Would You Apply for Your Current Job? Improve Your Organisation, for Yourself.
There is no shortage of articles, blogs, surveys and talks about how to improve your organisation. They all make arguments for why you should make such improvements – to attract more millennials, accelerate digitalisation, compete in a global environment. . .and dozens of other goals. Those are all absolutely valid reasons for investing in change. Let me propose another one – you.
Why you should improve your organisation until it’s the place you want to work in.
There’s a lot of focus right now on how we need to change corporate culture, hiring practices, communication styles and organisational structures. But it seems to always be justified by why someone else wants it – frankly how new (read: younger) employees will expect modernisation of the way companies do business to reflect their values. However, I believe that a lot of the current decision makers right now should make these changes for themselves, because it reflects their own values. I’m thinking specifically of Generation X leadership because they are already more than 50% of the CEOs in the Fortune 500 and they are an important bridge generation that can move us from where we were to where we are going.
Your playlist might be all 80s. Your values are 2021. “[They] are generally immune to prejudice and hatred. Raised in a diverse culture and more dependent on peer groups than family units for support, they are accepting of differences in race, ethnicity, national origin, family structures, and lifestyles.” This statement was written in 1993. About Gen X.
The values that receive so much emphasis right now aren’t actually some special currency of Gens Y and Z. That’s not to take anything away from the important contributions they’re making to reshaping the way we do business – in fact, I think their numbers have helped amplify and make imperative some changes. But that’s different from saying only they are equipped to affect the change. Do we need more diversity? Yes, we do. And while Gen Z might be the most diverse generation in the U.S. now, Gen X was the first generation to grow up in a non-segregated America. They repeatedly have been found to value diversity in surveys about what is important to them. They fully appreciate the values of equality and can lead efforts to realise those values in the workplace.
And diversity is just one example. You can find similar statements with regard to Gen X about the environment, about corporate responsibility, about the role of technology. The ability to lead these conversations and ask the right questions is completely within the skillset of current leadership. In other words, you, like, totally can do this.
If you’re in charge, you can change. At the same time, there are opportunities to update the narrative of what life at work should look like when it comes to ways to improve your organisation. Gen X does need to recognise when the recording in their head is still playing of how to act at work, as told to them by Boomer and Silent managers. Now they are managing generations Y and Z who resist older versions of what ‘appropriate’ looks like. So they are constraining themselves, while having little ability to contain younger generation workers around them. Instead, Gen X can lean into the lack of formality that is now acceptable to benefit themselves. They can drop the Zoom background if they want to. They can openly prioritise personal commitments. They can – and I’d say should – find room for themselves in the ways that the workplace has evolved. And they can do so on their terms, because increasingly, they are the boss. Gen X has the managerial power to make these decisions and change the environment they’re in.
These unusual times create an opportunity to improve your organisation.
Now more than ever you can make changes, because the pandemic has made us question everything we thought was important, or unchangeable, or the best way to do things. We are all more open to almost everything. Without Covid, Gen X might have thought they can’t change these things, but now it’s an opportunity to transition to a different type of experience. You never would have had the chance to promote the idea of fully remote work, or casual dress, or virtual interactions. They say never waste a good crisis. As part of leadership, you control the lens, and that’s powerful. As we recreate what the work experience is going to be like, you as a Gen x leader should know now is the time to say what you want about it.
Robert Kovach is an advisor to leadership teams of Fortune 500, FTSE 100, and FTSE Global 500 companies on driving business strategy through executive leadership and team effectiveness. The opinions expressed in this blog are his own. Contact him for speaking inquiries.