Get more out of Gen Z in the workplace

Get more out of Gen Z in the workplace

Gen Z, people born between 1995 and 2010, are arriving into the world of work and will be making their mark for several years to come. Each generation has its strengths and foibles and employers need to be aware of these so they can provide necessary support and harness specific skillsets. The following guidance identifies some of the Gen Z characteristics most relevant to the working world and how employers can enhance or provide support for these, to the benefit of the overall business and the individual.
Image sourced from our EY Parental Advice Campaign which challenged parents' minds that university is the social norm for Gen Z school leavers.

Reacting to multiple stimuli

Gen Z, to a much greater extent than any other generation, has been the beneficiary (or victim?) of information bombardment, so multi-tasking and reacting to multiple stimuli comes very naturally to them. When they are seen checking their phones or browsing social media ‘on the job’ this can give the appearance of being distracted from the task at hand, but this does not necessarily mean they have been derailed. Communicating key targets and deadlines will ensure that work is delivered in a timely way. Remember, Gen Z have fewer qualms about logging on in the evening to work and generally at less traditional times of day. Embrace this flexibility, as Gen Z is no less ambitious than the generations before, and ensure your Gen Z employee is entrusted with an eclectic range of tasks. If you need them to focus on one task for a long period of time without distractions, make this clear. Offering training and development courses in mindfulness can also help employees to focus with enhanced clarity on tasks when required.

Entrepreneurialism and independence

Their entrepreneurial streak marks Gen Z out and, at a time when the most important output of developed economies is knowledge, fresh ideas and new ways of deploying technology are invaluable. The flip-side of this independent mindset can be a propensity toward independent working – no bad thing in itself! – but this needs to be complemented by an ability to work in teams to deliver shared goals. 

Skills like active listening and conducting yourself with authority and energy are skills that can be taught, honed and improved upon. Going back to soft-skills basics is absolutely invaluable for Gen Z.

Continual feedback loop

The annual or biannual performance review is no longer in vogue. Most Gen Z members want to have a continual stream of informal feedback from managers and peers, which matches their fast pace of work – they don’t want to wait, but prefer to tweak their ways of working as they go. This will likely entail a rethink of the appraisal system for most businesses, but should make for a more organic, flexible and useful process. Any changes to how appraisals are conducted need to be clearly communicated to line managers, so they absolutely know what is expected of them, and how frequently – and they need to receive the necessary training that goes with this.

Face-to-face is best

This might come as a surprise to some, given their true digital native status, but the research points toward Gen Z preferring face-to-face communication over other forms. So, if time and resource permit, think about calling a meeting in the office, rather than conveying key information over instant message or email.

An age of anxiety

As well as transitioning to adulthood at a time of significant technological disruption, Gen Z have grown up at a time of austerity and will have observed adults in their lives navigating a financial crisis, struggling with housing costs and in some cases having difficulty putting food on the table, as wages stagnate and living costs spiral. Simultaneously, members of Gen Z have been exposed across their entire lives to overly-sanitised images of perfect bodies, perfect exam grades, perfect friendships and generally perfect lives, particularly on social media.

All this is isolating and increases anxiety. At one end of the spectrum, suicide rates are on the rise amongst this age group, and on the other they have a greater propensity to depression, making it harder to engage with others; the latter can have an impact on enjoyment of, and performance at, work. 

More than ever before, employers need to invest in the journey toward normalising mental health issues in the workplace; like a headache or a broken bone, anxiety and depression must be banished from the list of taboos and be addressed with the right treatment and support.

Gen Z has much to give to the world of work but employers need to evolve their personal development offerings and their feedback processes to reflect the needs of this new generation. Not only will this help employers attract the best new talent but also help them retain it.

Read 'Six ways to convince Gen Z to work for you' by MSL CEO, Jason Frank.


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