January 21, 2020

Gen Z employees will force your company to change for the better.

Each new generation is viewed with skepticism when it enters the world of work, as the cultural narratives about them rarely bode well for the companies they’ll be joining. With Generation Z making its debut in the professional workforce, we think it’s time to dispel some myths. Gen Z may have some unique needs, but the investment you make in meeting those needs will pay huge returns for employees across all generations.

Who is Generation Z? 

Born between 1996 and 2010, they’re best known for being the first generation to have internet access their entire lives. They’re deeply tech-inclined, and likely know more people in their social media lives than they do in “real life.” (To someone in Gen Z, the idea that the internet is somehow separate from “real life” probably sounds absurd.) Their connectedness to the world has often given them an early awareness of inclusion issues faced by other identity groups. Being plugged in to the world from day one has made this generation social, compassionate, and curious. 

Myth-busting: Generation Z 

Not everything we hear about Generation Z is true. Let’s break down some of those stereotypes for you before we get into the good stuff. 

Myth #1: They don’t want to work.  

Truth: Every generation thinks the one that comes after it is lazy, but the idea that an entire generation doesn’t want to work falls particularly flat when talking about Gen Z. This age group has already proven itself to be among the most entrepreneurial yet, aided by their lifelong access to tech innovation. Besides— since they’ve just started to hit the workforce, there’s no data to base the laziness conclusion on. They haven’t been given a chance.

Myth #2: They’re poor communicators.

Truth: They’ve spent their entire existence online communicating with others, adapting their linguistic patterns for different audiences and channels. Every generation has its own slang, but only Generation Z is wired to say just about anything in 140 characters or less.

Myth #3: They demand too much in a workplace. 

Truth: Generation Z employees, similarly to their Millennial predecessors, expect flexibility, transparency, feedback, inclusion, and teamwork. In other words, they want an environment that fosters their creativity and innovation, not bureaucracy where “this is how it’s always been done” will always be the final word. They’ve been watching questionable power structures tumble their whole lives, and see an urgent need for change. Don’t worry; you won’t need to overhaul your entire business overnight. This is a smart generation that values compromise and only wants to see that things can change for the better. 

Why you want Generations Z in the workplace 

Every new generation brings something new to the table, and Generation Z is no exception.

They’ll improve your systems. 

Growing up with technology, they see opportunities for improvement everywhere. They know that manual tasks can be automated, improved user experiences will make customers happier, and that there’s an endless world of online communities to tap into. They know what’s out there and what’s possible. They want to free up their time (and everyone else’s) to work on big projects, and make big impacts. These employees will investigate, propose, and daydream up ways to make your entire team more efficient.

They’ll bring innovation to the table.

Generation Z isn’t afraid of a little failure; they see it as a necessary part of innovating. It’s scary to embrace failure in a business, and that fear often holds a company back. Set clear boundaries—like how oversight works—so you can rest a little easier at night, but encourage your Generation Z employees to share their ideas. You won’t be disappointed. 

(Read: How to know when your employees don’t feel psychologically safe.)

They’ll treat their teammates like teammates.

Social media has a lot of flaws, as you surely know by now. But at its core, it’s a powerful tool for driving human connection and empathy. Exhibit A: Gen Z. They see technology as a way to stay connected, not a way to hide from the world. As a result, they make amazing team players. They know how to stay in touch across distributed teams, they care about how other people are doing, and they believe in supporting others through tough times. Your team will be more productive and happier when injected with a fresh dose of compassion and humor.

Gen Z’s #1 concern in Bravely sessions:

Lack of role clarity

How to manage Gen Z workers 

So we’ve sold you on this new crop of star employees. Now what? Here are some tips to help this new and growing cohort meet its potential:

  • Keep expectations crystal-clear. The top underlying concern that Gen Z employees share with their Bravely coaches is a lack of role clarity. Understanding what’s required of them vs. what’s considered “above and beyond” can clear some stress.
  • Give lots of feedback. Recognition and feedback are powerful motivational tools. If they’re rocking it, let them know and they’ll keep doing it. And they can take constructive feedback well and improve when needed. 

(Read: Your working relationships can withstand tough feedback.)

  • Give them space. This group doesn’t need constant encouragement to be creative; in fact, they benefit from some breathing room. 
  • Ask what they need. Digging into their expectations will make them feel appreciated and reassure you that they don’t actually expect the sun and the stars. 
  • Show a willingness to change. Businesses who are stuck doing things the same way for decades are suffering. Keeping things dynamic could improve the bottom line along with morale.

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