Meaningful and rewarding work is very important to Generation Zs, just like it is for their millennial brothers and sisters. And with Gen Z beginning to enter the workforce, now is the time to prepare so that your business benefits. As a bonus, you'll likely increase your relationship with — and retention of — millennials.
What Gen Zs are like — and why
Gen Zs (also known as IGens, Homelanders and GenEdge), are born between 1995 and 2012. They are currently between five and 22 years old.
In many ways, Gen Zs are like uber-millennials. As a refresh, millennials are outgoing, educated, well-travelled and have high expectations, which is why they feel they have to job-hop to get ahead. Millennials also enjoy learning, receiving praise and being friendly with the people they work with. On the downside, they can have difficulty with criticism.
Boomer and Gen X parents have taught their millennial and Gen Z children to be confident, that they are special and to not settle. Ironically, Boomer and Gen X bosses label this confidence as "narcissistic" and "entitled."
Expect Gen Zs to be risk-averse
You may be surprised that your Gen Z employees are also risk-averse like their great-grandparents — the Silent Generation. WHAT? Why? Gen Zs have grown up in a post 9-11 environment. They've lived through global conflict, global terrorism and three recessions. Gen Zs have also seen their Gen X parents being laid off, right-sized and down-sized.
On the home front, Gen Zs grew up with bike helmets, parents who say "Call when you get there," personal GPS, bottled water, side-impact baby carriages, non-spillable sippy cups, seat belts, etc.
Translation: they have been made aware of potential risks all their lives, and the people around them have helped them manage those risks.
Technology supports productivity and retention
If your organization is using hardware or software that is two, three or more years out of date, Gen Zs will see that as a red flag. Technology is not a bonus for them — it is an expected investment into their and the company's future.
Consider this: Gen Z's parents, universities and colleges did their best to give their children the latest technology. If Gen Zs feel they are falling behind their friends or peers, you will have a retention problem as these highly mobile employees job-hop.
Workplace flexibility is important — if the work allows
Gen Zs have always been plugged in, doing homework and connecting with friends. They see flexibility as efficiency because it lets them get things done when they are at their best or when they have an idea.
This is a bonus for businesses that are embracing open-concept and flexible work spaces. And flexible, open-concept work spaces spawn creativity and sometimes unexpected, organic cross-functional teams.
As employers of Gen Z employees, we may have to do some work shaping their expectations that their parents and teachers may not have.
The average person (of any generation) is not a good multitasker when it comes to two or more strategic, complicated, important tasks. Work by Daniel Kahneman , referenced in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, have shown this, as have other researchers.
But for familiar and uncomplicated activities, this isn't necessarily true. Gen Zs seem to be very good at blocking out familiar, low-priority distractions like people talking, music or white noise. They may even miss noise if it's not there.
This is important to know so we don't judge them if they wear headphones at work. This is also important if you are considering moving to a trendy, cost-effective open-concept workspace.
Embrace motivation and boredom
Gen Zs want their work to be challenging, help them grow and provide opportunity for them and the organization. That sounds pretty fantastic to me. I want that employee. So I do find it a bit odd that motivation is a challenge I often hear from leaders. Highly motivated employees begin with clearly sharing goals and why they are important. Work with your Gen Z employees to help them organize those commitments including timelines and milestones.
When you show trust in Gen Zs and work with them to find their best work and best working environment, they will not want to break your trust.
Note that Gen Z and millennials are easily bored and are not used to being bored — they've always been plugged into technology, games and each other. The challenge for most leaders/mentors is to help them learn boredom may be an opportunity to explore their creativity (or to simply take a mental rest).
Keep them accountable
Be ready to have difficult conversations to let any employee know when they let you or the team down. When you have productive difficult conversations, you will build their respect for you, the company and themselves. Holding them accountable will reinforce their work is important... which is a huge motivator for them.
- Be clear with your professional project expectations and timelines.
- Be clear with your quality expectations.
- Be clear about workplace policies — flexibility, for example.
- Hold employees accountable for their work and quality.
- Provide specific, timely feedback, both positive and constructive.
- Do not linger on past challenges, but still follow point 4.
The future is coming — quickly. Even in their youth, Gen Zs are significantly impacting our economy because their population size is about the same as millennials and the total population of these two groups is much larger than Gen X and Boomers.
Generation Z are reinforcing the movement their millennial brothers and sisters started by making employers rethink work, motivation, reward, engagement, commitment and trust.
Happy communicating, mentoring, motivating, coaching and training.
Click here to learn more about Bruce Mayhew Consulting. We facilitate courses including email etiquette, time management, leadership, generational differences and more.
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