How to Work With Generation Z

The oldest and highly motivated members of Generation Z, recent high school and college graduates, are enthusiastically entering the workforce at a rapid pace.  Gen Z is expected to comprise 20% of the US workforce in 2020.  These career-oriented yet social digital natives are expressing radically different expectations and behaviors in the workplace than those of colleagues of prior generations. Our youngest generation of overachievers deserves our attention and adaptation, particularly among employers. Here are four defining Gen Z characteristics you need to know when working with Gen Z:  

  1. Gen Z is very social.
  2. Gen Z wants human interaction and feedback at work.
  3. Gen Z wants a physical workspace, in the office, as well as flexibility.
  4. Gen Z expects and requires a diverse culture.

Here’s my full article about coordinating with Gen Z in the workplace, recently published on the blog of GAIA Insights, a global leadership development consulting firm.

“Coordinating With Others in the Workplace – Working With Generation Z “
Published in GAIA Insights, October 14, 2019

As Generation Z becomes a larger segment of the global workforce, employers will need to modify communication, engagement and teamwork approaches to meet the collaborative and interactive work styles of this social generation.

Given their unprecedented social and digital behaviors, how will Gen Z integrate into today’s dynamic workforce? Here are a few important defining characteristics of Gen Z in the workplace and how employers can empower them to coordinate with others in the workplace.

Gen Z is very social. Gen Z has grown up hyper-connected. Practically since birth, Gen Zers thrive on the constant stimulation and attention received by others through their smartphones and social media. In fact, 50% of Gen Z check their smartphones 20 times per hour. This demand for social fulfillment in their personal lives is evolving in their professional lives as well. Expect to see them on their smartphones while they work because they are practically addicted to online interactions. This is how they work – constantly scanning, responding and switching focus from two to five screens at a time.

Assign them projects that require live social connection to feed their need for human interaction. Promote social connections through events and groups, such as frequent yet fresh team off-sites. When communicating with Gen Z, try to deliver the immediate response that they expect. Gen Z is also a DIY generation so they may try to complete tasks themselves; encourage them to share their findings with the team. Also ask them to teach tech to older generations.

Gen Z wants human interaction and feedback at work. Although the workplace has become digital and virtual, over 90% of Gen Z prefer to interact with teams in person. This generation craves engagement, with the majority preferring face-to-face engagement at work, and not just with colleagues. Gen Z wants interaction with the boss. 40% of Gen Z said they want daily interactions with their boss. Even more expressed their need for frequent check-ins and feedback from their boss on a weekly and even daily basis.

Employers should take on the role of a coach rather than a boss. Resilient Gen Z is very interested in receiving constructive feedback because they like to solve problems, even their own. Build teams that require face-to-face connection and collaboration. Create a social culture in the workplace, for example have open seating to facilitate interaction and relationship building; have gyms, cafes, games like ping pong readily available.

Gen Z wants a physical workspace, in the office, as well as flexibility. This is no surprise given their social nature and desire for human connections. Gen Z recognizes the downside of working in isolation, even if alone they are collaborating online. However, they also want flexibility in their hours as well as the ability to work wherever and whenever. Employees of this ambitious, disciplined and self-motivated generation will complete their assignments, no matter where and when they are working.

Give them the technical (and moral) support to work remotely and on a mobile basis; they will work during their commute, late at night or while on vacation. Create a desk or space for each employee (in all generations) which encourages Gen Z to come in and remain in the office. Offer frequent, yet brief meetings in the office where Gen Z can express their individual knowledge and creativity and get the feedback they so crave.

Gen Z expects and requires a diverse culture. According to research by Deloitte, 63% of Gen Z finds it very important to work with a diverse culture, in education, skills and ethnicity. This all-inclusive and highly socially conscious cohort expects diversity in any and all organizations. In fact, several universities and corporations have an “Inclusion Council” which ensures that values of inclusion, equity and diversity are inherent in the relationships and activities of all employees. Gen Z also prefers holding multiple roles and multiple teams so they are constantly meeting and working with new colleagues.

Organizations should require all employees to complete diversity training and become educated on the latest demographics. It’s critical that all generations are familiar with evolving terms relating to gender and ethnicity. Create multi-generational teams and multi-cultural teams and realize that Gen Z diversity goes far beyond fixed ratios for female co-workers or managers.

Overall Generation Z will be a pleasure to work with, particularly when their need for socialization and diversity are met in the workplace. Employers need to have a diverse social culture as well as a social mission. Gen Z’s preference for face-to-face interaction means they will integrate and collaborate with colleagues. When hiring and working with Gen Z, think like they do and make the offline work experience mimic the online social experience.

Authored by Nancy Nessel Generation Z Expert, Marketing Consultant

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