2023. A new generation, is now firmly ensconced in the workplace. Gen Z, many of whom graduated during the pandemic, are now taking first steps in their careers. Every time a new generation settles into the next phase of their lives, there are rumbles of disruption.
Conversations about how to deal with millennials have fallen quietly off the radar over the last few years, and now employers are turning their attention to this younger cohort. The first truly digital natives, they have grown up living very different lives to millennials, Gen X and boomers who are often managing them at work.
“Not understanding” their behaviour is a poor excuse.
With age comes experience and the ability to better exercise empathy. Faced with a different approach and set of behaviours to ‘coach’ it’s easy to become dismissive. “We don’t do it like that here”, but is that helpful? Gen Z has been described as the first generation that will happily quit a job without another one lined up, because happiness and mental health is their top priority.
Side hustles are the norm, whether it’s selling items on eBay or carving a path as an influencer, money is important but having a 9-5 is not the only way to secure an income. This doesn’t mean they should be treated like glass, but that managers need to become chameleons. Getting the absolute best out of these young people and ensuring a positive work atmosphere should continue to be a top priority for businesses. So, what do we need to address?
Imagine growing up in a world where everything and everyone not only wants your full attention but can demand it at any hour. Alerts going off, voice notes coming in, emails pinging. Gen Z are used to being responsive. They’ve grown up carrying phones with them, and always being contactable.
When it comes to work, it should come as no surprise that they struggle with prioritising, because their default response is ‘urgent’. Managers should always set clear deadlines, and invest in a personalised approach to time management, suggesting ways and tools that can help set expectation and manage stress in the work environment.
Transparency is key here. Gen Z wants to know what is happening, and when. They’re not great at dealing with the unknown, just look at the covid years. Lay down SMART objectives for them to achieve, track progress and have an end goal and time frame in mind for achieving next steps. This generation is highly focused on success. Perhaps because it’s so easy for them to see examples of it all over social media.
People who are excelling in their hobbies and work are proud of themselves and letting the world know, there’s no more of this ‘shyly’ announcing a promotion or even hiding it through embarrassment. They are ambitious, and we should celebrate their drive and motivation.
Face to Face time
A global survey of Gen Z revealed they’d like more face-to-face time. Whilst many members of Gen Z appear to fear the phone ringing and actually speaking to people, they recognise that in the workplace, face to face time is important. Much of Gen Z will have started their careers online during the pandemic. We can’t underestimate how difficult that must have been for them. There are so many cues we pick up from face-to-face conversations, that you just can’t over a video call.
For example, someone’s crossing their arms, but you can only see their face. How do you pick up that something is wrong? Being in an office environment and listening to conversations, seeing how things are run and learning how to interact with different age groups is so important. We know that many of them value the flexibility of hybrid working, but make sure you’re offering face to face time to balance that. It’s probably one of the first opportunities they will have had to make friendships and build relationships outside of their own immediate age group.
How do you become a decisive person when it’s so easy to see what other people’s opinions are? With a click of a button, you can be reading reviews on Glassdoor, deciding where to go for lunch or what phone to buy. This generation can be wildly influenced by other people’s opinions. They’re not afraid to have their own point of view, but in an unfamiliar environment where they’re assuming a junior role some basic tasks where they’re forced into deciding things without an external backer can throw them. Consider this, and make sure you’re as approachable as possible, coach them slowly into this role. Small steps, build confidence.
Agencies are fully aware of how important this is. For Gen Z it’s not an ‘ask’ it’s an essential. Workplaces need to reflect society and have policies in place to champion diversity and inclusion. If that’s missing, it’s just an immediate ‘not for me’.
Generation Z is a truly positive and driven set of young people that are bound to thrive in the workplace if we can just lay the right foundations for them.