The workforce is changing rapidly– Baby Boomers are passing the torch to Generation X, Millennials are growing their skillsets and confidence, and Generation Z is entering the workforce. Now employers need to rethink how they can lead a multi-generational team as they experience one of the workforce’s most significant shifts.
As Gen Z enters the workforce, it’s important to understand how to integrate them into the team and effectively lead them. Understanding the characteristics that drive Gen Z and learning the best practices for leading a multi-generational team fosters shared respect, collaboration, and trust.
Gen Z characteristics
Every generation experienced significant events during their formative years. Baby Boomers grew up during revolutionary movements and became change agents, Gen Xers grew up with different family structures making them independent and self-reliant, and Millennials grew up hearing about terrorism and multiculturalism, creating a concern for safety and diversity.
These life experiences influence how each generation sees the world and what drives their values and characteristics in the workplace. The common values, characteristics, and work styles found in Gen Z include:
- Values: Gen Zers’ value connections, equality, and diversity. These values have made Gen Zers value personalization and freedom of expression because they want to be taken seriously and protect what they care about.
- Characteristics: Gen Zers are connected, diverse, personal, pragmatic, resilient, and resourceful. They are extremely connected because of their access to advanced technology. You’ll also find this generation more politically progressive and financially conscious because they grew up with Millennials’ progressiveness and saw their parents’ struggles during the Great Recession.
- Communication and management styles: When it comes to Gen Z in the workplace, they tend to like a technologically driven atmosphere, automated processes, tasks over teams, financial security over personal fulfillment, and prefer video and images rather than big blocks of text.
Best practices for leading Generation Z
The members of Generation Z are entering the workforce and aren’t going anywhere. Gen Zers have a lot of potential in their future, and leaders can tap into their talent by effectively leading them on their path to growth. Here are common practices and tips for managing Generation Z:
Support their authentic selves
Gen Zers want to work for a company where they have opportunities to grow and develop and will choose a company that supports them in being their authentic selves. If they do not get these opportunities, they will go elsewhere– leaving the company with higher turnover. Consider offering Gen Zers professional development plans and mentorship that challenges and develops them individually and personally.
Demonstrate a societal impact
Leaders must demonstrate how the organization impacts society. Gen Z is progressive and eager to make the world a better place, wants leaders to be transparent, and wants to work for a company that thinks about the bigger picture. Consider letting them in on the company’s inner workings, listening to their ideas, and creating a culture of purpose. When companies contribute to society, they attract young talent, increase employee engagement, and bring in new clients and consumers who share this Gen Z value.
Give them opportunities to learn and share wisdom
Gen Z craves knowledge and experience and wants to apply their knowledge everywhere they go. Consider engaging them in stretch assignments (a project or task beyond their skill level). These assignments will stretch them developmentally by challenging them. Before you know it, you’ll see Gen Zers applying their new growth and knowledge at work.
Care for their holistic well-being
Gen Z is known for its stance on diversity, career advancement, and values. They expect more from their employers than any other generation, so nurture them! Give your Gen Z employees more responsibilities. Make your stances on diversity known. Make your company values known—and practice what you preach. Gen Zers, when happy, are loyal, committed, and will go out of their way to support the company’s vision and goals.
Leading a multi-generational team
Leading a multi-generational team is easier said than done. Luckily, there are tips and tools that leaders can practice to secure an effective team in a positive work environment:
- Establish trust and open communication. When managers know their employees and genuinely understand their values and work preferences, they can figure out the best way to communicate and foster mutual trust– leading to higher performance and better results.
- Consider team tools to gain insight, such as Myers Briggs, Kolbe, or StrengthsFinder, and share the results with the team to help members better understand and work with each other.
- Build empathy with your employees and tweak your management style to align with their communication and management styles.
- Integrate a generational component to your onboarding by teaching people the generational expectations around workplace etiquette, such as communication, collaboration, formality, and work ethic. By doing this, you highlight ways to draw from each other’s similarities and set the foundation for new employees to start building work relationships.
Differences are okay!
Older generations must understand how to lead younger generations because their values and priorities at work differ. Perhaps you’re a self-reliant and independent Gen Xer and get irritated by Millennials’ constant need to collaborate, or you’re a Baby Boomer who values the chain of command and feels disrespected by Gen Zers’ outspokenness.
Here’s the thing– being different is okay! The qualities that make each generation different are the same qualities a company needs to flourish. If every team member were the same, things would turn stagnant. Leaders and employees alike need to consider how their differences can complement each other and how they can combat the tension through empathy and mutual respect.
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Photo by alphaspirit