Gen Z and other younger people entering the workforce are not bringing their parents’ submissive mindset to their new employers. They have unprecedented expectations that are rattling the cages of traditional leadership and redefining the way leaders and staffers should interact—and new research from GE reveals that C-suite leaders and entry-level respondents don’t see eye to eye about how successfully companies are meeting them.
The company’s new report, From the Ground Floor to the Corner Office, in partnership with polling firm Ipsos, examines this shaky relationship dynamic as companies and employees alike adapt to this new work environment and issues such as return-to-work debates, AI fears and other challenges. The researchers found agreement in the need for companies to clearly articulate their approach to leadership—but significant gaps between how leaders and entry-level employees think that approach should be.
The study finds that 95 percent of the C-suite execs and 81 percent of entry-level staffers surveyed believe it is important that a “leadership mindset” is communicated to all staff. Fortunately for most companies, 72 percent of respondents believe their organizations have this mindset clearly defined.
The “leadership mindset” was defined for the study as the characteristics companies foster among employees to develop strong leaders who can help achieve business goals and ensure the long-term success of their company. Both C-suite executives and entry-level employees identified quality, reliability, integrity and innovation among the top characteristics of a successful company.
However, there is a clear disconnect between senior executives and entry-level employees on how companies embody their leadership mindsets:
- Almost 90 percent of C-suite respondents say their executive teams embody their leadership mindset, while less than 60 percent of entry-level staff feel the same way.
- Only 68 percent of entry-level employees feel as though their companies support their development as strong leaders, as compared to 90 percent of C-suite leaders.
- When it comes to attracting the right leaders for their organization, 92 percent of C-suite leaders claim these characteristics play a role in hiring and employee evaluations, while only 75 percent of entry-level employees agreed that the characteristics are involved in their evaluations.
“The workplace revolution is reshaping how employees develop as leaders, just as it has reinvented where they work and how they work,” said Linda Boff, chief marketing officer, vice president of Learning and Culture and president of the GE Foundation, in a news release. “In today’s rapidly changing business environment, entry-level employees value a clear vision and authentic communications from the C-suite, creating an opportunity to further inspire and empower the next generation of leaders.”
Companies that effectively promote their leadership mindset stand to benefit in today’s challenging job market, with employees more likely to view their company as on the right track and more likely to promote their company to others:
- 80 percent of entry-level employees in the survey say leadership training is a meaningful benefit.
- For employees who said they understand their company’s leadership mindset, over 95 percent say their company is on the right track and over 50 percent say their company is ahead of others.
- Respondents who see and hear about their company’s leadership mindset are more likely to consider themselves company “promoters” (56-58 percent) compared to those who do not (21-23 percent).
These are the findings of a GE/Ipsos poll conducted between July 17 – August 1, 2023. The study examined what characteristics C-suite leaders and entry-level workers believe will elevate leaders within their own organizations and whether their companies currently embody those characteristics and enable that growth. A leadership mindset is defined as the characteristics that guide employees’ expectations and approach to their work and their development as strong, efficient leaders. For this study, a sample of 253 C-Suite executives and 411 entry level employees ages 18+ from the United States were interviewed in English.