Again, I know groupings like generations cannot account for the uniqueness of each member of your team but in the end we are humans and our brains like grouping. There are some common characteristics amongst generations, especially regarding their motivation and communication styles in the workplace, that as leaders can help us to better understand and get to know the unique individuals on our teams.
This monthlong series, Generations in the Workplace, started with a focus on Baby Boomers (check that out here), then onto Gen X (check that out here), and then to Millennials (check that out here). Today, we’re moving onto to Gen Z. So let’s dive in!
GEN Z IN THE WORKPLACE
So Gen Z’s official years are still being debated but generally this generation comprises those born between 1997-2012 – meaning our eldest Gen Z’ers are 22 and in coming into the workplace! This generation is still be defined by current events, but absolutely have been molded by the rise of school shootings, social media – especially Youtube, recovery from the Great Recession, the shrinking middle class, and the skyrocketing prices of a college education. They are the first TRUE digital natives, having never known life without modern technology and the internet.
All of these elements have created a generation that knows how to make their voices heard, probably better than any other generation. They know how to tap a global audience and don’t believe that they need to “wait their turn” to make a difference in our world. More than any other generation, they overwhelmingly think the U.S. is not on the right track and are determined to make a change there.
They are similar to Millennials in the sense of needing to work for a purpose and expecting the workplace to prioritize a work-life balance, but because of the debt and struggle they’ve seen from Millennials (especially student debt) they are more motivated by security and independence than their predecessors.
While you need to be aware that they are completely a digital generation, they very much value and look for face-to-face communication and team environments. Gen Z ranked their top 2 most important factors at work as supportive leadership (HELLO – SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE!!) and cultivating positive relationships at work. So make sure you tap their expertise on utilizing technology in your workplace most effectively (or they will get frustrated, trust me), but don’t forget what I’m preaching here nonstop – get to know them and treat them as human beings! Invest in your relationships first and foremost.
The greatest things about this generation is their diversity and inclusivity, their digital expertise, their ability to understand and tap into a global marketplace, and their search for security and growth. They are more diverse and inclusive than any other generation and as has been shown in study after study, embracing that diversity and foster true inclusion in your workplace will positively affect your company’s success. It’s predicted from Gen Z’s responses to many different surveys that they are interested in sticking with a company and growing into their dream job. Their digital expertise can take your company to the next level if you let them take the lead – both in the systems and technology you use and invest in and also in your digital marketing strategies.
The difficult pieces of this generation is their lack of optimism (in comparison to Millennials), their demand for the workplace to provide work-life balance, their focus on video specifically, and the need for incredibly frequent feedback. Gen Z feels a responsibility to truly make a difference in the world, especially due to their lack of optimism in how our country is being run currently. This means that your company needs to be purpose-driven and truly has to back-up their claims of making a difference – they do not take kindly to pandering. They prioritize schedule flexibility in their top needs in a workplace which means that as most companies have just dipped their toe in the waters of alternative work schedules and remote working, you’re going to have to put that into overdrive for Gen Z. They are also incredibly dedicated to Youtube and actually use Youtube first in their job searches to find companies that speak to their values (unlike Millennials who look at Indeed and company websites first). If your company hasn’t touched Youtube yet, it’s time to dive in. (I have to take my own advice here!). Also I found it super interesting that in a study 60% of Gen Z wants multiple check-ins each week with their supervisor, and 40% of those respondents want daily contact or several times a day contact with their supervisor!
Alright so how do you put this into practice? First, get your digital brand and strategy going even if you don’t sell in the digital marketplace – this is your number one recruiting strategy for this generation. Next, once you have them in the door let them help you optimize your digital strategies, make sure to meet with them regularly face-to-face, be flexible with your schedules and promote a comfortable working environment, create space for competition, and always talk to them about their career path to keep them engaged and looking towards the next growth opportunity within your company.
If you are a Gen Z’er getting your career started I’ve got a few tips for you as well. Help your superiors to see the benefits of digital strategies that streamline workflows and help increase your company’s reach – don’t sit back and stay quiet, you are the experts! Talk to your boss about your longterm goals and realize that your focus on security and growth is a breath of fresh air to leaders who have struggled to retain millennials in their workforce. Push for more diversity and inclusion efforts, but also realize that most workplaces have barely touched these topics and are scared – create a safe environment to work through these topics so as to ensure you bring all generations into the conversation and don’t scare them off.
SO WHAT NOW?
Use this article to start a conversation with a Gen Z’er in your workplace (or another generation if you are a Gen Z’er!). Work through and see what holds true for your Gen Z team member and what doesn’t – these are groupings after all, and your team member is a unique individual! When you’re done, share with me in the comments what stood up and what did not!
Thank you again for tagging along with our Generations in the Workplace series this month! Join us next week as we dive into our next series on HIRING 101!