7 Keys to Leading the Emerging Workforce

Published: Aug 23, 2017
Modified: May 18, 2020

By Mary Kelly

It doesn’t take a high-priced consultant to tell you that the workforce is changing. Business leaders cannot rely on outdated information and tools to manage the emerging workforce. Serious changes are taking place, and it requires serious action on the part of employers and managers to stay ahead of the shift.

To adapt to the changing workforce, especially with the advent of Millennials, leaders have to understand what employees want from their employer, their industry, and their career. Increasingly, employees want the following:

  • Collaboration that makes the bigger picture more evident
  • A sense of purpose that gives them meaning in their work
  • Education and training to become skilled in various aspects of their job
  • A flexible schedule and flexibility with their time
  • Opportunities to make a difference in the company and the world
  • Ability to work remotely, from home or a rented office space
  • Ability to live wherever they want and have no commute
  • Work/life balance

Responding to the emerging workforce

Given these changes, leaders of the future workforce need to:

Recruit (and keep) top talent. Whether we like it or not, the labor pool has gone global. With so many companies offering virtual commute opportunities and remote employment, the workforce is not dependent upon keeping a job. Leaders have to be able to inspire talent so that they choose to follow.

Motivate employees. We may never meet our employees, but we still have to find a way to motivate them. Positive comments and genuine appreciation go a long way. Employees want to know their supervisors hear their concerns, listen to their ideas, and consider their opinions. Leaders need to develop ways to reach out to employees and make sure they know they are valued.

Focus employees on the vision and goals. Team members need to be crystal clear on the mission, vision, and goals that need to be accomplished. Workers who buy into the vision need less guidance and less supervision. They understand the importance of their contribution, and they have a reason to truly invest in their work and in you.

Hold employees accountable for outcomes. If your team feels like they’re getting the job done and nothing more, they aren’t going to stick around long term. They need to know the “why” behind what they’re doing, which increases the level of commitment and accountability. Leaders need to use systems where everyone can see what is due and when. Project management tools such as MeisterTask, Todoist, Centrallo, Pintask, and Trello are great now and will continue to evolve and provide greater functionality.

Build diverse teams across cultural and geographic boundaries. Our teams must include different thoughts, ideologies, backgrounds, and skills. If we are creating diverse products or servicing a diverse industry, we obviously benefit from a diverse team.

Create loyalty through teamwork. Leaders have to coalesce people into cohesive, functional teams. They need to work harder to communicate in a way that is tailored for each employee. Some current solutions include using a messenger app, such as GroupMe, where everyone can be in a chat together. It’s a good way to build rapport among team members and strengthen bonds.

Compensate fairly. Pay your top performers as much as you possibly can. This increases their motivation and loyalty, and they understand they are appreciated. Use objective data to determine what constitutes a fair, good, or excellent rate of pay. Do your best to stay on the upswing of the curve rather than in the bottom half.

About The Author

Mary Kelly, PhD, is the CEO of Productive Leaders, a firm dedicated to improving profit growth through leadership development. Kelly spent 25 years on active duty in the United States Navy, retiring as a commander. Her latest leadership book, authored with Peter B. Stark, Why Leaders Fail and the 7 Prescriptions for Success (Bentley Press, 2016), is being used in nine countries. Kelly can be found at [email protected]