For new generations of professionals to be able to add their talents to the workplace and play their role in business, we need to address the gap - namely how workplace expectations and behaviours have changed.
In this article (part three of four), we will look at the changes in society and in business that have influenced the workplace (part 1. and 2.) and provide insights about what is needed to bridge the gap (part 3. and 4.)
Part 1. A generational gap and showing your true colours
Part 2. Business is becoming political and personal
Part 3. The missing elements
Part 4. A generation of action
Part 3. The missing elements
A new generation of employees is entering a working environment full of surprises and false promises. This can contribute to a feeling of cynicism and frustration, because inner needs and motivations aren't in line with reality.
There is something missing; namely, a healthy culture & relevant personal skills, jobs that underpin business purpose, and finally autonomy.
Healthy culture and relevant skills
One of the most important skills these young professionals need, but have rarely been trained in, is how to deal with the complexity of the business environment.
We need these and other skills to navigate the murky waters of bringing change to the workplace. Moreover, we need resilience and self-care to stay stable when confronting the power-struggles that come with driving change.
Some of the trends that illustrate the tensions we see within companies are:
The big leave – Easy resignation of young employees who are quitting for many reasons, among which climate quitting;
The big depression – Growing number mental health issues and burn-out casualties in all age groups;
The big wake-up – Critical assessment and due-diligence about who we do business with
The big polarization – Green and social responsibility within the organisations and the business community is becoming political
The big silence – resist - Don’t tell – go undercover
We tend to view the next generation as the frontrunners in our fight against climate and social injustice. The ones who will be able to drive systemic change. We need their knowledge, vision and experience of being digital natives and the lived experience of growing up with a looming climate crises. But who will teach them how to go forward? Who will teach them new leadership styles? How to address and change toxic cultures? How to choose value-driven over profit-driven cooperation? Probably not their bosses and older colleagues. They'll need some help.
Have a look at the 10 skills the World Economic Forum published as the most important skills for professionals in 2025. These skills include problem-solving, self-management, the use of technology and working with people. The skills that are important for the future have to do with analysing the present, defining the future and, being able to lead yourself and the others in a creative process towards a common goal. To stand firm in the firm, young professionals need to be savvy in these new leadership skills from day one.
A need for jobs with purpose and room for self-development
At the same time, we need to focus on evolving the relationships between employer and employee. Companies must see where they fit in to stay competitive as an employment alternative.
There are many developments in how work and gaining ones living will be organised. There are going to be many different potential relationships between companies, employees and income. New generations will look for what fits their values and needs.
Young professionals will create their own ecosystems if existing companies do not take their needs seriously.
Will professionals be:
>> dependent or independent;
>> self-employed, or employed;
>> distributed, decentralized or centralized working environment;
>> hybrid, remote or in person?
Different positions a future professional can choose from*:
Self-employed and independent; employees become individual hubs in networks of collective intelligence. They are connected through platforms, where access to knowledge and connections become assets. There is no hierarchy.
Employed and independent: employees become intrapreneurs with their own leadership and organising tasks in larger organisations, or they start working together as (internal) start-ups. There is a strong purpose and vision, but not a strong task-oriented hierarchy. Leadership, organising and creativity are the most important assets.
Self-employed and dependent; gig-workers are self-employed on paper, but paid by the ‘gig’ and dependent on the rules of the platform, this is a hierarchical relationship. Hip. Flexibility and efficiency are assets.
Employed and dependent; employees are part of a larger organisation with hierarchy/ top-down or multiple-cell character and control system. Loyalty and expertise are assets.
Entrepreneur: bringing new ideas into the world, making it happen. Start-up mindset, strong autonomy and conceptual skills.
*(based on own research, please add)
One thing is clear, the new generation of employees will be increasingly drawn towards jobs with purpose, autonomy and room for self-development. And these young professionals will create their own ecosystems if existing companies do not take their needs seriously.
Author: Véronique Swinkels.
Co-founder, trainer and coach at the Undercover Activist.