Middle East businesses must prepare for Generation Z

09 September 2015 Consultancy.uk

Generation Z will, according to PA Consulting, be hard to engage by traditional Middle East employers – as the generation has grown up with the technology and what it makes possible. For Middle East employers to engage incoming talent from Generation Z, they need to consider three potential strategies, allowing them to brand themselves, cut out stifling hierarchies and create flexible incentives.

Generation Z
Generation Z is the generation that consists of digital natives and fast decision makers that are highly connected. This group, according to PA Consulting Group, is set to clash with the more traditional values and practices found in many Middle Eastern employers. The consulting firm expects the region to end with a shortage in new talent when Generation Z starts entering the workforce in mass.

“The key for employers from the outset is to recognise that they are dealing with a completely new generation of people who are different in many ways from those coming before them,” explains Jason Harborow, Head of PA Consulting Group Middle East and North Africa. “Generation Z are typically idea-driven, impatient but realistic, opinionated, individualistic, hyper-connected and digitally-savvy.”

Generation Z - PA Consulting

Features of the new generation come from the rapid proliferation of technology in the region, especially among the younger generation and those in the middle and upper classes. “We know that smart phone penetration in the Middle East is continuing to rise and is forecasted to reach around 75% across the region by 2018,” says Harborow. “So now is the time for employers to truly understand what impact these potential new members of staff will have on their business.”

Working with Generation Z
The firm states that failure to engage this entrepreneurial group of people may threaten the survival of those organisations reluctant to change. To integrate the new generation into the work force, PA Consulting has considered three points that may help regional employers engage Generation Z.

The three pronged strategy, according to Harborow, calls for allowing Generation Z employees to:

  • Develop their own brands aligned to the organisation’s vision and beliefs.
  • Benefit from ‘rank ranging’ to replace traditional hierarchy which stifles creativity.
  • Get new incentives like work-from-home options and unlimited annual leave instead of out-dated rewards packages.

Middle East workplaces

“Change is particularly daunting for organisations in the Middle East where we work with a multi-cultural pool of talent.  But the next phase of the digital revolution we’re currently witnessing will demand new ways of thinking, communicating and doing business,” remarks Harborow. “In order to attract Generation Z, employers must create an open-minded, connected and forward thinking working culture which is innovative and entrepreneurial. Creating loyalty and retention will come from giving them the opportunity to create meaningful work, to collaborate with others and offering more part-time working options.”

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.