It's time to move away from Millennials (as they are in their late 30s now!) and start focusing on developing Gen-Z. Millennials, as one of the largest generations yet, have brought so many great businesses to this world (FaceBook, Air BnB, Instagram, SnapChat, SoulCycle, Uber, Lime, Bird and so many more!)
As business owners and senior leaders, we need to focus on grooming this next generation to improve the world. So how do we even do that? How do we bring them into our organizations and get them to see what we care about?
1. Communicate your "why"
Gen-Z is more cause-focused than Millennials. This doesn't mean they all want to work for the next big nonprofit, solving the world's most challenging social issues while drinking their sustainably-sourced coffees (we all want to know where our coffee comes from right?). They do, however, want to know HOW the work they do on a daily basis makes a difference beyond your organization. Joey Speers is a young, creative Gen-Z who owns multiple businesses and talks about how important it is for older leaders to respect the Gen-Zers.
They have such a strong desire to give back to communities and be in connection with their careers. So explain how and why their position is important to the company and how it fits into the larger picture, as well as providing regular, meaningful feedback.
Between the Internet, smartphones, and co-workers, there are so many stimulants in today’s workplace, it’s easy to see how employees get sidetracked. Gen-Zers grew up with unlimited access to information and have learned to filter extreme amounts of information in a very short span of time. They are intensely committed to and focused on the information they do deem worthy of their attention. So make sure your WHY aligns with things of the community - giving them a reason to help lead your company.
2. Inspire and encourage
Now, I was born into a generation where starting a business was unheard of at first and we had to create the technology for what we needed! Gen-Z has NO reason to NOT be inventive, as they have the LOWEST barrier to entry to start a business and have ALL the technology they could need.
Provide them with the room to experiment, and then allow them the opportunity to fail, and at worst they'll learn a valuable lesson. Stand by them when they do fail and once again encourage them to keep at it. At best, using their innovation, they'll discover a cheaper, faster, or better way to do something for your organization or community.
3. Support growth and advancement
Generation Z employees are ambitious and value career advancement opportunities. In a recent study by Harris Poll, two-thirds of Gen-Zers said that their goal was to make it to the top of their profession. So one of the best things you can do as a senior leader is offer various opportunities for advancement! For example:
- Provide employees with full visibility into the career options that exist for them in the company
- Offer leadership training and stretch assignments that prepare employees for positions of greater responsibility
4. Support self-sufficiency
In the world the Gen Y's and even early Millennials have created, remember that Gen-Zers will Google everything and watch videos on YouTube to figure things out they don't know. And they will approach work the same way.
They believe in handling issues and finding solutions THEMSELVES rather than being given the answer. Try to foster a space that allows for this exploration, and make sure your employees know where to go for support if needed, like a coach. Gen Zers actually prefer their managers to act more like coaches instead of bosses. This is quite the shift for those of us who have been in corporate for quite some time.
In order to act more like a coach to Gen Zers, you'll need to know that coaching involves powerful, thought-provoking questions that unlock potential and inspire self-realization. This generation values independence and top-down management feels like they're suffocating. Perhaps, include your employees in the discovery process of a project and definitely consider investing in enrolling managers in a coaching program to retain this young talent!
If we want to win in business, we need to be ready to change not only technology but how we lead and grow our employees. Remember, Millennials were fed a steady diet of idealism during the relatively calm '80s and '90s, whereas Gen Z has grown up in a world affected by frequent acts of terrorism, economic uncertainty and societal upheaval.
So what does this mean for business? Once again because Gen Z has such a different way of both seeing the world and interacting with it compared to previous generations, businesses must be prepared to adjust and reevaluate their practices. Are you?