No Playbook: Leading Through Uncertainty
November 6, 2020
Changes in the workplace have been accelerated by the pandemic and the ongoing reckoning on race. Organizations are dealing with emboldened employees who are leveraging their voices to speak up about inequities in the workplace and in society. This has expanded the role and tasks of CEOs and other c-suite executives. A primary focus on quarterly earnings is no longer enough. Employees as well as customers expect leaders to be champions for inclusion and diversity and to communicate their personal and organizational point of view on some of the most pressing issues of today: race, gender, economic disparities, challenges facing the LGBTQ community, immigration and more. And as Generation Z enters the workforce, employers must have programs and policies in place to attract and retain talent who expects more of companies and its leaders.
- David Barrett, Founder & CEO, Expensify
- Aparna Joshi, Ph.D., Arnold Family Professor of Management, Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University
- Shelly McNamara, Chief Equality & Inclusion Officer and Executive Vice President, P&G
- Phillip Youmans, Award-winning Filmmaker
Below are some highlights from the event.
Click here to access videos of the sessions.
Speaking Out at All Cost: David Barrett, founder and CEO of Expensify, said being a values-oriented organization prompted him to email the company’s 10 million users urging them to vote for Joe Biden in the U.S. presidential election to defend democracy. “The point was to do something to try to make the world a better place and get this message out that democracy is under attack and it’s on us as citizens to do something about it,” he said.
Barrett was prepared for possible backlash from customers, but has been surprised by the uptick in traffic to its jobs portal. “I don’t know that it had a huge impact on the business from a revenue or customer perspective, but it has certainly had a huge impact from a recruiting perspective,” he observed.
What Gen Z Wants: Creating the Inclusive Work Environment of the Future: Generation Z – people born after 1997 – are beginning to enter the workforce. Besides being compensated well, Gen Z expects an inclusive work environment and to work for an employer that is socially responsible. Gen Z wants to be seen, heard and respected, said Phillip Youmans, an award-winning filmmaker and GenZer. “We also look at our lives in a less rigidly structured way in a way that I think is more beneficial to our mental wellbeing,” Youmans said.
However, this growing segment of the workforce is not a monolithic group according to Aparna Joshi, Ph.D., Arnold Family Professor of Management, Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University. She said her students are very engaged in diversity and inclusion and have an awareness of social justice causes. She warned that “dominant groups” can be resistant to societal changes desired by Generation Z. “Although there is a greater need to be involved in allyship and in social justice causes, there are pockets of resistance at all levels.” Dr. Joshi said there is a growing tendency to go back to traditional values or most socially conservative norms to deal with the changing uncertainty of the workplace and the world in general.
Everyone in an organization must be on board to achieve equality and inclusion in the multigenerational workforce. Shelly McNamara, Chief Equality & Inclusion Officer and Executive Vice President at P&G said the “dominant culture” must be included in the conversation to learn, grown and contribute as well. Hard work is required to improve representation and other articulated outcomes. McNamara said it’s not just words, but an “aspiration with action.” Then you have to create plans and objectives that are met when there is “intentionality and specificity.”
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