First off, let me say that I’m sorry for using the term ‘Gen Z’ in this title. Personally, I don’t think Generation Z exists. Somewhere along the line we decided that we were inventing a new type of people every 15 years or so, and I just don’t agree. However, that’s the language we use, and so I need to say ‘Gen Z’ or else you wouldn’t read this.
However, I can promise that this advice will be extremely easy to follow. Because instead of outlining a whole laundry list of characteristics that are supposedly unique to this newest generation, I’m going to argue that there’s only two things you need to know about them – they are young, and they’ve never known a world without the Internet. From there, everything else falls neatly into place.
So, how can you seamlessly incorporate Generation Z into your workplace? Here are a few simple suggestions:
Expect Them To Act Like Young Workers Always Do
They are going to look for ways to shortcut their path to the top. They are going to think they know more than they do. They are going to offer a lot of new ideas because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so. There are a host of things here, but it’s important to remember that all young workers behave like this. So did Baby Boomers when they were in their 20s. As long as you remember that they are young, not different, you’ll be able to resist the notion that you’re being forced to deal with something you’ve never dealt with before.
Explain Why You Do What You Do
Older workers sometimes view this as a chore, but it shouldn’t be. Young workers asking to understand the rationale for your current processes is a normal part of learning how a company operates, and the ones that don’t ask are likely to become mindless drones who will never impress you with their productivity or initiative. A good company should always be asking itself why it does what it does so that it can stay nimble and adapt when necessary. Far from being a frustrating obligation, you should view this as an opportunity to stay fresh. In this respect, Generation Z will be doing you a favor.
Expect Them To Communicate A Little Differently Than You Do
It’s a sad truth that while every Gen Zer owns a smartphone, they don’t really know what the ‘phone’ part of it is for. Most of them will figure it out, but they’ll still be most comfortable with the communication tools they’ve grown up using. That’s not such a terrible thing – after all, you like the ones you’re comfortable with, too. So ask them how they like to communicate, and then see how much of their needs you can accommodate. As long as this is a two-way compromise, you shouldn’t feel like you’re being asked to shoulder an unfair burden.
Expect Some of Them To Never Figure it Out
Again, this is part of the process. There are still some hold-out hippies who live in a van and never got on board the corporate train, and there will be some Gen Zers who never understand that they will have to work hard, be patient, and make concessions to others’ way of doing things. Those people will weed themselves out soon enough, and you should not be shy about firing them. But you also shouldn’t see those relative few as indicative of a generation-wide problem. It isn’t.
Ultimately, Generation Z is exactly like the Millennial generation that came before them, and you’ve probably heard a billion strategies about how to work with them. The same strategies will work here, too, and they will also work for Generation AA or Z+ or whatever thing they call the next one.
Bravo on your contrarian approach. You’re right. People don’t fit into neat categories. Much of attitudes grow from what has surrounded them.
When I work with companies and organizations on multi-generational projects, I use Covey’s : “First seek to understand” approach to break the ice.
The discussion centers around values than details.
Thanks for your insights.
Thank for the comment Michelle! Great idea on how to break the ice.