I come at this piece with an informed perspective. You see, I still play rugby at 43. I know, I just can’t let go! What this means for me is an intimate exposure to the so-called Gen Z. Each year as we tog out for the Munster Junior Cup, I relish telling the lads that I played my first cup match for Bohs in Limerick in 1995 and I look at them as I see it dawn on most of them, they had yet to be born. It always gives me a lift.
So, what has any of this to do with Gen Z and the workplace?
Well, it is about understanding. Understanding what motivates people, what resonates with them and how they hear you. The last point is probably the most important one in the context of this article. How best to speak to a generation of workers who have grown into a world that communicates in a massively different way to you.
Gen Z are those born from 1995 to 2010, so in the context of the workforce they are those 18 to 25-year olds in your team. Without generalising, they are probably the members of your team who you find most challenging to engage and retain. The question to be asked is ‘is this your problem or theirs?’ Well, as with most issues. It’s too complicated for simplistic generalisations. The answer is the solution rests with both of you. You as the employer need to get the best out of your team to drive growth and they as your team need to know what they are doing, why they are doing it and where it is leading.
Therein lies the key to understanding Gen Z.
For a generation of workers who have matured in a world where communication is accessible and constant, there is a dislike of what can be see as overly bureaucratic environments. They find it hard to relate to managers who they feel speak a different language. They are independent, creative, and very entrepreneurial. So how do you benefit from this?
First thing is to stop trying to ram this square peg into a round hole. Appreciate that you need to evolve somewhat and engage your Gen Z team. Truly embracing the concepts of People Management help you to recognise that engaged employees will go the extra mile for you. If they understand the ‘Why’, they will embody and deliver on your shared goals.
So how do I get to this Shangri-la of workplace cohesion?
Well the first step is to listen to them, spend time with them understanding their wants, needs and hopes. Having this knowledge will allow you to better manage their expectations while also pushing you to adapt and change as required. This generation saw the impact of the 2008 recession and so have a feeling of fluidity toward work that can be both a help and a hindrance. They very much espouse a Start-Up mentality and need to feel that energy from their employer.
Spending the time to get to know your team and to allow them to get to know you will also help you identify the leaders in this group. Once identified, it is important to give them a voice at the strategy table. This will do several things. It will allow you to stay current in your thinking and your actions toward your team and it will show your staff that you are open to delivering their dreams.
This last point is key when we think of how we described this generation earlier. If you don’t listen to them, you won’t understand them. If you don’t understand them, you can’t motivate them. And if they are not motivated, they won’t deliver. So, in essence you manage Gen Z the same way you should be managing all members of your team, with open, honest transparency and a shared vision for success.