6 Secrets to Managing Gen Z Right
First, let’s start with the basics. Generation Z comes after Y (also known as the millennials) and was born between 1995 and 2012. Having never known a world without internet (or dial-up), these digitally savvy young adults can absorb information faster than any other generation on the planet, using social media to connect with others in different cultures, draw attention to social issues, and make a scalable impact. In a think piece published in i-D, Gen Z member Amelia Abraham paints a picture of her generation in relation to its predecessor: “If Generation Y were defined by a ‘me, me, me’ attitude—think selfie sticks and Lena Dunham—Gen Z cares about what’s happening to the planet.”
So how does this tech-savvy, activist-oriented group of young people respond to the workplace? Compared to millennials, it seems, they may be more loyal, less money-focused, and easier to groom. While Gen Z currently constitutes 7% of the workforce, that number is quickly growing and, according to estimates, will amount to more than 30 million in just three years. In order to harness the power and potential impact of this rising workforce, understanding how best to manage them is essential. But just as much as the millennials were confounding to the baby boomers, Gen Z can easily be seen as a whole new crop of personality and character. Here’s how to change your management style to get the best out of the next largest workforce.
According to a study conducted by staffing organisation Randstad USA, Generation Z is highly motivated by the thought of one day starting their own businesses. Whereas 11% of Gen Y want to found their own companies, 17% of Gen Z feels the same. This younger generation is also much more in tune with their marketing IQ, intrinsically knowing what would sell.
Managing Tip: Dial into this entrepreneurial spirit by giving Gen Z employees a dose of autonomy. Don’t just give them tasks; let them focus on a new project that is directly tied to your business’s success. Gen Z loves to see the evolution of an idea from inception to tangible impact.
This is the generation that grew up with helicopter parents. Your Gen Z employees are motivated by rewards. But be creative. You want to sculpt rewards around the evolving expectations of your business and keep Gen Z informed about your key performance metrics and how and why they may change.
Managing Tip: Gen Z proves to be more motivated by opportunities for advancement than they are by money. They are incredibly strategic, especially after witnessing the aftermath of the Great Recession on their Gen Y peers, so they are eager for opportunities to learn and are realistic about the fact that learning opportunities don’t always pay well. Use this as inspiration for your perk strategy. Maybe your Gen Z employees who reach a certain sales goal can be on a team to pioneer a new project.
According to a recent study, 51% of Gen Z prefers in-person communication with managers, as opposed to emailing (16%) or instant messaging (11%). Take the time to nurture high-intensity relationships with your Gen Z employees. They don’t want a constant stream of instant messages when you are sitting less than five feet from one another. They want to communicate face-to-face, know that they are heard, and have highly defined action items they can execute. Much like notes on an essay, Gen Z expects feedback on their projects.
Managing Tip: Gen Z sees the relationship between manager and employee as similar to the relationship between teacher and student. They want to feel like their manager is highly interested in their progress and dedicated to helping them improve.
Even more so than Gen Y, Gen Z is hypersensitive to ageism. They believe that the workplace should be less about age and more about ideas and contributions. Yes, Gen Z is eager to learn and hyper aware of their status as newbies to industry. However, they want the chance to be heard and taken seriously. Invigorate your Gen Z workforce by inviting them to strategy meetings, listening to their ideas about your business, and valuing their insight as much as you would someone in a senior level.
Managing Tip: Gen Z doesn’t want to be left out on the sidelines and does want to be taken seriously. Start by helping them understand the impact that their work has on a company.
Don’t sugarcoat the truth or hide information. They respond to transparency and are more likely to respect and listen to a manager who is open. Fifty-two percent of Gen Z reports that honesty is the most important quality for being a good leader.
Managing Tip: The next time you assign a new task or change protocol, don’t just send an email with the new requirements. Tell your Gen Z employees what’s changing and how that change will affect the larger goals of the company.
As you’ve probably gathered, Gen Z thrives on opportunity and individual attention. Motivate your employees by asking them about their future goals and helping them fine-tune the skills needed to get there. Show them that their dream job is within reach at your company, and work with them to get there.
Managing Tip: Have an open dialogue and periodic check-ins with your employees, and communicate what more they can do to get the position they want.