Currently, five generations of workers are coming together to make products, provide services, and disrupt industries — but you should probably take a picture because it won’t last much longer. By 2020, Gen Zers will make up 40% of the working and consuming population. And just like all generations, Generation Z workers hold a distinctive worldview: They’re in the early stages of their careers and may have a working style that seems foreign or presents challenges.
Make no bones about it: Gen Zers aren’t going to sit still and blend in. They’re authentic. Consequently, employers need to spend some time getting to know what makes them tick.
Changes Ahead for Big and Small Businesses
While younger workers have gained a reputation as job hoppers, Generation Z is poised to reverse the trend. Lovers of stability, most members of Gen Z expect to stick with just four employers over the course of their careers. In other words, they’re ready to plant roots. Of course, in exchange for loyalty, they have some expectations.
The first is a desire for both virtual and face-to-face communication. Rather than being given directives or suggestions via Slack, they like to spend time in face-to-face conversations. For Millennial supervisors accustomed to text-only dialogue, this may feel awkward at first. Nevertheless, it’s an important practice that all leaders need to embrace.
Generation Zers also want businesses to be socially responsible and community-minded — and they go far beyond just talking about greenhouse gases and carbon footprints. Plus, they can smell insincerity a mile away. Knowing this, organizations may want to tap into their Gen Z employees’ minds for ways to be more visibly empathetic on a corporate level.
Finally, Gen Z craves an open forum that will allow for respectful dialogue and debate. When Gen Zers have something to say, they expect to be heard and acknowledged. Though this tendency may ruffle some feathers, it comes from their belief that ethical, visionary leaders actively seek out and implement good ideas.
In return, Generation Z will work hard, with 77% believing they’ll work harder than previous generations. In fact, Gen Z members enjoy working on challenging assignments and earning advancement opportunities, especially when they can use their natural tech capabilities.
That said, members of Gen Z do need to learn to untether from their devices, and bosses can assist by offering training focused on developing emotional intelligence. Although IQ scores are up among young adults, emotional quotient scores are down. The rise of artificial intelligence in the workplace helps companies make better predictions, but it can’t help with EQ, making it a huge asset for those who possess it.
Training a Cadre of Future Stars
Leaders shouldn’t expect Generation Z to come to the table ready for the big leagues. Like all entry-level professionals, Gen Zers still need guidance. They prefer to receive feedback quickly and often. Annual performance reviews won’t meet their standards. They need more consistent give and take, which sets up a perfect opportunity for bridging the coming leadership gap.
Baby Boomers have already begun leaving the workforce, taking legacy information with them. Generation Z can become the conduit to preserving institutional knowledge by becoming mentees of Boomer colleagues.
Best Ways to Win the Hearts of Gen Z Workers
This all sounds fairly exciting and dynamic — and it will be as long as leaders take the opportunity to make some workplace changes. Here are some ways to keep Gen Zers happy.
1. Wave the education banner proudly. A robust onboarding process and occasional workshops are good ways to get new employees accustomed to basic systems and expectations, but learning should continue across platforms and in a variety of structured and unstructured ways. Generation Z is no stranger to the learning process. In fact, nearly three-quarters of Gen Z members will stay with a company if it provides ongoing training. Helping them learn EQ is a great place to start.
Generation Zers may need to work on their interpersonal skills to function well in collaborative situations. So set up scenarios in which they’re forced to tap into emotion-based decision-making to hone their foresight, insight, and actions. That way, they’ll have a foundational understanding of how to use their natural penchant for innovation. And feeling prepared makes learners 21% more likely to feel self-assured at work.
2. Show a sincere concern for employees. Although 52% of Gen Z workers believe it will be easy to work with Generation Xers, the managerial styles of Gen Xers can clash with Gen Z preferences. For instance, members of Gen X value efficiency, so their words may not feel warm or genuine to younger generations.
Managers need to spend time getting to know their direct reports and building rapport. Having a better connection with workers makes employees more eager to cooperate on ways to streamline their tasks and reduce waste. Generation Z workers want to bring value to their companies and customers. Help them achieve this by brainstorming ways to find shortcuts by reusing projects and content.
Don’t be afraid to appoint Gen Z workers into leadership positions. They’re good at processing information and creatively taking charge. After each leadership stint, talk about the experience. Help them use their insights and newfound abilities to elevate their careers and become tomorrow’s executives.
3. Give diversity and mission more than lip service. Corporations are moving toward diversity and inclusion in a big way, but some may need to step up their efforts. Gen Z members are growing up in a country that is more diverse than ever. Complaining about other populations or berating changing social norms is a quick way to lose a young employee to a more progressive organization.
Be certain your business keeps up with all the needs and realities of life that Gen Z sees as ordinary. Otherwise, you may come across as tone deaf when trying to recruit future superstars from universities or other companies. At the same time, be sure to make it clear what your company stands for. Some Gen Z members are willing to take a little less money to work for companies that align with their values.
Welcoming and learning the best ways to work with young adults is the best way to set up your company for success. You must set the stage so these bright young minds can help your team add depth and breadth to your offering.
To learn more about how to leverage emotional intelligence to lead your team, check out my book.