Supporting SMEs


by Elizabeth Michelle, Speaker and Consultant, Elizabeth Michelle Consultancy

Industry View from

Gen Z are arriving: let’s prepare this time

Since the Millennials struck, bewildering employers, years have been wasted trying to address the generational clashes festering at work. Generational shifts in the workplace are not new, so perhaps we should approach Gen Z differently. We don’t need to continue to be taken by surprise by a new generation’s arrival at work – we should have learned by now that it’s something that happens every couple of decades!


So, here are seven challenges you can pre-emptively prepare for with your Gen Z employees:


  1. 1. Burn-out


Working from anywhere around the clock, mixing professional and personal content on social media, and with less and less time off, work and non-work are seamlessly intertwined for Gen Zers.


While this can bring great results, we have yet to see the full impact of an inevitable generational burn-out from having NO downtime.


What can you do?


Insist that your employees have time out. While working remotely is helpful, monitor that this is not done to excess, and that your employees switch everything off every now and then.


2. Addictive tendencies


Tech, social media and screens are all addictive, but also all co-parents of Gen Z. Once addictive tendencies develop, they can play out in other settings. Keep an eye out for this at work. Phone use, screen use, after-work drinks, general consumption, and so on – don’t presume Gen Z arrive at work with the same self-regulating expectations you had.


What can you do?


Teach your employees about self-regulation: how to lay down boundaries, what is a healthy and unhealthy expectation at work, and how to ask for help if they find things unmanageable!


3. Individuality


Gen Z do not all want to be categorised into the same box – they want to be recognised and respected as individuals. Try to treat them the same way, or they may go out of their way to show you just how different they are.


What can you do?


Make sure you notice and acknowledge what makes each of your employees unique. Make sure your workplace has space for nuanced expression of individuality, and think of ways to celebrate differences at work.


4. Social skills


Social isolation is a common issue among Gen Z – having hundreds of virtual friends, but still being lonely, is a prevalent dilemma. Gen Zers can eat, work, earn money, be entertained and socialise, all without leaving the comfort of their bedroom. Consequently, many struggle with busy, social settings such as an office. Social skills can suffer due to extensive online socialising.


What can you do?


Run training for new recruits in social skills – from writing formal emails, to face-to-face discussions, including client-facing prep and how to navigate confrontation. Don’t take anything for granted.


5. Responsibilities


Many Gen Zers enter the workplace with a significant amount of responsibility – hefty student loans, possibly parents to care for (if not yet then in the coming years). Gen Z start their working lives with more responsibility than many Millennials did. While this can give them maturity, focus and commitment, it can also be a heavy burden.


What can you do?


Be aware. Ensure you communicate with your Gen Zers and understand what is going on for them – what burdens are they carrying and how can you support them at work? Consider new initiatives addressing loans, caring responsibilities, and so on. This will help retain these young people, as well as help them focus at work. A problem shared is easier to manage.


6. Authenticity


Gen Z are all about being real. Reality TV, live streaming, and so on are all big indicators, and they will be looking for a workplace that represents a realistic, authentic image. While claiming a commitment to recycling was once enough, Gen Z will want proof you’re actually doing something. Do you have the bins? Are you declaring a passion for animal rights? If so, is your hand soap animal-testing free? They don’t mind if you’re not perfect, as long as you are authentic. They will not need you to declare absolute allegiance to veganism, but they will want an honest display of vegan products in the cafeteria.


What can you do?


Pick a few causes and ensure you ritualise them at work – honestly, authentically and transparently. Do not exaggerate, embellish or over-play.


7. Experience


While millennials were about getting everything done, Gen Z want to enjoy the ride. YOLO engraved across their hearts, they are determined to live like they mean it! While Millennials might have been satisfied with holidays and sabbaticals, Gen Z are looking for ongoing meaningful and experiential living.


What can you do?


Pay attention to the detail of your workplace “experience”. When people arrive at work what “vibes” are they getting? Think about how they get their refreshments, the state of the toilets, the comfort of their chairs. What experiences do you provide?

Elizabeth is a consultant and speaker who enhances staff potential, performance and retention, with a particular focus on Millennials and Gen Z. She has a Degree and Masters from the University of Cambridge, is a Qualified Teacher and is currently pursuing her Psychology Doctorate. 

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