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Chief talent officer at Bank of Montreal

If you’re reading this at work, look across your office. One thing that’s hopefully not surprising is how many younger employees are making up your ranks.

We’re in the midst of a generational shift as baby boomers move toward retirement and the next generation of team members are here and knocking at the door. By 2020, Gen Z is going to make up roughly 20 per cent of the work force, and by 2025 it’s expected that millennials will make up nearly 75 per cent of the work force. At Bank of Montreal alone, millennials already account for over 40 per cent of our team members.

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Not only will younger Canadians make up the bulk of the work force, they will also account for the largest chunk of any organization’s customer base. Organizations need to understand how to attract, retain and inspire this group. Also, they need to learn as much as they can from this younger cohort to ensure they stay ahead of continually evolving customer expectations.

To achieve this, they first need to figure out how to get them engaged.

To attract younger talent, challenge them

Work has changed. A lot. If you look back even just 10 years, we now have roles that didn’t even exist and new technologies in the workplace that better support collaboration and remote working. The traditional work model is all but over and done with.

So, too, is the traditional path to progressing along a career. It’s not just about the time that’s spent in a role. It is about the skills and capabilities that someone has. I’ve seen a number of leading organizations take this approach (my own company is doing the same thing). Team members with the right skills need and want to have new challenges and opportunities. Getting them engaged in different projects and across teams will make them more well-rounded with a better understanding of the entire organization; it will also get them more invested in their careers.

Being inclusive is the only way to win

Millennials and Gen Z are looking for different things from the companies that they choose to join. While salary will always be a consideration, what’s far more important is an organization’s approach to diversity and inclusion (D&I). According to a Deloitte study, over 78 per cent of both millennials and Gen Z think business success has to come down to more than financial performance; they list D&I as a key objective. They want a workplace where people can bring and share different ideas and perspectives and where opportunities are equal for all.

Getting these younger Canadians engaged at work is the first step, and organizations can get there by offering opportunities to challenge and grow team members and by creating an inclusive culture. But it’s their point of view and skill sets that can help an organization stay ahead of customer expectations and create a top-notch customer experience.

Co-creation

In just one year, millennials and Gen Z will make up over 60 per cent of the global population. While Gen Z is said to have an eight-second filter, I’d say that younger Canadians altogether are looking to do away with the word “wait.” Customer experience is being defined by major technology companies and the expectation from customers is that every experience with every organization they interact with gives them the same great experience. Instead of trying to figure out how to reach these consumers, why aren’t organizations looking across their work force?

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Millennials and Gen Z spend multiple, dedicated hours online each day. Companies need to start tapping into these younger perspectives. I’ve seen organizations starting to implement ideation challenges – where employees are asked to submit ideas on topics and then colleagues vote and comment on the idea with one eventually getting implemented into the business – which is a good first step. I think it’s crucial that we do a better job listening and getting buy-in right from the beginning. Last year, we introduced a voice-enabled skill for Amazon Alexa. This was exciting to bring to customers but, for me, one of the greatest things about the launch was how our digital team worked side-by-side with our summer students to help lead on the project. Getting their perspective from day one helped us tap into what they’re looking for from a voice-enabled service and how we could use it to create another digital channel for customers to interact with us.

Feedback loop

Millennials and Gen Z look for and want feedback. They want feedback on their performance (a lot of it), on major projects, and on daily and weekly tasks. This presents a good opportunity for organizations to tailor how they measure performance. But it’s also a good opportunity to tap into the feedback loop – as much as they’re looking for feedback, they are also willing to give it.

Think about how quickly millennials and Gen Z will share an experience online about a brand. Give them a voice in a public forum to express their feedback. I’ve really been impressed with organizations that are able to draw out insights from their employee base and get feedback on how something might resonate. User-experience testing is one of the best ways organizations can do this. With digitally native groups such as millennials and Gen Z, there is a great opportunity to tap into their views on mobile apps and online experiences – really, all things digital. It’s what we’ve been doing and it helps make sure the experience is seamless and easy for customers.

Your biggest consumer base is sitting next to you. Now’s the time to engage them and listen.

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