How Equipment Finance’s NextGen is Shifting the Industry’s Workplace Values

by Markiesha Thompson May/June 2022
The next generation of equipment finance leaders is already influencing the industry from a results perspective, but how they value company culture and leadership may lead to greater (and more positive) change than anything else.

The 2022 Monitor NextGen leaders are all passionate, driven and innovative people. Monitor surveyed some of this year’s honorees so they could share their thoughts and opinions on company culture, their work experiences and what leadership qualities they deem important. The findings paint a better picture of how they view leadership styles they’ve experienced and how they approach it themselves.

Leadership Preferences

This year’s NextGen leaders gravitate toward leaders who are approachable, inspiring and understanding, serving as mentors and collaborators more than strict supervisors or micromanagers.

“I gravitate towards leaders that are excellent listeners and those who are relatable,” one respondent said. “I feel most positively about those that treat me as an equal and value me and my experiences. I also tend to remain in careers for more extended periods of time when I feel like I can be myself and that is celebrated and valued, especially by mangers and leaders in my company.”

Another respondent said they gravitate toward leaders that are “humble and patient but demanding” and “expect work to get done in a professional manner.” In addition, it’s important for leaders to be excellent communicators in one-on-one and group settings. Respondents also don’t want leaders who think they have nothing else to learn, preferring those who identify their own weaknesses and make plans to improve, ultimately leading to success for the company itself.

“I gravitate towards leaders who not only focus on developing others, but are also aware of their own personal development at the same time,” one respondent said. “They are open to suggestions and they encourage people to think strategically while still being decisive. I also gravitate towards leaders who have great impact on improving the performance of the organization.”

As their careers have developed, some of this year’s NextGen leaders have grown to value effective leadership when making career choices even more than they did when first starting out.

“Prior to entering the equipment finance industry, I didn’t focus on company leadership when accepting a job opportunity; I’d focus more on the hiring manager and team,” one respondent said. “However, since seeing the difference in the leadership at my current employer (treating employees with respect and trusting us to do our jobs, contributing to the overall company goals), I’m more cognizant of the impact good leadership has on an organization.”

Culture is King

In the survey, the respondents ranked six workplace qualities from most important to least important. Company culture was far and away the most important, according to the survey, with this quality ranked No. 1 by 100% of the respondents. Of course, everyone has a different definition of what makes a strong company culture, but some common themes emerged among the respondents. Cultures that encourage collaboration are usually among the most effective.

“A successful company culture is a collaboration of an established set of norms and expectations with all levels of the company participating,” one respondent said. “When all parts of the company have a well-defined mission, they work together with altruistic values and employees go out of their way to help their peers with no direct benefit to themselves.”

“I define a successful company culture as one where employees enjoy working collaboratively to find solutions to all problems, both large and small,” one respondent said. “Employees should feel empowered to share their thoughts and opinions, but they should also understand that decisions will be made collectively for the good of the company. Even if their ideas are not accepted, they should feel heard.”

Companies that provide space for ideation and ensure all employees can contribute and communicate effectively also have strong cultures.

“A successful company culture is one that employees feel a sense of accomplishment, belonging and opportunistic in,” one respondent said. “Everyone should be able to have an idea, workshop it and have it implemented. A culture that treats each employee as a stakeholder in the company.”

“I think a successful company culture is one where everyone’s differences are respected and we are all respectful in our discourse,” one respondent said. “There should not be any worrying about what another department is doing or the flex time of an employee. As long as the work is being completed and inquiries are responded to in a timely manner, that is what matters. The ultimate goal is to provide the best service to our customers.”

Sometimes building a successful company culture can be broken down even more simply.

“A culture that attracts and retains people that live the company’s core values and are high performers can generally be summed up in ‘humble, hungry and smart,’” one respondent said.

Cultivating a strong company culture built on shared values can lead to similar success with clients and partners, further fortifying the internal makeup of a firm.

“Success in a company culture is finding ways to meet and exceed all stakeholders’ needs and expectations. This can look a number of different ways, but all stakeholders need to be considered, not just some,” one respondent said. “A company culture inevitably reflects the values of its internal stakeholders, so a successful company culture is a reflection of having good people with good values that are empowered to be their best.”

After company culture, having opportunities for career development was ranked the second most important workplace quality by survey respondents, with 93% of respondents selecting it as No. 2. From there, the respondents ranked increased salary third, reputation of the company’s leader fourth, having flexible work options fifth and having a generous benefits package sixth. Based on these findings, it appears this younger generation of leaders in the equipment finance industry value different company attributes than older generations.

Many of this year’s NextGen leaders have worked for multiple companies, but what caused them to leave prior roles? Nearly a quarter of respondents (74%) said a toxic company culture was the determining factor, making it the most popular reason given. In addition, 62% of respondents ranked poor management as an important factor, while 62% ranked no opportunities for advancement as one. Several other factors (no belief in leadership, no opportunities for professional development and better compensation elsewhere) were all grouped together from there (56% each), while better benefits elsewhere was only selected by 9% of the respondents.

Another measure the participants ranked was what kept them with a company. Belief in company vision and leadership was ranked the most important factor, receiving 100% of the votes for the No. 1 spot. Company culture and connections was ranked the second most important, while compensation and opportunities for advancement were close in ranking, with the former coming in third place and the latter ending in fourth place.

The Future is Bright

Going beyond culture alone, the respondents generally believe successful companies hold employees accountable to their goals and responsibilities while also making sure those expectations and goals are clearly defined by management. In addition, respondents believe a company’s success can be measured by how well it collaborates, communicates, lives its core values and has grace with its employees.

This year’s NextGen leaders value several qualities when evaluating companies they work for, including the promotion of collaboration, belonging, respect, inspiration and clarity, with many respondents identifying where previous employers fell short. With such a perspective, these up-and-coming members of the equipment finance industry will be able to implement the successful leadership qualities they value with their own teams and companies. Therefore, with this new generation of leaders at the helm, the equipment finance industry is in the right place to get to the next level, one with better results for all stakeholders, both internally and externally. When combining the innovative and new approaches of the next generation with the knowledge learned and acquired from the older generations, the equipment finance industry is poised to flourish more than ever in the years to come.

Markiesha Thompson is associate editor of Monitor.

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