5 tips for working with Gen Z employees
Updated: Apr 24
It seems like only a year ago the world was still moaning about millennials and their apparently bad work ethic. But finally, everyone is realising that some millennials are now 40, and the youngest are fast approaching 30. We think it’s time to address a whole new generation who (we assume) get to look forward to the same kind of treatment! We present to you our quick guide to getting the most out of this super keen, ambitious new group of workers.
1. Provide “real-time” feedback
Research suggests that Gen Z needs feedback from their supervisor (at least) every few weeks, some even more than that! For a lot of them, this is the first job they have had, so they will probably need some hand-holding. Forbes suggests delivering feedback that is measurable so improvement (or regression) can be more easily tracked. Managers can look at this two ways; either as a burden, or as an opportunity to mould and mentor a junior employee. You can set up simple feedback systems such as ‘lessons learnt’ meetings after a project is complete, or regular scheduled short 5-10 minute meetings which can double for both planning and feedback. Remember that feedback doesn’t have to be time-consuming and formal. If you’re really pressed for time, a simple smiley emoji email response or a (sincere) ‘thanks, you did a great job’ can be good enough sometimes. Just make sure it’s in real-time, particularly when the feedback is negative.
2. Keep their mental health in the forefront of your mind
Coined “the most anxious generation” a staggering 48% of Gen Zs surveyed by Deloitte said they feel anxious or stressed all or most of the time. That is a terrifying statistic. While there is not one cause of this, a lot of it has been attributed to concerns of the welfare of their families (Gen Zs grew up during the GFC so they can see how bad things can get), as well as their long-term financial futures. While you’re not expected to magically fix someone’s anxiety issues as an employer, you do have a legal Duty of Care to manage the impact that working for your business has on the mental health of your employees. We recommend completing a Mental Health First Aid course, looking at Employee Assistance Programs, and most importantly keeping a lookout for signs of anxiety.
3. Understand they are entrepreneurial nature – and help them learn and grow
As we mentioned earlier, Gen Z grew up during the GFC. While they were not personally financially affected, they were old enough to see their parents struggle, and they don’t want to live through that themselves. They have also grown up in in increasingly ‘casualised’ workforce, with very little job security. As a result, Gen Z crave stability and financial security. For many, who have seen family burnt by their employers, this comes in the form of a “side jam”. The Center for Generational Kinetics found that 91% of Gen Z were planning to start, or possibly start their own business in the next few years. A quick Google search will turn up hundreds of success stories of young businesspeople. As an employer, you can choose to create clauses in your employment contracts to quash this, or you could nurture their skills and ambition within your business and benefit from it by proving your commitment to their future.
4. Attract them and keep them
Gen Z are more likely to change jobs than any other generation and when you have a goodie, you don’t want them to leave. Attracting them in the first place starts with a good recruitment process; keep your brand strong and show off the benefits they are looking for. What benefits are they looking for?
A technologically forward workplace. These guys are tech-natives – they have had an iPad in their hand since they were in a pram, and they can work their way around new tech quickly and intuitively. Look into cloud-based tech to keep things more accessible and be open to their suggestions.
Flexibility. Smart employers always allow for flexibility (within reason). If we’ve learnt anything from COVID-19, it’s that people can achieve amazing things when given the freedom to manage their own time. Flexibility takes many forms; it might be as simple as shuffling start and finish times to accommodate a sporting commitment, or it could be making work outcomes-based, not measured by the amount of time someone is at their desk. You don’t need to allow this straight away, but once they prove themselves trustworthy, showing trust and accommodating life outside of work is one of the best ways to retain this group.
Professional development. Knowing how tight the job market is becoming, and the constant threat of redundancy means Gen Z know the value of learning and continuous improvement more than most. This doesn’t mean you have to pay for degrees, but it means actively and deliberately making plans for constant improvement. You might want to send them on courses, set up a work-shadowing or work rotation program, create internal project teams, or arrange formal mentoring. The more you encourage skill development, the higher skilled your workforce is – and that can only be beneficial to your bottom line.
5. Learn their lingo
If you ever want to feel old, listen to two Gen Zs have a conversation. In the last month at Itch, we have learnt a couple of new terms and we think we should share them with you:
“They didn’t pass the vibe check” Translation: I’m not getting a good feeling about this person.
“Boujee” Translation: Someone wearing something that is expensive, generally with an obvious label (materialistic) – it comes from the French Bourgeoisie (affluent middle class)
*We still don’t know if this is a positive or negative term…
“Let’s get this bread” Translation: A motivational phrase that refers to the "grind" and working hard to obtain the "bread", that is money, success. *Probably a good one to hear at work!
“Weird flex, but OK” Translation: When someone boasts about something no one really cares about
Translation: This basically means ‘really good’. Gen Xers might have said ‘hot’ – it’s just a logical progression of language.
Having said all of this, it is our firm belief that what Generation Z want most is the same thing that we all want – to know that we are doing something that matters. We all want work with some kind of meaning, to know that we are contributing to something beyond ourselves, that we matter to those around us beyond just our capacity to turn a profit. How ever you set up your work systems, if you can help your employees find meaning at work, your engagement will grow, your retention will improve, and you will start attracting great new people who want to succeed with your business.