization get “on the same page to analyze and evaluate their functions. What seems to be lacking so much in businesses today,” he observed, is that the structure of the professional environment is not really visible to everybody. By getting everyone on the same page, Aidan maintains, everyone can get something out of it, because Work Excellence is a visual thinking system.”
The transparency fostered by the method, said Aidan, “eliminates a lot of the conversations that are misguided, a lot of the meetings that are misguided, and a lot of misguided effort due to lack of direction, lack of clarity, lack of information.” Most importantly, it provides a written blueprint for everyone in the organization to follow.
In today’s economy, being able to point to any job in the organization and know what that employee is doing and how they perceive their place in the organization is valuable knowledge. As the workforce reshapes itself in the coming years, knowing how to reach and understand your workers can help with future success.