The digital natives of Generation Z are starting to enter the workplace. These young people have a unique view of the working world, and their desire for more horizontal management structures is encouraging managers to reinvent business norms.
Who are your new recruits?
After the baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Y (“Millennials”), now comes Generation Z, known as “Gen Z” or “Zoomers”, as well as “Plurals”, “Generation Refresh” and “Digital Intuitives”. Born between 1995 and 2015, this generation, or at least its older members, have recently made their entry into the working world. As a manager you may have already come across them within your company, or even given them their first interview. This generation has enormous potential and is ready to enter the labour force and substantially change the way it operates.
Generation Z are often autodidacts, allergic to hierarchy and ready to shake up business norms.
A precious asset for your company
Members of Generation Z are often said to be autodidacts, allergic to hierarchy and ready to shake up business norms. But don’t worry, these future recruits are not the revolutionaries they are reputed to be. In fact they have numerous qualities that are indispensable to your company. Their strengths include strong values, a swiftness to think and take action, and an international outlook.
These young adults are also resourceful and hyperconnected. Their thirst for learning means that they will inform and educate themselves independently and this enables them to adapt rapidly to a new environment. With the right tools at their disposal, they are able to expand their knowledge, multitask and communicate rapidly.
Some of these new arrivals may consider a company to be synonymous with stress, a bad atmosphere and pressure. This is why they prefer an entrepreneurial approach, where eagerness and high demands are considered essential characteristics. Success and novelty motivate many of their choices and can, in some cases, push them to rapidly look for new opportunities in a different set-up. This means you must be able to keep them motivated if you don’t want to see them leave the company shortly after arriving.
Their priorities are flexibility and a challenge
Zoomers love to be in a state of flux and need constant stimulation. In their eyes, flexible working hours and environments (open spaces and remote working) and a diverse range of tasks are key. They expect an agreeable working environment with pleasant relaxation areas (canteen, sports facilities, etc.) and a good community spirit.
Generation Z are optimistic, curious and versatile, and also enjoys a challenge, seeing failure as a means to bounce back and improve. They therefore enjoy stimulating projects and precise targets. And if they are not up to speed on an issue, that isn’t a problem; it will make for an even more exciting challenge. However, they can sometimes fall victim to an excess of confidence.
Your role is to listen to them…
This young generation loves transparency and will therefore ask a lot of questions. See that as proof of their interest and, in particular, the need to understand and give meaning to their work. Start to think about the “why” and take the time to respond to them, these questions can often be relevant and useful. If you can’t provide the answer, be transparent and honest – don’t lie.
Communication is the key to dealing with these young adults. They often seek regular feedback in order to improve.
Communication is the key to dealing with these young adults. They often seek regular feedback in order to improve. Don’t hesitate to share criticism, as long as it’s constructive of course! Similarly, consider their opinions and comments. That will strengthen their involvement with the team and with a company that is also capable of reassessing its position. It is important to know that this generation prefers horizontal management structures and shared responsibilities.
They will also share their knowledge with you, particularly in the use of digital tools. Bear in mind that they will respect you for your business expertise, your trust and your willingness to listen.
If you want to keep them on the team, you must recognise and value their contribution. Recognition is a form of thanks that will mean a lot to them. Give them room to grow within your organisation too. They will gain new skills and see this mobility as a career opportunity.
… but don’t look down on them
Generation Z are creative and need to find both meaning and pleasure in their work. Don’t box them in with rigid procedures, but encourage initiative. This will disrupt the routine and play a big role in motivating them. This generation basically wants to be involved in the corporate process, not just subject to it.
What you may think is insubordination and mistrust of the hierarchy is simply a desire to be treated as an equal and a need for autonomy. It might be necessary to review traditional vertical management structures and move towards more agile and collaborative formats. That’s what this generation is looking for. Having said that, don’t move too far in their direction. They are happy to accept a hierarchy if they are listened to and can actively contribute to creating and rolling out new solutions to improve the company.
Generation Z members have a strong sense for business, are autodidactic and autonomous, and advocates of values that are both disruptive and useful in the corporate world. Their budding professional maturity is a strength, but this energy undoubtedly needs to be properly channelled. But isn’t that the case for all young people, whatever the generation?