Listen to what Gen Z says
There is more to Gen Z than treating them as 'digital natives'. Image Credit: Supplied

The presence of Generation Z as part of the workforce is commonplace. In fact, the World Economic Forum predicted that they will account for more than a fourth of the workforce by 2025.

The generation is characterized by defining traits, such as being considered digital geniuses and raised in the social media era. Generation Z is also the primary early adopter of ‘Buy Now Pay Later,’ turning away from traditional services and closely looking for better ways to address their financial needs. Due to social networking, they spend less time socializing in person, perhaps in part explaining unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and unhappiness.

Other generations have different concerns, i.e., Baby Boomers, who, in fact, was also known as ‘the gloomiest generation,’ and felt they were downtrodden and suppressed. Fast forward 30-plus years, Gen Z seems to prioritize and focus on existing inequality, politics, and human rights. As the younger public is being introduced into adulthood, it would behoove older generations to better understand Generation Z. All cohorts from different eras may need to become more educated on the cultural changes and how they impact their outlooks, worldviews, and mental health.

Research displays that Generation Z prospers more in an innovative and flexible work environment where they can be themselves and question institutional norms. The members of Generation Z have different desires, urgencies, and purposes for work and how to operate in today’s working environment.

Companies should adapt their approach to building and securing relationships with Generation Z in the workplace. Five ways for business leaders to better connect include:

1. Use a mixture of communication tools

With Gen Z being born in the internet era, they have a better understanding of how to utilize and communicate through technology. Deploying more channels for virtual communication allows them to work seamlessly, given that they know how to operate technology. Include a variety of virtual and face-to-face communications, which will help build relationships, create a better community, and show levels of work flexibility.

This offers a more robust way to communicate, which can prevent transmission from being missed or misunderstood.

2. Ensure inclusion and diversity is present in the workplace

Ensure your company culture is at the forefront for embracing different educational backgrounds, skill levels, and cultures. Creating positive employee engagement in a cohesive team through a more comprehensive understanding of diversity will encourage inclusivity in the business.

3. Become aware of the mental health and well-being of your employees

The importance and acknowledgment of mental health are openly discussed within organizations. The power of business leaders demonstrating empathy, morale-building, and approachability to those with mental health difficulties can boost productivity, build better relationships, and support employees’ well-being.

Begin to search for ways the team can interact, collaborate, and network internally to enhance engagement. Business leaders may struggle to understand and adequately address mental health challenges as it increasingly becomes relevant worldwide.

4. Propose a multitude of leadership training opportunities aimed at career advancement

Work closely with your employees and identify opportunities for personal growth. This will demonstrate that you value them and will support them to grow into business leaders of the future. Try to choose a unique skill or career advancement path specific to the goals and strengths of each employee.

This will give them a personal goal to optimize and develop in the long run.

5. Offer opportunities for a better work-life balance

According to a previous study, 95 per cent of Gen Z prioritize a work-life balance. Due to the pandemic, several Gen Z employees were exposed to remote work or even hired during lockdowns and have acclimated to remote settings and hybrid models.

Business leaders must show a form of flexibility – which can be in the form of shorter work hours, a shorter work week, or a hybrid work environment. Offering numerous options for employees can improve efficiency and reduce stress and burnout. This orientation can also create better relationships and understanding when meeting business deadlines.

With Gen Z entering the workforce more and more, some companies may have several generations working together. A mixture of generational variances can create ‘intergenerational biases, stereotypes, misperceptions, and conflict situations’.

Business leaders may need to alter their behavior to help them manage the intergenerational differences in the workplace. As a leader, you may have to expand your awareness of changing needs, alternate your way of managing your team, and develop creative ways to attract and retain employees.