We’ve written about how Gen Z thinks. So, now that we know how they think, there are ways we can make the workplace attractive to Gen Z employees and increase team effectiveness. After teaching high-school and college aged students since 2015, I have learned many lessons over the years. This generation is going to revolutionize how we conduct business and govern ourselves. As a generation who grew up connected from infancy onward, the way they work and interact is unique.
5 Lessons to Attract and Connect with Gen Z
Wise leaders need to be willing to start changing the way they conduct their daily business now. There are five lessons for leaders to learn in every career field to make their workplace attractive to Gen Z employees and actually connect with them to increase workplace productivity.
1. Email is dead
I was struck by the outdated nature of email when a student honestly asked me in class to help her attach the paper she had written on her laptop to an email. To prepare my students for the outdated modes of communication they would soon face, I made them learn how to write in Word and how to attach their work to an email in PDF. I wouldn’t just allow them to use tools like google drive and send me a link. You will need to figure out how this creative and talented generation likes to communicate, and at least meet them halfway. There are more and more options for organizational communication, but you better know how to send them a message where they are listening. Don’t be surprised if no one reads your mass emails.
2. Be entertaining
Attention spans are shorter, and there is plenty of scientific data showing how mobile devices and the internet have changed the brain. I noticed quickly that 50-minute classes could turn into a nap if I didn’t figure out how to keep my students engaged. You have to also be willing to change. Don’t schedule long meetings. Share information in short bursts sometimes. Only task your team with critical needs. This will be a good thing in most workplaces where staffs and leaders have created mind-numbing weekly and daily rhythms that put people of all ages to sleep. Humor is your friend, and explaining why things are important will speed up the process.
3. Keep your labels to yourself
Your diversity program will need some new metrics. My students are tired of Baby Boomers trying to put them in a box. They celebrate being a good human not races, religions, or ethnicity. So many students have mixed ancestry now that your multiple-choice questionnaires won’t even come close. They don’t want your simple labels, so now is the time to think about how you measure both equality to access and equality in promotions. Think about how you can reward the best workers and show everyone equally that you care about their well-being. You won’t be able assess your diversity by counting gender, races, and ancestry as you look around your teams, and maybe they will be more offended if you do. Ask them what they want and how they want to be treated to ensure equality in every way you can. No generation has ever gotten this right, so just don’t make it worse by trying to make it better.
4. History has been lost
You are getting an incredibly smart and creative workforce, but sometimes what may seem as common knowledge will need some more context. I always teach my courses about any topic by comparing it to other nations and various time periods. I find that I often have to provide additional historical knowledge to give my students the necessary context. Once you explain the history to Gen Z, they make the leap quickly and can follow what you are saying. If you don’t help them understand how issues and ideas have changed in the last few centuries, they can struggle. Educate them on the history of your workplace processes, products, and ideas to increase their buy-in and understanding.
One of the big drawbacks of the internet era is the access to too much unfiltered information. Gen Z is rightly skeptical of what they read on the internet (unlike too many on Facebook). Gen Z will not instinctively trust the information you are giving them, or you ask them to research. Continue to help them learn how to search for information and verify facts. Help them determine what sources are reliable, and what sources are basically propaganda. I cannot stress enough the value of making sure your entire team appreciates seeing an issue from multiple points of view. Don’t let them get stuck on one source for news and insights, or they will easily become a zealot because they are excited they have found a reliable source, and assume it will never steer them wrong.
Get ready for Gen Z to blow you away
When I left the government, I was leading teams of elder and younger millennials, who were pretty easy for a Gen X leader like myself to understand. Those same employees were a nightmare for many Baby Boomers who didn’t want to change the workplace to accommodate them. Now millennials as mid-level leaders and Gen Xers as senior leaders will have to adjust a bit more to make the best use of the amazing talent coming their way. I love this generation’s enthusiasm. As we offer our experience and reality to Gen Z, be prepared for how they will blow you away.