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Managing Generation Z

Greg and John review management tips to get the most from Generation Z employees entering the workforce – how to mentor, how to train, and how to benefit from their perspective.

Humans are unique, much like stars in the sky, no two are identical. Yet, each of us share common views with one another based on many different factors that have influenced our lives growing up. These shared experiences shape our worldview causing likenesses among generational cohorts. Young adults, 24-years of age or younger, are members of Generation Z. For the next 20-years young workers entering the workforce for the first time will be among this generational cohort, so it’s important to understand the best methods to attract, retain and engage these future workers, managers, and leaders. 

Understanding where one has been often helps us understand what makes them tick. Generation Z has grown up during a time of tumultuous events such as the Great Recession of 2008, multiple mass shootings, our country’s seemingly unending war in the Middle East, civil and racial strife, and the worst global pandemic in over a hundred years. As a result, Generation Z is risk adverse, cautious, have the highest reported percentage of anxiety and depression, and are hyper focused on social causes and branding. This is the first generation that doesn’t know what it is like to have a landline. Access to the internet by means of smart phones, tablets and other handheld electronic devices means instant information is always at their fingertips. Something as simple as leaving a message on a candidate’s voice mail to return a hiring manager’s call may go unnoticed because Gen Zers have never had to learn proper phone etiquette. So a hiring manager takes that as the candidate is no longer interested when in reality it’s most likely because the candidate genuinely doesn’t know to look for a voice message, and if they do, they might not even know how to retrieve it. As the dad of Gen Zers, I watched my eldest miss out on a job opportunity because she failed to return a voice message left by a hiring manager. Not because of a lack of care or desire, but simply because listening to a voice message and returning a call is something that she has never done before, despite our coaching efforts. According to healthline it takes “…an average of 66-days for a new behavior to become automatic.” Telephone etiquette is a new behavior for Gen Zers and as such will take time to develop.

The tools and techniques currently used to attract new hires might be fine, but if attracting the newest college graduates is the objective, make sure you add social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to your repertoire. Generation Z is very active on these two platforms and posting your community philanthropies, for example, on these platforms establishing your social position and brand, two very important aspects to Gen Zers, will get them to notice your organization. Since we know they are very text savvy, to maximize your positive contact rate when reaching out to candidates, consider following up your voicemail with a text as well. You might be pleasantly surprised to find you get an immediate response by way of text. Bingo, first contact with the next generation of leaders for your company!

When Googling the top attributes candidates look for in a job, you’ll find varying lists, but what’s striking is monetary aspects are not always at the top of the list. According to WayUp such features as company values, culture fit, camaraderie, opportunities to learn, and job security are more important. When you understand the drivers of Generation Z you begin to see why. The theme of Gen Zers formative years has been upheaval and to some, chaotic. To meet their needs, they look for a socially responsible enterprise which provides stability and security. So, to retain these new hires ensure mentoring is part of your onboarding strategy to get them plugged into a workgroup as quickly as possible, providing them with stability and learning opportunities. Include them in your company’s philanthropic endeavors early on. Ensure that company communications reach all team members, including those exclusively on Instagram and Twitter. Finally, evaluate your benefit offerings to make sure mental health is part of the package. If benefits are not offered, consider offering an Employee Assistant Program (EAP). 

Employee engagement is a challenge for many employers regardless of the generational makeup of their team, so an active focus on engagement helps everybody, not just Gen Zers. According to Gallup “Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity.” Investing in your people directly correlates to an investment in the overall health and profitability of your company. Employee engagement must be intentional and continual. Building a long-term strategy focused on giving your team purpose, will get them engaged. Remember, what gets a person out of bed every morning is not always a paycheck, more often it’s the drive to make a difference in something they are passionate about. If you don’t know what that is, talk to them and find out. In my career I have often found that a person’s passion sometimes has nothing to do with their day-to-day work, but when this is known, you can often find aspects of the job that do connect, offer them side projects, or move them into a completely different job that does. When you help an employee make a connection to something they’re passionate about, you’ll reap the benefits of increased productivity and profitability as a result.  

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Disclaimer: The information and resources provided herein are not a substitute for experienced legal counsel and does not constitute legal advice or attempt to address the numerous factual issues that inevitably arise in any employment-related dispute. Although this information attempts to cover some major recent developments, it is not all-inclusive, and any recommendations are based upon HR best practices and procedures. We recommend you consult an attorney for legal guidance.

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