By Robin Paggi
If you’re still trying to figure out how to manage millennials, you’ll probably be disheartened to learn that another generation has entered the workforce behind them. Say hello to Generation Z.
Sixty-one million people strong, Gen Z (born after 1996) already outnumber Gen X (1965 – 1980) and are almost as large as the baby boomer generation (1946 — 1964). Members of Gen Z have never known a world with privacy, security, or stability, or a world without smartphones, the Internet, or social media. While much attention was focused on managing millennials (1981 — 1996), Gen Z became old enough to work.
Numerous articles have been written about the difference between the two generations, often describing Gen Z in glowing terms. In her article, How Gen Z and Millennials are Totally Different, Yerin Kim says that Gen Z is more:
• Practical with their money
• Socially conscious
• Diverse and accepting
Kat Clowes, the owner of March Consulting (a Bakersfield business that helps high school and college students with the college admissions process), says she is reminded daily of the difference between the two generations and had to change her methods of teaching the admissions process to accommodate the shift she saw from one generation to the next.
However, because she’s worked closely with them, Clowes’ take on this generation is a bit different than the journalists who write articles about them. “In general, Gen Z lacks the common sense skills that previous generations gained primarily from managing their own activities” she told me.
Clowes explained that when previous generations grew up, they were told to “be home by dark” and had to figure out how to entertain themselves until then; Gen Z’s time is generally scheduled by their parents who chauffeur them to playdates. No longer are they going to the store on their own, fixing a flat tire on their bike, or making plans to go to a friend’s house to play — all activities that create responsibility, skills that are considered “common sense,” and aid in becoming an adult.
Additionally, because many households no longer have land lines, Gen Z wasn’t taught by their parents how to politely answer the phone and take a message. Because most of them don’t leave voice mails, they don’t know how to. Because texting is usually their preferred method of communicating, many don’t know how to write a thank you letter or address an envelope.
I haven’t worked with hundreds of students but, as the training and development specialist at Worklogic HR (a human resources outsourcing company), I have talked with numerous employers who have told me that members of Gen Z:
• View their managers as their peers
• Don’t want to look vulnerable so won’t ask for help
• Don’t know how to plan
• Prefer electronic communication and avoid face-to-face and phone conversations
• Have a very different idea of what dressing appropriately for work means
• Work at their own pace
Before you get soured on this new generation, there are many things they can do that are unique to them. They are connected, are great at knowing basic social media marketing skills and work in groups extremely well. They also follow instructions and are eager to do a good job.
Now, how to manage them? Articles that provide tips on this topic include How to understand and manage Generation Z by Alexandre Diard, who suggests:
• Think up different and more modern ways to lead
• Keep them interested in what they’re doing
• Be more dynamic
If you’re rolling your eyes, you’re not alone. Based on our occupations and experiences, Clowes and I created some tips that we think might actually be useful:
Don’t assume they know how to complete “common sense” tasks. Arriving on time, dressing appropriately and other typical work behaviors have not necessarily been taught to this generation. Processes should be documented, explained in depth and demonstrated. Bottom line: clearly communicate your expectations.
Train their supervisors
Supervisors are one of the key factors in whether employees stay with or leave organizations, so they need to know how to supervise in a way that inspires people to perform instead of inspiring them to complain or quit. This is applicable for supervising all generations, not just Gen Z.
Give them a stake in the process
Instead of simply answering emails and the phone, help them feel like they are part of the company, that they are valued and that the way they perform their job is important. Show them what they do matters in the bigger scheme of things and they’ll take a greater interest in their work.
Remember that you didn’t know everything you know now when you started working. This is your opportunity to share the knowledge you’ve gained and mentor someone like someone undoubtedly mentored you. Help them to grow, set their own goals, and achieve them. This is also a great way to ensure that knowledge gets transferred and doesn’t get lost when older people leave the organization.
Yes, Gen Z is different than previous generations because of the society they are being raised in and because of who is raising them. However, all young employees need to be taught how to do their jobs, and all employees want the same things – to be heard, valued and respected, regardless of their age. If that’s not common sense, it should be.
Robin Paggi is a training and development specialist with Worklogic HR.