In with the new…
As the “boomers” reach retirement age and decide to call it a career, Gen Z enters the workforce in great numbers. At first glance, this is neither a surprise nor something that would call for special preparation. After all, this transition has occurred since the days of our ancestors, when the elder hunter stepped down and passed the spear to the up-and-comer. But is the shift really that simple and straightforward?
The answer of course is ‘no’
The latest generation (Gen Z) has proven itself unique. Technology, and the world as a whole, has changed dramatically in recent years. Since Gen Z has been raised with advanced technology, they have a vastly different understanding of and approach to work. Many, in fact, learned to operate an iPad or tablet before they learned to walk.
What does this tell us?
In short, Gen Z are accustomed to receiving, processing, and interpreting information quite differently than many who have come before them. Simply put, they’re faster. Not necessarily more accurate or more competent, but many of the Gen Z population can utilize technology and resources more quickly to accomplish many tasks. At face value, one from a previous generation might label them as impatient, sloppy, or disengaged. However, the reality is that more often than not, this new generation is bored because they have already completed their work, or they’re disinterested in the task they have been given.
Maximizing Gen Z’s potential and success
Working as an independent consultant, trainer, and coach for over a decade, I’ve witnessed first-hand this evolution and shift in workplace demographics, particularly with regard to age. Throughout the years, I’ve learned many valuable lessons from this unique, multitasking, fast-moving generation. The most valuable lesson being that unless key take-aways from training sessions are organizationally reinforced, the majority of value will be lost, forgotten, and not applied. This article details three critical techniques that organizations can structurally implement to expedite the development and maximize the success of their Gen Z workforce.
1) Create a balance (Structure and freedom)
Gen Z have grown up with Uber, Instacart, AirBnB, and other gig-based methods of earning income. They are familiar with and well versed in the nature of independent, self-directed work. However, it is valuable for them to have a reliable structure (i.e., regular meeting times, deadlines, etc.) as a backbone. The structure affords a level of stability to these young, developing professionals, which is essential to the learning process and expedites adaptation for many Gen Zers. With occasional guidance, this balance serves as training for Gen Z to manage their time effectively, learn professional etiquette, best industry practices, and professional collaboration skills. As a residual benefit, they learn to navigate this new, professional territory more confidently, having both the structure to trust and freedom to try.
2) Provide opportunities after training
Opportunities, and the prospect of opportunities, are fuel that propels motivation and performance in the workplace. They are water to the plant. A lack of opportunities can create a culture where individual performance is unrecognized and unappreciated. In time, this perpetuates a “who cares?” attitude toward work that is reflected in actions and production. Conversely, when opportunities are mindfully integrated, they serve as both incentives for Gen Z as well as a structure to reinforce desired performance. Opportunities are best utilized when employed following specific training. For example, after a training session on “Team cohesiveness”, an attendee applies one of the strategies reflected in the training session. That employee may be offered the opportunity to take the lead on an upcoming project. It is effectively a chance to demonstrate their skill level, knowledge, or insight, and/or their understanding of big picture organizational values.
3) Training and pathways to career advancement
Inline with offering opportunities is providing clear pathways to career advancement. Promoting from within is a start but establishing a few career advancement options for entry level employees is essential to the prosperity of the new Gen Z professional. We must remember that many of these generations have witnessed older generations (i.e., parents, siblings, etc.) either struggle to find work or bounce from job to job rapidly with little consistency or job-security. Gen Z desires stability and predictable circumstances. By highlighting the path to career advancement lies within the application of key training lessons, organizations are reinforcing both desired behaviors and skill development within this new generation. Therefore, connecting lessons from key training sessions to career advancement resonates deeply with Gen Z employees. For many, this pattern will perpetuate a culture of motivation and initiative and most importantly, it will promote a culture of learning and continuous improvement, all of which are essential to an organization’s long-term success.
For best results, these three cornerstones of Gen Z optimization should be aligned with each other and organizational priorities. The most effective organizations anchor themselves to well thought-out priorities, then create role expectations, opportunities, and pathways that reflect these priorities. This alignment enables all cornerstones to reinforce each other and strengthen the workplace culture and climate. The impact on Gen Z is a clear understanding of expectations, rewards, and consequences. Some may leave in search of more lax opportunities. However, many will strap-in to learn, embrace the model, and develop their skills while performing for their organization. In time, a positive culture of guidance, development, and trust begins to foster and take shape. Internally, the organization becomes more creative and productive. Externally, the organization develops a reputation of being innovative, attractive, and professional!
Wishing you success in your future endeavors…