Senior leaders are grappling with economic headwinds, including prolonged inflation, continued wage pressures, labor shortages, and overall slowing growth. Additionally, according to the most recent Deloitte Well-Being at Work Study, employee well-being continues to decline. To combat these issues and drive growth, it’s imperative that leaders have high-performing teams that work together effectively, produce high-quality work, and achieve their goals efficiently. This requires the alignment of multiple generations of employees working together for the first time. To accomplish this, leaders need to develop new strategies for motivating their people to remain resilient, engaged, innovative, and collaborative to drive top-line and bottom-line results.

In a new research report, No Joke, Peppercomm partnered with The Comedy Arts Program at DePaul University to field an online study of 2,000 U.S. full-time employees along with qualitative interviews across multiple generations to better understand their needs and preferences at work. The results showed there are key areas where leaders and workers agree, but there are major differences in their preferences that organizations need to bridge to grow successfully. Critically, the study outlines the case for a paradigm-shifting approach to help leaders accomplish these goals and more: humor. Yes, humor.

According to the survey, employees are looking for leaders to:
Motivate them to do their best (selected by 62% of respondents)
Educate and guide them on their career journey (53%) 
Provide opportunities to learn and grow (50%)

However, when asked what they want from their workforce, leaders said they value:
— The ability to take and follow directions (53%)
The ability to anticipate needs and take initiative (46%)
Providing new ideas and ways of doing things (42%)

Among Gen-Z workers, the desire for leaders to provide more motivation and guidance is even greater, with 65% of respondents in this demographic preferring a manager who is more of a mentor and teacher. 

Employees also said that communication (82%) was the most important element they desired from their leaders. They expect leadership to be transparent and to work alongside them. Alternatively, leaders seek employees to work more independently and follow directions.

A clear disconnect exists between leaders who say they value their staff following instructions, while Gen Z displays a clear belief that a leader should not expect their people to thrive in the traditional command-and-control model. Along with insights from Peppercomm Laughing Matters Council member Liz Joynt Sandberg, the paper offers a deep dive into how humor can better connect employees across generations, break down silos, and create better overall engagement that ensures long-term success.

From Gen X reminiscing about the days of fax machines to Gen Z oversharing on social media, humor (when implemented properly) can connect people’s different experiences and viewpoints by imparting vulnerability and empathy to any group. Moreover, when colleagues laugh together, they stimulate alpha brainwaves that have been proven to empower the mind to change old ways of thinking, behaving, and innovating. This improves almost anyone’s ability to pivot and address opportunities they never thought possible. Organizations should look for ways to appropriately incorporate humor into their work environment and access the shared benefit of this approach for both leaders and employees.  

Read the full report here.

Jackie Kolek is Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer at Peppercomm. She is also a new member of IPR ELEVATE. She currently leads Peppercomm’s financial and professional services sector, developing and executing fully-integrated campaigns. Over her nearly 30-year career, she has worked at some of the industry’s leading firms and is member of Page Up and the Wiseman.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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