Why Gen Z employees need to be managed differently than millennials
Why Gen Z employees need to be managed differently than millennials
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Gen Z will be the most intuitive generation regarding valuable digital capabilities, through 2025, according to a new report from Gartner.

It’s time for managers to learn a new management style. Again. As Gen Z fills the workforce, there’s a new set of personality traits and work styles to learn. But it might not be as hard as managers expect. Because even though Gen Z’s behavior as a group might differs from that of millennials, CIOs haven’t switched their management style. It turns out, that Gen Zers traits and beliefs are closer to that of baby boomers and Gen Xers. 

“Although they are called the ‘post-millennial generation’, Gen Zers have little in common with millennials. CIOs cannot lead them in the same way they lead millennials,” said Daniel Sanchez Reina, a senior research director at Gartner, in a release.

Gen Zers anticipate digital needs

In our digital society, Gen Zers intuitively think first digitally, which makes them the best generation to anticipate consumer and constituent needs. “They are positioned well to judge the potential value of forthcoming digital products and services,” Reina added. The Gartner report predicts that through 2025, it will be Gen Zers who will be able to anticipate highly valued digital capabilities. 

SEE: Project Catalyst: What developers need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The Gen Z grad vs. the Gen X grad

“Its members have grown up surrounded by technology that has provoked accelerated change and created an age of convenience,” said Gartner analyst Lauren Smith. “As such, today’s graduate differs in many crucial ways from yesterday’s millennial graduate.
To successfully recruit and retain this generation
, distinctive in their caution to committing and their thirst for opportunity, organizations will have to make strides to understand and act on Generation Z’s expectations.”
 
And Gen Zers are razor-sharp. Smith said there are two ways they stand out:

  • “Generation Z candidates know their most valuable asset is their knowledge. They have grown up in the digital age where knowledge work, with the right tools, can be done anywhere and at any time. Flexible working is more of an assumption than an expectation, as Generation Z candidates look for careers that will accommodate their portfolio of interests.

  • Generation Z candidates are accustomed to the instantaneous response and rewards that the digital consumer experiences. They expect no less from their careers and
    often will job-hop to progress quickly
    , rather than commit to future career opportunities at their current workplace.”

Master leadership

But making sure your Gen Z staff will deliver to the best of their abilities, to both the company and the clients, requires finessing of current management styles. “In their quest for digital talent, CIOs need to master leadership of Gen Z’s culture and people,” Reina said in the release. “CIOs need to get to know them and understand their values and relationship patterns in the workplace. They also need to recognize that they need to lead them differently than previous generations to foster a cohesive workplace.”

And it is such a palatable difference that some C-level executives said they’ve noticed a difference when working with Gen Zers. At the
Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo
 in October, one CIO said this generation asks questions openly and may bluntly ask what they’ll learn from the superiors to whom they report. To put it simply, they are more direct than previous generations. A chief human resources officer of a telecom company said Gen Zers are a 100% technological generation with infinite confidence in their capacity, adding they’re autonomous, willing to work hard, assertive, and much more demanding.

Keeping Gen Zers happy is also different than other generations.
Gartner research
shows 33% of the Gen Z workforce ranked manager quality as a top reason to leave their current job, versus only 22% of millennials aged 21 to 24 in 2013. Once on the job, Gen Z candidates seek managers who can assess their skills, needs and interests and connect them to mentors that can help develop their capabilities. 

The Gen Z candidate understands that innovation and change are the new orders of the day. They are less impressed with compensation and are more interested in employers offering flexibility, as well as learning and development opportunities that will get them ahead in the workplace, and 37% of Gen Z candidates agree or strongly agree that when applying for a job, they already knew what they needed an offer to include in order to consider accepting it.

Gen Zers do not favor a more communal workplace, as their predecessors did. They don’t like to share their workspace, the report found. Their intimate relationship with their devices (think smartphone always in hand, consistently easy access to tablet and laptop) also makes them less social than millennials. 

They’re blunt

In addition to being more frank with their questions, Gen Zers also want to know from the outset what their company contribution will be, because, and they’ll tell you this themselves, they want to add value straightaway and make a difference. Gen Zers value their time greatly, and want to know how they will be rewarded. Millennials, the report asserts, assume they will be promoted or at least increase their salary by continuously working. Gen Zers are pragmatic, and want to be made aware of specific schemes, such as healthcare, retirement plans and long-term practical benefits; in this respect, they are similar to Gen Xers and baby boomers.
 
And this is not, by any means, a laissez-faire group. In fact, Generation Z members often plan their career from the start, and devote time to things which will enable skill development, and supplement their career vision. 

To draw Gen Zers, Smith said, companies must:

  • “Understand your employees and target talent segments to understand their needs, interests, aspirations, and communication preferences. 

  • Tailor your employment branding around the attributes that matter most to Gen Z. 

  • Structure your campus programs to expose graduates to a multitude of experiences that will provide valuable inputs to their decision making about their careers — and satisfy their ambition to progress quickly. 

  • Ensure management understands its role as “connectors” for talent. Provide hiring managers with the tools to connect talent to the right development opportunities and networks, both in onboarding and beyond.  This should mean partnering with the employee and a peer mentor to create a plan that focuses on aligning the development needs and career aspirations of the individual to different people and opportunities within and outside the organization.”

Not job hoppers

Unlike millennials and despite having high ambitions for personal growth, Gen Zers are not job hoppers. Instead, they are role hoppers and natural entrepreneurs. “They favor the idea of developing skills, welcome additional training and are more inclined to build a career at one company, rather than hop from one employer to another,” Reina said in the release.

“Gen Z actually displays a heightened awareness of their need to constantly upskill to remain relevant in the workforce of the future,” Smith said. “They expect almost 40% of the skills they use at work today to expire within three years, surprising, when compared to a mere 30% expiration expectation among millennial and Gen X employees.  As a result, Gen Z values learning and development as a key employment attraction driver.”

Very versatile

Gen Zers want to be versatile, but millennials prefer to be specialists. Therefore, CIOs should encourage Gen Zers to explore a variety of career trajectories that go beyond the traditional scope. “CIOs must become mentor leaders who can teach practical skills and demonstrate behaviors, as opposed to coach leaders who can make people’s potential emerge through active listening and incisive questioning,” Reina advised. “Millennials prefer a coach leader, whereas Gen Zers expect to be recognized and rewarded for their knowledge, not their potential.”

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Gen Zers need to be managed differently than Gen Xers, according to a Gartner report.

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Gen Zers need to be managed differently than Gen Xers, according to a Gartner report.

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