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The right balance: Bridging the generation gap and growing a business

Nigel’s bio Nigel Kirkham has spent the last 30+ years driving growth in major global businesses. A strong, transformative Chief Growth Officer, he brings a Big 6 Consulting Partner background as well as large-scale BPO and outsource business experience. A blend of strong business acumen and C-level operating experience help deliver high revenue growth and business expansion. His most recent positions include TMF Group, the global Financial Services business where he sat on the ExCo as Chief Client Officer; Avanade, the JV between Accenture and Microsoft, a global tech giant and largest implementor of Microsoft technology in the world, where he was Global Head of Sales; CSC (Computer Science Corporation), the tech giant (now DXC Technology), where he ran several Industry Verticals, including Financial Services, Retail & Consumer Goods, Transport and Technology. Prior to this he ran Xansa’s consulting business in the US, where he was based in New York. He also spent 12 years in KPMG Management Consulting, the last 5 years as a Partner in KPMG Consulting in the UK. In this role he also spent c 4 years in the Middle East, setting up and running KPMG’s business in the Lower Gulf, where he was based in Abu Dhabi. Outside of work, he spends his time between houses in Hampshire and Cornwall in the UK, with his partner Daisy. His son Toby works as an Account Executive for Sony Entertainment, and his daughter Milly has recently started a Graduate Management Training programme with tech giant DXC Technologies.

Gen Z has a different approach to work, which is clear from ongoing discussions about topics like quiet quitting and flexible working. One of the main distinctions of their work values is how they define and pursue quality of work.  

In a world where skill shortages are still being felt across multiple sectors, it’s crucial that we tackle these generational differences. It is essential that businesses adapt and create a workplace that is attractive to all generations, instead of amplifying the gap. However, the reality companies are currently facing is that it can be challenging to satisfy the emerging workforce. Additionally, a recent survey* found that organisations are prioritising business growth (40%) and cost management (39%) rather than talent management (18%) in 2024, highlighting that many businesses are balancing cost and efficiency concerns with their need to attract and retain new talent. 

So, how can businesses narrow the generational conflict gap while prioritising growth?
One of the first changes you can make to your business is making sure that the work and office culture is inclusive. Creating an environment where employees can comfortably have open discussions is crucial. Review your DE&I strategy and make sure it is up to standard. Taking these steps will help to set expectations while making sure your employees know you’re making yourself accountable, that you’re committing equal time and focus to each member of the team with routinely appraisals and actively discouraging a ‘them and us’ culture.  

Encouraging personal growth amongst your employees and allowing them to feel confident in their role is important to reduce the number of resignations. The key to this will be encouraging your employees to develop a growth mindset and help them to always be on the lookout for new opportunities to enhance their skills. Upskilling is not only beneficial to employees but also to the organisation. This also applies to new hires; a well-structured onboarding system will help the newcomer keep on track and feel as though they can grow in their new workplace.

Communication is always key. Make sure you are asking plenty of questions to your employees on how they feel about the office environment and workplace culture. The feedback you collect can be used to challenge your unconscious bias and cultural gap, such as assuming Gen Z employees would prefer instant messaging than an in-person meeting. Also, make sure that you’re fostering a psychologically safe environment in which they feel confident to share concerns or ideas, as this may impact how comfortable different people are talking about certain topics at work. Encourage your team to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, creating a safe space in which they can challenge their unconscious bias. 

Finally, being adaptable is crucial. Does your business and senior leadership team take an agile and adaptable approach? Combine flexible thinking with good planning to ensure you have multiple strategies in place for achieving objectives, and always have several potential solutions. In the ever-changing world of work, taking the steps now to devise contingency plans will help your business to navigate new challenges. 

The world of work is ever-changing, and soon Gen Z will soon be joined by yet another new generation entering the workforce. What this generational gap highlights are the businesses and leadership’s willingness to listen and adapt according to evolving needs. 

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