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Calling The Shots: Here's How (And Why) You Should Help Gen Z And Millennial Workers Be Their Own Bosses We need to rethink how companies define roles themselves for a new generation and the future of work.

By Mohammad Osama

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Worn out cliches aside, time has seen the millennial generation and Gen Zs grow up steeped in a culture that heavily promotes their own wants over the needs of society or authorities. Rather than churn out a set of selfishly entitled workers, this movement has a positive effect in promoting more creativity, innovation, and independent thinking. But the impact on the workforce is clearer to see now. Millennials have left behind what they perceive to be the stifling nature of a typical corporate environment in order to venture into the world of entrepreneurial startups, bringing with them Gen Z colleagues, and before we know it, the "alphas" are behind them as well.

The "tiki-taka" approach in soccer made famous by Lionel Messi's Barcelona was widely lauded as a gamechanging philosophy, but critics pointed out that you also have to have the players to execute it. Similarly, navigating the future of the workforce is crucial, and changes have to be made to accommodate, but none of it is possible without the right people and the right leadership. The art of attracting them -and developing the capability to attract them- is key, but then, we need to give them space to soar and empower them to lead and build projects in their areas of expertise.

The facts are clear- Gen Zs are expressing their freedom to choose by leaving jobs after a much shorter tenure. As the CEO of organizational capability consultancy GRG, I've seen this consistently from Gen Zs- indeed, their most commonplace grievances are that they are not able to have an impact, or that they are not given a platform to express their ideas. The bottom line: people want to be their own bosses, and call the shots. The challenges for both generations are different. Those that quit corporate jobs to take a stab at a startup are taking a hefty gamble, as 80-90% of startups fail– indeed, in our role as headhunters, we regularly encounter millennials looking to get back into the job market after an unsuccessful venture. Meanwhile, the regular job-hoppers actually hinder their chances at real job satisfaction, as it often takes a while to truly understand the inner workings of a business, and therefore, be able to contribute anything of real value.

So, what's the solution? I believe that we need to rethink how companies define roles themselves for a new generation and the future of work. Job roles should be defined with a greater emphasis on the final outcome, rather than on the day-to-day tasks. And those outcomes should be more long-term and directional in nature, rather than arbitrary numbers. But we wouldn't propagate this belief without testing it out for ourselves, and at GRG, we did.

Five years ago, we completely abolished the traditional recruitment key performance indicators (KPIs), which are currently the cornerstone of all major recruitment companies. These weekly indicators were replaced with long-term directional progress-based goals, coupled with guidelines based on personal learnings and experiences, rather than textbook recruitment and search rules. Often, these were even tailored to suit the individual employee's personality and natural strengths. Essentially, we created an entrepreneurial environment in the workplace.

Related: Work Vs. Wanderlust: The Two Don't Always Have To Be At Odds With Each Other

In a nutshell, we gave them the trust and space to conduct their business as independent entrepreneurs. They are fully empowered to manage their own agenda, define their own ambitions, build their own teams, and execute their own ideas– all geared towards the company's vision. We find that autonomy motivates people to work harder and more creatively.

However, we also provided all the things that tend to be lacking in failed startups, such as resources, ideas based on real lessons from past experiences, opportunities to discuss ideas with other intelligent minds in the business, and, of course, the mainstream support functions of finances, human resources, leadership training, logistics, information technology, legal, regulatory, and admin teams. What did we see on the business end? Innovative ways of serving our customers better, unprecedented business contracts and solutions, and constantly evolving business methodologies tailored to evolving individual client needs.

As for what did we see in terms of results, we enjoyed revenue growth of 500% (a three-year comping annual growth rate of 74%) after going through a decade of virtually no growth (2011-2020) in a highly competitive industry. We also quadrupled our headcount; 95% of whom are Gen Zs and millennials. Effectively, we became the largest independently owned executive search and recruitment business in the Middle East- and all of this with no external funding in the form of debt or equity.

To sum up, the dynamic shifts in the workforce propelled by the millennial generation and Gen Zs are undeniable. With a desire for autonomy and impact, these workers gravitate towards entrepreneurial ventures, and traditional corporate structures face the challenge of adaptation. The solution lies in redefining roles with a focus on long-term outcomes and providing the freedom and resources for individuals to thrive.

At GRG, we've embraced this philosophy wholeheartedly, abandoning conven- tional KPIs in favor of empowering our team members as entrepreneurs within our organization. The results speak volumes: exponential growth as well as original solutions. This journey underscores the importance of trust, autonomy, and a commitment to fostering innovation- as we no doubt face further shifts and changes faster than ever, agility is crucial. Businesses must remember that the true essence of leadership lies in empowering others to unleash their full potential, driving not only organizational success, but also personal fulfillment- an imperative for the modern workforce.

Related: Cracking The Code: Leveraging Gen Z's Strengths In The Workplace

Mohammad Osama is the CEO of GRG, an organizational capability consultancy built on delivering impact. Over the past decade, the GRG team has grown from its roots in the GCC to become the region’s largest independently owned recruitment and executive search firm.


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