How To Manage Gen Z in the Workplace
Generations have a habit of looking dismissively at what’s coming next. The baby boomers thought Generation X was the slacker generation, while even Millennials are starting to be disappointed at the latest incarnation – Generation Z.
Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, is now entering the workforce in significant numbers. This generation brings unique characteristics, values, and expectations that challenge traditional management practices. For employers and managers, understanding how to integrate and lead this group effectively is crucial for building a productive, peaceful workplace.
Understanding a Generation: Who Is Gen Z?
Labels are all the rage these days, yet they often cause us problems and antagonize divisions. Generation Z has grown up in a fast-paced, technologically advanced world with numerous dramatic world events.
They are digital natives – to borrow a very Gen Z phrase – who have never known life without the internet or smartphones. Their entire existence has intertwined with the technological boom over the last two decades, leading to unique problems and advantages.
This upbringing has shaped their perspectives, making them highly adept at multitasking and hungry for instant feedback. Unlike their predecessors, they highly value individuality, social activism, and ethical practices in life and the workplace.
However, Gen Z is seeing some of the highest rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide in recorded history. A Gallup and the Walton Family Foundation survey found that just 47% of Gen Z Americans consider themselves “thriving” in life. A much lower rate than millennials at the same age and among the worst figures across all generations in the U.S. today.
It’s easy to see Gen Z as a hybrid problem child and technological whiz, but simplifying their situation doesn’t help. This generation is the future of our employment pool, and it’s in our best interest to find a way for them to thrive.
10 Ways to Effectively Manage a Gen Z Workforce
Managing a generation of people that seem borderline alien to you can be a nightmare. It’s easy to take a ‘it’s my way or the highway’ approach, but without flexibility and a willingness to adapt, you’re going to find yourself with a high turnover. Here are ten points to consider to help effectively manage a Gen Z workforce.
1. Embrace Technological Integration
Gen Z is the first genuinely digital-native generation. This can be a challenge but also comes with enormous potential benefits. Incorporating advanced technology and digital tools in the workplace is not only smart business; using some of your younger, more tech-savvy employees to operate can be a win-win for both sides. Gen Z is often adept at using various platforms and devices and can significantly speed up transition time.
2. Offer Regular and Constructive Feedback
This generation thrives on frequent feedback. Unlike the annual review process, Gen Z prefers regular check-ins and constructive feedback to gauge their performance and grow professionally. How you give your feedback is also essential.
The no-holds-barred approach that would have been acceptable 20 years ago has now been replaced with a softer way of doing things. Contrary to certain perceptions, they do not easily succumb to emotional distress or excessive pressure. Gen Z typically appreciates critical feedback and straightforward dialogue through face-to-face communication.
3. Foster a Culture of Collaboration
Gen Z values collaboration – perhaps more than any other generation. While previous age groups may have leaned towards a more cutthroat nature where you must push others down to stand out, Gen Z relishes partnership. Where possible, encourage teamwork and create opportunities for cross-departmental projects, which utilize their collaborative skills and aid in their professional growth. This factor scores highly on almost every Gen Z work development wishlist.
4. Prioritize Flexibility and Work-Life Balance
Thankfully, those days of working 16 hours and barely keeping your sanity together are over. The Baby Boomer Generation may struggle with notions of a work-life balance, but for younger generations, it’s non-negotiable. Flexibility in work hours and location is highly valued by Gen Z, many of whom would have seen their parents working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A good balance between their professional and personal lives and a flexible work environment can significantly boost their productivity and job satisfaction. The old ways of working are on the way out.
5. Provide Opportunities for Growth and Learning
Continuous learning is crucial for Gen Z, who always seem to be looking around them for other opportunities, whether a better position or simply a way of improving themselves. They are ambitious and career-focused, so offering opportunities for professional development and career advancement is critical to retaining them. If you don’t, somebody else will.
6. Promote Ethical and Socially Responsible Practices
With a steady stream of injustices filtering through their various feeds, Gen Z’s world can seem cruel.
Gen Z is socially conscious and demands the same from their employers. Promoting ethical practices and social responsibility – and actually following through with them – can help align with their values and boost their loyalty to the company.
7. Encourage Individuality, Diversity, and Inclusion
Like social responsibility, diversity and inclusion are enormously important to younger generations, but so is the need for individuality. This generation values diversity and individual expression. An inclusive workplace that celebrates diversity and allows personal expression will be more attractive to them.
8. Implement Purpose-Driven Goals
Meaning and purpose are two words rarely found in a 1980s workplace. Forty years ago, you were there to work and work hard. Trying to implement a sense of meaning into your employment was seen as a distant fantasy – if at all.
However, times have changed dramatically. Gen Z seeks meaningful work. Aligning their roles with the company’s larger goals and demonstrating the impact of their work can help keep them motivated. When a member of Gen Z genuinely believes in your company or what you hope to do, they’ll show up ready to work.
9. Be Clear on the Rules
So far, many of our points have fallen on the softer side, but it’s equally important to be firm around company rules and policies. Gen Z are notorious for spending hours glued to their phones, with 40% spending 4 hours or more daily on social media alone. This is an addiction that we rarely talk about in the United States and one that affects Gen Z much more than other age groups.
10. Offer Financial Literacy and Wellness Programs
Gen Z is entering the workforce in an economically turbulent time. Offering programs that help them manage finances and promote overall wellness can be a significant perk. However, don’t be the kind of boss who only gives perks. Money makes the world go round, and many would prefer a pay rise to a pizza party or a voucher for something they might never use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Gen Z Hard To Manage?
Calling Gen Z hard to manage is a lazy approach but requires different management styles. Understanding their unique characteristics and adapting management approaches to meet their expectations can help create a better work environment.
What Does Gen Z Struggle With?
Gen Z may struggle with traditional hierarchical structures and rigid work environments. They also face challenges in coping with stress and anxiety, partly due to the high expectations they place on themselves and the pressures of a highly connected world.
Regarding generational differences, it’s time to stop the finger-pointing and name-calling. None of that helps and only adds further problems to a society with enough issues already. Successfully managing Gen Z in the workplace involves embracing technological advancements, fostering a collaborative and flexible work environment, and aligning with their values of diversity, social responsibility, and individual expression – do that, and there’s no reason they can’t become an internal part of your team.
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