Managing Generation Z: 5 Tips to Inspire the New Workforce

Published on March 28, 2020

Generation Z is coming of age and projected to make up 24% of the global workforce this year. About 61 million people strong in the U.S., Gen Z is entering the job market in rising numbers, with the oldest members now in their early twenties. In the coming decade, most of the workforce will consist of Millennial and Gen Z employees. As a result, organizations familiar with wooing Millennials need to be prepared for the next wave of talent.

Gen Z grew up with technology at their fingertips, social media influencers and a sharing economy. To effectively engage this connected, empowered and emboldened set, managers must adapt quickly. Just as successful organizations constantly find new ways to thrive in an economy of rapid iteration, so should management practices.

Here are five tips to inspire a new generation of employees and improve work for everyone else in the process.

1. Provide continuous online feedback. 

Sometimes referred to as the iGeneration, Gen Z has grown up in an “always on” technology environment. These digital natives don’t wait for what they want—video on demand, social media, online shopping and mobile banking all provide immediate responses—so why should they expect the workplace to be different? 

For example, don’t wait for the next team meeting to acknowledge contributions—celebrate wins early and often by posting accolades on a social channel and including everyone involved, no matter how small the role. Online performance management monitors the pulse of the organization, collecting and reporting input to guide more frequent feedback. 

2. Prioritize one-on-one meetings. 

Not only does Gen Z desire immediate input, there is also an expectation for personalized experiences thanks to highly targeted digital marketing—that elevates the importance of an ongoing dialogue with managers. An extension of ongoing feedback, consistent one-on-one meetings should be a safe place to grow and learn and are key to boosting Gen Z engagement.

It’s easy to put off these meetings on a hectic day or if there are no immediate actions required, but resist the temptation. Meaningful, productive one-on-ones, with questions that tie into performance goals or feedback, go a long way toward engaging not just Gen Z but all employees. A tool accessible on any device that tracks topics, conversations and goals and creates agendas and action items for each meeting makes it easier to keep and drive more effective one-on-one discussions.

3. Align work with company vision.

More than any other generation, Gen Z employees want to be part of something they care about. They reward brands that align with their values and extend that behavior to the workplace. A meaningless job is not acceptable, regardless of financial incentives. Gen Z employees want to be part of a company whose mission they believe in, and they need to understand how they are contributing to that mission.

By establishing a direct connection between individual objectives and achieving a greater purpose, Gen Z employees will be more likely to stick around. Correlate individual performance goals with broader company initiatives and help employees track to them, so they understand how their contributions impact the success of the organization.

4. Invest in professional development. 

Gen Z employees expect companies to invest in their growth with professional development programs built into the work environment. Developing young talent prevents the drain of continually retraining new resources, and there aren’t many of them. In the U.S., low unemployment and a projected shortage of 8.2 million workers from 2017 to 2027 make retention of Gen Z employees key.

A recent LinkedIn survey finds that more than half (59%) of Gen Z respondents will acquire additional professional skills to make more money, and 43% prefer a fully self-directed and independent approach to learning. Continuous feedback and professional development goal alignment will help you identify what training programs are needed to support employees in reaching their next milestones.

5. Welcome feedback from all directions. 

Gen Z is not as hierarchical as previous generations. As organizations flatten and digital tools provide greater access, Gen Z feels empowered to share their voices. Expect Gen Z to put executives on the spot for answers and details—and acknowledge the value of their honest feedback.

Beyond accountability, encouraging this open-communication environment creates a real-time feedback loop for leadership, so problems don’t escalate. That way, management has an opportunity to address the fire as a spark, not a blaze.

Everybody benefits

In today’s unique employment market, with four generations working together, it’s important to understand the unique circumstances and perspectives of each group to establish a diverse, driven and content workforce. A work environment of frequent feedback, personalized discussions, meaningful assignments, ongoing learning opportunities, and open communications—now Gen Z demands it, but everybody benefits.

Greg Brown is a contributor to Grit Daily and CEO of Reflektive, a performance management company built for top performers and growing businesses. Reflektive is the 13th Fastest Growing Company in North America on Deloitte’s 2018 Technology Fast 500™, with more than 500 forward-thinking customers — including Allbirds, PagerDuty, Privia Health and Protective Life Insurance.

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