Ah, “Millennials” … whether you love them, love to hate ‘em, ARE one of them, or think the whole thing is a bunch of stereotypical bologna, they are certainly discussed a lot in today’s world of work. In this podcast episode, my guest, author, speaker, futurist, and workplace consultant and expert Alexandra Levit, shares her expertise from her best-selling books and consulting work to help us figure out how to lead them, or how to develop your career as a leader if you are one of them. She also discusses the next generation of workers – Gen Z, some fascinating workplace future trends (hello robots!) and what they might hold in store for us, and how to prepare ourselves to succeed in this new world order. And of course, we focus on making it a very actionable conversation with tips and advice you can use immediately after listening. So, take a listen, share with others, and don’t forget to give us an iTunes review and rating so more people can discover the show (THANKS in advance)!
What you'll learn:
What does being a futurist mean and involve? (Alex says anyone can do it) (4:39)
What did Alex notice was different about the Millennials before anyone else was even studying them? (5:40)
Is putting people into generational generalizations a type of discrimination or fair and helpful? Alex addresses this controversy (6:52)
Why is it important to understand the differences among the various generations in the workplace? (9:50)
What advice does Alex give for being a leader of Millennials? And what advice does she give for Millennials themselves who are current or aspiring leaders? (11:10)
What’s a surprising trend in the younger generation that goes against a common assumption about what they want? (11:43)
Why does the one-size-fits-all mentality not work for managing? (12:15)
Why you should take control of your own career and development (13:10)
What’s a significant impact that the Millennials have made? (15:28)
What does Alex suggest that managers and leaders do to deal with what’s perceived as impatience on the part of Millennials to move into promotions and new roles? (17:25)
What is a challenge that happens to Millennials because of the shift in demographics that instigates what Alex calls “The Peter Principle”? (17:30)
What’s Workforce 2030 and what should we know about the future as it pertains to leadership? (Hint: it involves robots…) (20:30) [Ha!! How funny is *this* synchronicity in the numbers?!)
Why does Alex love Gen Z? How will they be different in the workforce and what will leaders need to do to prepare for them? (22:32)
What is most energizing for Alex these days? She throws some important statistics out that you really need to know about! (25:19)
What’s the specific action Alex encourages you to take to taking your career success to a new level, get ready for the future, and be seen as an expert? (And what special challenge does Alex issue to you if you’re a Baby Boomer?) (28:40)
LEAVE A COMMENT: What have been your experiences with leading people from the younger generation, or developing your leadership skills if you're one of them? What are your reactions about this podcast episode? We’d love to know! Please leave a comment below.
Check out Alex's website: alexandralevit.com
Get Alex's books on Amazon, including They Don't Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something's Guide to the Business World and Blind Spots: 10 Business Myths You Can't Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success
Check out Devry University’s Career Advisory Board for the stats mentioned on job preparedness, job seekers, etc.
Alex mentioned The Peter Principle
At 27:03 Halelly mentions Frode Odegard and his work on Post-Lean Leadership. Check him out (and I hope to have him on the podcast soon…)
Download the 10 Mistakes Leaders Make and How to Avoid Them free tool!
Intro/outro music for The TalentGrow Show: "Why-Y" by Esta - a great band of exquisitely talented musicians, and good friends of Halelly's.
About Alexandra Levit
Alexandra Levit’s goal is to prepare organizations and their employees for meaningful careers in the future workplace. A former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and writer for the New York Times, Fast Company, and Forbes, Alexandra has authored several books, including the international bestseller They Don't Teach Corporate in College.
Alexandra recently became a partner with organizational development firm PeopleResults. She consults and writes on leadership development, human resources, entrepreneurship, career and workplace trends on behalf of numerous Fortune 500 companies including American Express, Canon, Deloitte, DeVry University, Intuit, SilkRoad, and Staples, and has spoken on these topics at hundreds of organizations around the world including Abbott, Aetna, Bank of America, Cardinal Health, Campbell Soup, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Human Capital Institute, McDonalds, Microsoft, PepsiCo, the Society of Human Resource Management, and Whirlpool.
In the last several years, Alexandra has conducted proprietary research on the future of work, the millennial generation, gender differences and bias, and the skills gap. She also served as a member of Business Roundtable's Springboard Project, which advised the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of Defense on current employment issues.
Alexandra is also a frequent national media spokesperson and is regularly featured in outlets including USA Today, National Public Radio, CNN, ABC News, CNBC, Forbes, the Associated Press, and Glamour. She was named an American Management Association Top Leader for 2015 and 2014 and has also been Money Magazine's Online Career Expert of the Year and the author of one of Forbes' best websites for women.
A member of the Northwestern University Council of 100 and the Young Entrepreneur Council, Alexandra received the prestigious Emerging Leader Award from her alma mater. The award honors a Northwestern graduate under 35 who had made a significant impact in her field and in society. She resides in Chicago, IL with her husband Stewart and their two young children.
Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.
Halelly: Hey there. Welcome back to the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist and this time I have an author and futurist on the show. I love doing this show so much because I get to learn from really smart people, and this show is no different. My guest, Alexandra Levit, is someone who focuses a lot of her time on studying and teaching others about the different generations in the workforce and especially how Millennials can be successful at work and how leaders can be successful leading Millennials. And Millennials are the youngest generation in the workforce, currently. Gen Z is right behind them, and we talk about both of those generations. Whether you are a member of the Millennial generation or you are somebody who works with them, or leads them, no matter where you look at this there’s a lot of really juicy information that Alex shares with us about the future, about how best to work with them, about how to lead them, about how to be one of them as a leader, about their career development and really sage advice for ways in which Millennials can do well to prepare themselves for future leadership success. We even talk about robots and the future of the workforce, so I hope you enjoy this episode and thanks for tuning in.
Welcome back to the TalentGrow Show, this is Halelly Azulay, I’m your leadership development strategist and I am excited to introduce you to my guest, Alexandra Levit. She prepares organizations and their employees for meaningful careers in the future workplace. She’s a former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and writer for the New York Times, Fast Company and Forbes. She’s the author of several books including the international bestseller They Don’t Teach Corporate in College. She’s also a researcher, consultant, speaker and business owner and regular national media personality. Alex, welcome to the TalentGrow Show.
Alexandra: Thanks Halelly, it’s so great to be here.
Halelly: I’m excited that you’re here and thank you for taking the time to share your insights with our listeners. Before we get started with all of your juicy insights, I always ask my guests to describe their professional journey very briefly so that we can get a sense of where have you been and how did you get to where you are?
Alexandra: Certainly. It’s a winding path. I graduated from Northwestern University, which is here in the Chicago area where I’m calling in from. In 1998 I was determined to go out in the business world and be a VP by the age of 30 and needless to say that’s not quite how it worked out. I crashed and burned in my first several jobs. It took me three years to get a promotion, I had a lot of stress, I was upset and in tears a lot of the time, and so one of my managers took pity on me and sent me to personal development classes. Specifically she sent me to Dale Carnegie. And that was when I learned the importance of things like making a good positive impression, being diplomatic, being able to cooperate with people who have different perspectives than you, and this light bulb went off and I was like, “Wow. Someone should really clue in other 20-somethings on what they need to do to be successful.”
That was when I got the idea for my first book, which was published in 2004 and it was called They Don’t Teach Corporate in College, a 20-somethings guide to the business world. When I wrote the book I expected it to be kind of a one-off side project, because when I finally started learning these lessons, I got a promotion and I was doing pretty well in my communications career. So I just thought that I would keep going with that. But much to my pleasure and surprise, the book did well and it led to a whole new consultancy as a business and workplace author and speaker. I’ve been moving in the last few years more into the HR space to talk to leaders about what’s required for 21st Century leadership and to be successful in such an endeavor. I’ve also moved more into the futurist arena, so helping organizations predict what’s going to be happening within the world of work for the next 10 to 20 years and how they can, again, prepare to be successful.
Halelly: And I’ve always admired futurists. That seems to me like such an impossible kind of job. I can’t even imagine how I would know, like how do you even predict what’s in the future? So maybe we can talk a little bit more about that because it’s so intriguing and inspiring.
Alexandra: Sure. I think the thing about the current mindset at least among the young futurists that I know is that futurist is really a term that anybody can use. It’s about having a point of view where you consider a variety of different perspectives, a variety of different potential outcomes, and you choose the one you think makes the most sense based on where you’re seeing … everyone uses Twitter now, but it’s almost where you see little twitterings or little tweets here and there where things are becoming more and more viral, more and more popular, and you try to put that together to assess where the trend is going to be in five to 10 or even 20 years. And I think anyone can do it. It’s not something you need to go to school for, it’s just a matter of paying attention to what’s going on and hearing what people are starting to talk about and sort of project that into the future.
And I think that’s what I try to do. I started doing that, I think the very first thing I started doing it with was the Millennial generation, because when I published They Don’t Teach Corporate in College, it was right at the time when the first Millennials were starting to graduate from college. I noticed right away that they were different, a little bit, than previous generations. Not so much that they were different inherently, that there was something in their DNA that was different, but just the way that they’d been raised was a bit different and the fact that they were willing to speak up and at an earlier age than other generations, and so I noticed really early on that there were going to be some issues with these guys integrating into the workforce and being prepared for success and for future leadership. So back in 2004, I was talking about the Millennials – no one else was talking about the Millennials then. 12 years later I’m still getting up to a dozen inquiries per week about Millennials. So that’s an example of … I wasn’t trained as a futurist, but it’s just about kind of thinking, “Well, this is happening. What’s it going to mean in the next few years and what are organizations going to have to contend with?” That’s what it’s all about.
Halelly: Super. There’s so much to ask you about and there’s so much we can talk about, and I know that I also get asked sometimes to talk about the different generations in the workplace and I know there’s also a lot of people that when you bring that topic up, they wrinkle their nose and make disapproving kind of faces because I think to some people, it offends them in probably one of two ways. One, they think its voodoo or something, like you’re just making stuff up and you’re lumping people into these weird categories that you have no foundation for, or they feel like you’re putting people in boxes and it feels to them like almost a type of discrimination or stereotyping. So I know that this has been discussed a lot and I don’t want that to be the main topic of this podcast, but before we move any further, let’s just kind of talk about the elephant in the room and address that obviously from your expert perspective – why should people think about generations differently?
Alexandra: I think it’s a great question. It’s fair. Whenever I do a session with leaders I try to start of by saying, look, we all recognize that these are generalizations. But, that said, these generalizations – at least the ones I tend to make – are based on research. Meaning that over the course of my career, I’ve interacted with about 50,000 young professionals through surveys, through podcasts and research groups and there was a time when I was getting quite a lot of interactive feedback on my blog and my articles and so I feel really immersed in the situation as it stands, and as it has evolved over the past 12 years. So when I make generalizations, I tend to at least make sure that they are grounded in some research that we can measure. An example of that is when I’m talking about the differences between the two cohorts of Millennials. Most people don’t realize the older Millennials are qualitatively different than the younger Millennials in many aspects of their behavior and motivation, and this just has to do with the age that they were when they graduated from college. This is also something I should bring up. When I talk about Millennials from my perspective, these are educated Millennials. These are people who tend to be middle class or above. I don’t claim to know all that much or to be an expert in young people that are not on that path to becoming future leaders. I think that makes a little bit of a difference.
But from what I have seen, I think that there are certain generalizations that can be made, just based on the research that’s been conducted. Now, are these generalizations going to be true for every single individual? Absolutely not. And it’s critical that when people listen to something like this, they realize, “Okay, we’re generally talking about trends. We’re not talking about every characteristic of every person that exists.” But what might you generally see? The same goes for other generations as well. It’s not just the younger ones. When we look at the Baby Boomers as a group, what were some of their most frequently cited motivations, for example? These are things you can measure. And I think it’s important to have some sort of a sense of the differences, because of the fact that they are generally true. And when you are … I’ve universally heard this from hundreds of companies, and so when you keep running into the same issues over and over again, then it sort of behooves you to at least have some solutions in your pocket. Now, it’s great if you‘ve got a group where none of it pertains to you. Hey, more power to you. But I think in most situations, people will find at least some of the content to be relevant and true to their own experiences.
Halelly: Great. Thank you for that. So let’s just dig right in. The audience of this podcast is thinking about their leadership skills, and either they are currently in a leadership role and therefore they might have a perspective about this from the side of having to lead Millennials or maybe even the newer generation, Gen Z, or they might themselves be part of those generations and are developing their own leadership skills or are already leading others. So what might be a couple of tips that you can give from either side of that equation, either being a great leader to the younger generations, or being a great leader as someone who is a member of those?
Alexandra: That’s a great example. I think that the advice that I would give to leaders, first and foremost, is that one size no longer fits all. People will at least in the old days, they would have gone to leadership training and learned how to be a leader. And you really have to be a leader differently, depending on who you’re dealing with. And the Millennials are one of the reasons this has been pushed because from a very young age, they’ve been assertive enough to speak up for what they need. That is different for every individual and one of the ways this was crystalized for me recently, actually this week it’s sort of hot off the press, I am a member of a group called the Career Advisory Board that was established by DeVry University in 2010. I’m a co-founder. We did some research on most desirable forms of employment, and we talked to people of all ages. But what was very surprising is a lot more people than I expected were saying they weren’t really into this whole trend of flex work, that they really, post-recession, were looking at more stability and job situations that were more traditional.
This just echoed this feeling that I have that if you’re a manager, you really need to take a step back and talk to people about what they want and what job circumstances really fit their lifestyle and what kind of training and development will suit where they see their career path going. Because just like we were thinking, “Wow, everybody wants flexibility, this is something everyone wants,” well, it’s not necessarily the case. It really depends on the individual. Just to sum up, this one-size-fits-all mentality doesn’t really work in today’s day and age, and you have to be willing to sit down with each employee as an individual and assess what’s most important to that person and how you as a manager can help them get there and help them assess their performance and their skill acquisition in real time. Because as we’re seeing with the growth of agile performance, there is no such thing as just hearing from someone when they have a quarterly review or even a half year or even an annual review. We really have to be on top of it as leaders on an everyday basis.
Now, on the other side of the coin, for people who are developing their leadership skills, I would say don’t focus so much on the official promotion into leadership. That in today’s organizations, people really want you to prove that you were ready for a certain role and that you are in fact doing it, before you are officially promoted into a position. So what you want to be doing is looking at the skillset of the person who is a manager, the person who is a VP, the person who is on the executive team. And you want to be actually looking at what they do and looking at their job descriptions and see if there’s a gap in the skills you have. So for example, in many organizations that are global, global confidence or the understanding of business as it pertains to different cultures is something that more and more leaders have to possess. If that’s something where you’re a little more weak, you have to look for opportunities to be able to expand your repertoire. Maybe you take courses, maybe you talk to people who worked overseas, maybe you read some books, maybe you even do a short stint and just travel around a little bit and get some of the sense of it yourself.
But these are things that in various companies are going to be increasingly important for you to take the reins in as a senior person in one of these organizations. So it’s really something you have to be proactive about and yes you should definitely talk to your manager and get their input and feedback, and also if there are mentors you have, certainly that should be appropriate. But it’s something that today’s organizations aren’t necessarily going to tell you, “Well, this is where your career is going to go.” Particularly because we’re now in a lattice career situation where a lot of people aren’t moving from point A to point B to point C, so they wouldn't be able to tell you even if you wanted them to, or if they wanted to. It’s going to differ for every individual and it’s something you have to take control of from your own perspective.
Halelly: I agree so much. I speak about this all the time, write about it all the time. Because the idea that people try to create a one-size-fits-all leadership or feedback or development approach is, I mean, I don’t think it’s ever been true, but it’s definitely never been more of a time in the workplace where it was completely rejected by the workforce. This is where I think the Millennials are extremely different. Maybe that it didn’t really work for their predecessors, but the predecessor perhaps felt like you’ve got to suck it up and just do it, because this is what we do, and these people are saying, “It’s not working for me now. Let me voice my opinion about that.” Is that true?
Alexandra: Yeah. Exactly. I think that’s one of the differences that they’ve made as a group, coming in and just saying, “Let me speak up. I’m not going to wait until I’m in a position of so-called authority. I’m going to say it now.” And because they have such numbers. That’s really what they have in their favor is there’s just so many of them that they’ve really managed to make a significant impact. I think it’s wonderful. The changes that they’ve driven so quickly are really exciting to see and they are things at the end of the day, people ask me, “What are the real differences between generations?” I don’t think there are really that many inherent differences. I think the Millennials are speaking up about what everybody wants, and so that’s a benefit to everyone.
Halelly: Great. I love that distinction. So I have so many follow-up questions that I want to ask you and I'm trying to be choosy. I know the one thing that people like to say – and there’s so many stereotypes about the younger generation – but I think that one of them is that they seem like they want to jump too quick. And you just gave a suggestion that they would want to first develop the skills before stepping into a role that requires them, and those seem to be at odds. So what might you say to a manager, a leader, who is faced with someone who seems really impatient to move up, who maybe doesn’t get the whole lattice workplace arrangement or is seeing a promotion or a higher responsibility as a sign, as sort of the right kind of feedback that they’re doing great and how do you have a conversation with them about their need to further develop and be more proactive about finding their own way to develop those skills before they’re actually ready?
Alexandra: Halelly, that’s a great question. This does happen because obviously sometimes the motivated and hungry people are in their careers – and that tends to happen at a younger age – the more impatient they are to move up. The first thing I would do is I would cite the statistic, I participated in a study with the Deloitte looking at Millennial leadership, and when we surveyed a lot, it was several thousand global Millennial employees and we found that about half of them were already in leadership positions. This was in 2014, so about two years ago. When we asked them, “Did you feel ready for being in this position when you were promoted,” a full third of them said they weren’t ready and it caused them a lot of stress and a lot of agita and a lot of pain. And so the first thing that I would tell them is you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re set up to fail. So I’m trying to give you all the foundation that you need so that by the time you get into that role, you’re set up to be successful. You don’t want to be in a situation where it’s the Peter Principle – the cream rises until it sours. You keep getting promoted until you’re in a position of incompetence and you’re in a position where you’re not going to be able to do a good job. And nobody wants that.
Unfortunately for a lot of Millennials, that’s what’s happening to them because of the difference in demographics where you have retiring Baby Boomers, you have a very small X generation in the middle, not enough Xers to take over for the Boomers, so you do actually see a lot of Millennials being promoted at a younger age, an average of about 10 years earlier. And that’s the reason why we see a lot of people that are unprepared. I would take the whole big picture in front of the person who is overeager and say, “This is what I don’t want to happen to you.” There’s actually a lot of fun stories around the Peter Principle and how it’s happened in various famous circumstances. I don’t need to go into those now, but if you’re a manager, do some research on the Peter Principle and you’ll find that it’s actually a great argument for persuading people, “Slow down. Take this opportunity to learn individual skills that are really going to help you regardless of where you decide to go in your career, because you might not stay here. You might go somewhere else. And actually to take care of yourself.”
I say in my book Blind spots, the really underrated thing about being an individual contributor is the ability to focus on yourself and what you need. Once you become a senior leader, it’s not about you anymore. It’s about the organization. It’s about the people who work for you. And you’ll miss the time where you could have spent developing yourself. If I was a manager, that’s what I would say to that person who is a little bit impatient is, “Use this time, because you’ll never have it again.” It’s kind of like what you tell a high school or college student, when they’re so eager to get out in the workforce. You’re going to have the rest of your life to work, but you only have once chance to go to college or be a high school student, so live it up. It’s sort of the same principle if you think about it.
Halelly: And they’ll probably still not listen to us.
Alexandra: Probably not.
Halelly: We’re just the old people, what do we know? So funny. Okay, let’s look into the future a little bit, since you are now a futurist and I know that one of your talks is Workforce 2030 and you probably have all kinds of other stuff cooking. Since we have you for a little bit here, what are some really important things we should know about the future, especially as it pertains to leadership?
Alexandra: I think that probably the most interesting thing that we’re going to see happen is that machines, as they become smatter and smarter, are going to become members of our teams. Right now what we see is through deep learning and artificial intelligence that machines are able to speak languages, they’re able to recognize patterns, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re able to do a lot of the tasks that we already do. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean – I know there’s a lot of scare out there that robots will take over all our jobs. That’s probably not going to happen, but what is going to happen is as the robots or algorithms are going to be an everyday part of the business operations and processes that we engage in, so for that we’re going to need to understand what’s the best way to manage an algorithm? How do you teach an algorithm to respond to humans? How can you teach an algorithm to have good judgment? I think this is a really, really important question leaders are going to need to take into consideration.
Leaders are also going to have to realize that there’s really going to be no such thing as managing your traditional full-time workforce anymore, that the workforce will be one that’s very fluid. It will consist of a lot of contract workers from all over the world who have different priorities and are coming to the table with different types of experiences, and the role of the leader will almost be one of talent assembler, where you are just sourcing people from whenever, wherever, depending on the immediate business need. And so the leader is going to be really a strategic, almost a person who is overseeing a chess game, who is constantly moving pieces around. You may be moving different pieces around depending on the situation, depending on the business objective, and I think that’s not something that we’re all used to. We’re used to having a relatively stable workforce and that’s not going to be the case, probably starting within the next five years.
Halelly: Wow. Let’s layer in what you know about Gen Z, since you’ve been studying them, and given that they will be joining those mixed teams that are being curated. So what would be something that managers and leaders might be doing differently because of having those people in the workforce?
Alexandra: First of all, Halelly, I love Gen Z. What I’ve studied and researched about them so far, they are wonderfully independent, they love to hack their education, and by that I mean that they decide they want to learn about something and instead of waiting for a teacher to instruct them on it or asking their parents, they just go to Google or they go to Siri and they ask the question. “Tell me about the Civil War. I want to learn more about it.” And they dig really deep into the things that they’re interested in. So leaders will have to be prepared for them in a sense that this is a very independent generation that doesn’t really like to be boxed in. They are actually supreme gig workers, because they’re used to short-term projects, they’re used to being proactive and going out and learning what they need to get something done. And that’s going to be exactly what is needed in the gig economy of the 21st Century. So I think they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with for sure.
Again, just like with every other type of employee, you’ll need to have an individual approach. They’re going to be very different in terms of the way they learn. Many Gen Zers are even telling us they don’t intend to go to college because they don’t see the value in college. That’s very interesting and this is even among middle class or upper middle class families, the Gen Zers are saying, “Unless it’s for networking, I don’t really see the point of getting an education at college. Why do I need to spend $200,000 when I can just learn everything I need to learn online?” There’s something to be said for that, but that’s just an example of they’re being a little more unorthodox in how they’re doing things, and so leadership is going to have to bend to that a little bit and say, “Okay, maybe if you have the skills, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t graduate from Yale or Harvard.” And I think that’s going to be a change. So we’ll see how they cope with it. Hopefully well.
Halelly: Wow, that sounds exciting. I totally see the signs of that in my own life, and I tend to agree with them that the pendulum is swinging in the other direction in terms of everyone must have a college degree. That hasn’t been true for a long time, but I think it will be more and more accepted as no longer true as we go forward. Wow. It’s exciting times. We can talk about that probably for another whole episode, but given that we are running out of time, I want to make sure that we get to, I have the same bookend questions in every episode that include you giving a super actionable piece of advice, but first, what is most exciting on your horizon? What’s got your energy riled up these days?
Alexandra: Well, my energy is really riled up around implementation of some of these future focus concepts. So, an example, Halelly, would be flex work, and the fact that 64 approximately percent – and I think this is a World of Work study from last year – 64 percent of organizations are allowing some type of flex arrangement for their employees. So people might allow four days a week in the office, one from home. They might allow a job role flexibility where you can work in a different location and in a different function. So it’s being allowed, but what we’re not seeing is the ROI that’s associated with such flex arrangements. Most organizations – in fact 97 percent of organizations – have absolutely no clue whether the flex arrangements that they are offering are actually productive for the business, and actually generate a positive return on investment. Which is extraordinarily scary to me. And so what I am excited about is helping organizations figure out, “Okay, well, is this actually working for the bottom line of the organization? And if not, how can we get it to work? How can we give employees what they need? How can we be on trend, but at the same time do something that’s actually smart?” And so I think that’s where we just don’t see a lot of activity right now. We see organizations being excited about trends, like, “Oh, yes, of course. Flex work. Rah, rah. We’re all on board.” But we do not see it connecting back to what’s best for the business. Same thing for contract workers and machines participating on our teams. Is that a good thing? Is it a good thing that we’re automating certain things? Where is the business benefit in these certain trends? And so I’m excited about that portion of my business and hopefully seeing some real concrete implementations within the next couple of years.
Halelly: Well, I need to connect you with one of my friends Frode Odegard who talks about how he thinks all managers are going to be replaced by machines.
Alexandra: I would love to.
Halelly: We talked about the post-lean world and post-lean leadership and this is one of his predictions, which is kind of scary.
Alexandra: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think – people ask me this question all the time, like do I think robots are going to replace everyone? And what I think is going to happen is there are going to be many more job categories created that we can’t even envision yet. Everybody thought with the industrial revolution that humans would all be replaced then, because everybody worked in factories and we invented so many more categories. Just look at the job title “social media manager” that in 1995 did not exist and now it’s one of the leading things that people advertise for on sites like UpWork. Well, that’s going to continue to happen. And also, I tend to believe that wherever there’s a machine, there needs to be a human being behind it that builds it, that maintains it, that supports it, and that fixes it when it breaks. So I think that as the machines get smarter and smarter, we’re still going to require a lot of humans being behind the scenes, making sure they’re working properly.
Halelly: I totally agree. And just new and different kinds of jobs, just like people used to freak out about, “Oh my gosh, what is going to happen to the horse and buggy drivers,” right? Cool. I really have loved everything that you’ve shared. Give us one really specific action that you can suggest listeners take today or this week to upgrade their own leadership or workplace future-readiness skills that can help them immediately.
Alexandra: I encourage everyone who is listening today to be an evangelist for the future workplace. There’s nothing about me, necessarily, that makes me an expert. Everyone can be an expert. So take one of these topics that you are personally passionate about, that you find fascinating. Maybe it’s the machines as learners or machines as participants in the future workforce. Maybe it’s contract workers. Maybe it’s flex work. Maybe it’s the internet of things. Take one thing and just learn, be a Gen Zer. Learn as much about it as you can. And then start talking to people within your organization on how can we make sure that we are following this trend and that we’re implementing this trend to the best of our ability? And be a spokesperson within your own organization. That is how these things take off, and by being on the early side of things you can really establish a name for yourself and a reputation for yourself as someone who is forward thinking and is doing things in the best interests of the organization. And someone who is innovative, because most organizations are really prizing innovation this decade, this century probably. I think it’s something that everybody can do. You don’t just need to wait for an expert to tell you. If something piques your interest, go out and research it and start talking to people about it.
Halelly: Such smart advice. I think that’s really unique and very valuable because instead of waiting and reacting and preparing yourself, like you’re going to sit home and the storm will hit and you’re trying to have it just not touch you, actually go out, be in front and be a leader and an innovator and an initiator. Oh my gosh, I love that so much. Thank you Alex.
Alexandra: And even I think I hear too from people, “Oh, I’m a Baby Boomer. I’m going to be retiring.” One of the issues I’d love to see more Baby Boomers take a leadership role in is how should Baby Boomers be continuing to contribute, once they’ve “retired?” Because that too is changing, where we don’t have the type of knowledge. We don’t need the type of knowledge transfer that we used to need, because they can keep working, and they can keep participating in key projects where they can offer their expertise. So I would love to see some Baby Boomer leaders step up and say, “I’m going to help organizations figure out how to do this.” I can tell you, even the organizations that are doing research on this and know it’s coming, internally if you ask them what they’re doing with their senior partners, they’re not doing it. They’re talking about it, but they’re not doing it. So I would love to see some people who have a vested interest in this step up and be spokespeople and be evangelists for making this happen. Because it needs to happen.
Halelly: Cool. So that gives everybody a chance to contribute and to use your advice because no matter what generation you’re in, from your vantage point, there’s a lot to be gained from following your suggestion.
Alexandra: That’s right.
Halelly: Alex, super. Thank you. And so I’d like to link to studies that you recommend and other things in the show notes. Where and how can people stay in touch with you, learn more from you and hear more from all that awesome research you’re doing?
Alexandra: Sure. Thank you. I would recommend two websites – AlexandraLevit.com has all the information about me. And then also I mentioned a couple of studies from DeVry University’s career advisory board, one of which I mentioned is going to be published this week, so you guys are literally learning about it first. You can find those studies – we talk about job preparedness, successful job seekers, what makes people successful hiring managers, all of those related things – on careeradvisoryboard.org.
Halelly: Awesome. Thank you for sharing your insights and advice today with us Alex. And I know people are going to love it and start following you on mass and so until the next time, make today great.
Alexandra: Sounds good. Thank you.
Halelly: Pretty amazing, right? I hope that you take Alexandra up on her suggestion that you get out front and start really digging into something, some aspect of this future world that intrigues you, and become an expert on it. Just a personal note, I have just recently returned from a self-development conference that I attended in Austin where one of the topics was this idea about the future of the human race and artificial intelligence and whether our brains are going to be uploaded to the cloud and whether we’re going to be able to replicate our brains into these sort of secondary beings and outsource some of the work and then should we treat them as humans and give them rights? It was mind-blowing. But this particular episode is definitely not quite so esoteric. It is just much more practical and useful for all of us in our present day work, and I think it’ll be useful for us going into the future.
I’d love to know what you thought about it and get some feedback from you via the comments on my show notes page, which is where I also link to everything we mentioned in the show, and that’s at TalentGrow.com/podcast/episode42. And of course you can also tweet at me, you can send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and what I would really love is for you to help other people discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. That makes such a huge difference and it really won’t take very long of your time. So if you find value in this show and you want it to be successful in reaching more people, I really would appreciate that. Anyway until the next time, I hope you make today great. Thanks for listening. Bye.
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