When this blog first launched, we dedicated quite a few column inches to what businesses should do to integrate Generation Y, the cohort of folks born between 1984 and 1996 that were dusting off their degrees and rapidly entering the workforce. When we wrote these posts, we focused on how tech savvy this generation, which are also known as Millennials, were and how their ability to quickly grasp technology could be a real boon to your business. However, we also warned that, as a generation, there were concerns that these same employees could be lazy, hold unrealistic expectations about what life in the corporate world is like, and were the ones on your roster most likely to jump ship.
It seems like just as we wrapped our heads around these Millennials and found a way to really leverage their strengths and manage their soft spots, a new generation graduated and entered the workforce.
Meet Generation Z. Born after 1997, this new crop of workers is the most diverse generation in history and when it comes to technology, they really put Millennials to shame! This is the generation that was practically born with a smart phone in their hands or at the very least, have always used a mobile device as their primary means to access the internet. They’re use of apps, swipe ups, and navigating various online platforms is practically unparalleled. Putting technology aside, they also have a number of key traits that will make them real movers and shakers in your business. What is it that you can expect from this new generation of workers and how best to incorporate these characteristics into your existing company culture?
Hanging in the balance:
One of the corporate values that Generation Z most appreciates is the promise of work-life balance. They will be most attracted to companies that are interested in fostering their whole self, such as those that offer a robust menu of health and wellness offerings, the potential for flex scheduling or work from home opportunities, and any other perk that proves you care about your employee’s well-being, even when they’re off the clock. You’ll also rack up extra credit if you take the time to ask them what matters most to them from a benefits perspective and let them know that it’s something that you can either accommodate or are willing to explore.
Build the trust:
This generation grew up in the era of the continuous news cycle and have been blasted with claims of “fake news” on the various social media platforms that they know and love. As a result, this generation brings with it a healthy dose of skepticism, so you may find that you have to work hard to gain their trust and may find push-back if you can’t provide them with concrete expectations or outcomes for a project. You can work this into your company culture by fostering an environment that values clear communication with everyone from the top down expected to be transparent as possible about anything that could cause shifts in their status quo.
Tote your plan:
With this air of cynicism, you’ll want to be sure that you are very explicit about your expectations for their role in the company and what is expected of them on a day-to-day basis. Create a plan that outlines what their role will entail, how it may change and evolve as your company grows, and any opportunities for them to contribute outside of their role or to the broader company. In addition, career advancement is front of mind for these folks, so it will serve you well to also outline what the “next step” in the career ladder looks like, as well as what they’ll need to do to achieve it.
As we touched on above, Generation Z is very adept at using technology, and apps in particular. Rather than play down this talent, leverage their skills to see if there are new ways that you could be reaching your customer base, or simply just making aspects of your work life more efficient. It will also serve you well to harness these individuals if you plan to roll out any new technologies or system upgrades as this generation is quick to learn and is accustomed to sharing this knowledge with the older generations!
Foster an entrepreneurial spirit:
Perhaps what this generation is best known for is that they have very high standards and they aren’t generally interested in settling for less. If they see something isn’t working as effectively as it should, they’ll be the ones to speak up about the problem and propose some out-of-the-box solutions. Rather than downplay this trait, which can rub some folks the wrong way given how inexperienced these employees are in the workforce. Hear them out and where possible, give them the opportunity to run with an idea and see the project through from start to finish. Giving Gen Z ownership over such an initiative can keep them interested in their jobs over the long haul, as well as potentially help you solve some problems that are interfering in the success of your company.
Train your X Generation:
Perhaps most importantly, in order to make Generation Z feel most at home in their new role, you’re going to want to make sure that you have trained your previous generation in how to be managers and not only just the soft skills that all managers need. Resolving conflict, providing constructive feedback, and fostering teamwork will be what you need from these managers. You’ll also want to make sure that they’ve received at least some training in how to speak to the concerns of new, younger employees, particularly those for who this is their first exposure to corporate culture. You’ll want to make sure that they are well versed in goal setting, career planning, inspiring growth, and really how to serve as a coach more than a boss, since this is what Generation Z has stated they want most from a first manager.