I’m a Millennial. My first emails were sent from my local library (weekly), and my first laptop had a monochrome screen. Today, I have a love/hate relationship with technology—I’m grateful for the way it has allowed me to build a company from my couch, but I can’t shake the nagging feeling that life was more clearly defined and easier before the internet came along.
In the same way that my friend’s toddlers are eerily proficient at FaceTime, my recent Gen-Z hires just seem to know more than me. “Have you tried Popl for networking? Have you tried Partiful for event planning?” Honestly, it can be quite humbling and jarring at the same time. And I’m not alone. Many of my friends in the GROW community are learning, and often struggling, to work with this new crop of confident, well-qualified, well-meaning graduates and “young people” born in and after 1997. Here are five tips on how to make the relationship work.
Set standards from day one.
“Our values don’t align” is the number one comment that my Millennial friends make once a Gen-Z joins their company. That’s why it’s important to dig deep into core values during the hiring process to determine if there is a fit. Define your workplace values and ask hiring questions that have “correct” and “incorrect” answers, as defined by you. “What is your definition of corporate hierarchy?” “What kind of reporting structure do you expect in the workplace?” “Do you see value in in-person learning?” “What do you define as normal working hours?” “What amount of vacation do you expect?” “What skills would you like to learn here?” If any of these answers don’t align with your current culture, that’s a red flag.
Expect Gen-Z to push your comfort zone, and certainly plan for some give and take here—but don’t give in too easily. Let them choose their expectation of what their experience should be, then you can take control of whether that experience should even begin. Ultimately, it’s much better to lose a candidate in the hiring process rather than post-onboarding. Don’t be too attached to any one individual hire.
Give Gen-Z responsibility.
More than any generation before them, it’s important for Gen-Z workers to feel that their voices are heard and that their work is important. To them, their overall role in the organization needs to matter, and matter quickly. I’m not advising that you hand over key processes immediately with little to no onboarding, but rather provide your hire with a clearly defined timeline for full ownership of tasks, and trust them to hit the ground running. More often than not, they will do just that. For example, replace the phrase “you’ll be working on” with “you’ll be the owner of.” In my experience, given the right foundation and encouragement, Gen-Z will complete tasks fast—they often act decisively, and instantly, because they are used to instant gratification. Use this to your advantage—match their speed, increase their workload and expect instant results.
Mentor and educate, don’t lecture.
If you’re reading this article, you probably worked long hours at the start of your career to get where you are today. You followed set processes within a clearly defined career path. Challenging senior staff was career suicide. And working from home? Not even possible.
But as much as it may rub Millennials the wrong way, Gen-Z doesn’t adhere to any past working philosophy. In general, they want to be measured on their output, not their hourly input. This mindset is not incorrect, and it’s also not their fault—remember that they have no prior knowledge of corporate structures and expectations. So, as the senior figure, it’s your job to bridge the gap between these disparate worlds. Replace the “back in my day” with “in my experience” and educate Gen-Z on the benefits of occasionally working late and building in-person relationships, for example. Listen to their perspectives and help them feel understood. Be firm, too; let them know that “disruptive” doesn’t always mean “constructive.” Overall, guide and educate your Gen-Z staff on a daily basis if possible. They will likely thank you later, and your team culture can be all the better for it.
Use comms tools to your advantage.
It took a while to get my Gen-Z staff to come around to the idea of in-person work. If you’re a remote firm, frame the conversation as “even though your job is remote, the whole team benefits from regular/occasional in-person connection. Are you open to that?” And if you’re not a remote firm, set out your policy during the hiring process, expect to be tested on it and make sure you don’t budge. (Note: This will be difficult.)
On a positive note, remember that Gen-Z is native to remote tools. They don’t like meetings for meetings’ sake (who does?) and they expect to use Slack, Loom, Asana and other tools to communicate. Ask your staff about the best comms platforms out there right now (most are very inexpensive), implement them across your business units right away and put your Gen-Z staff in charge of training the rest of your team on how to use them.
Don’t lose hope.
If at first you don’t succeed with Gen-Z hiring and onboarding, try, try and try again until you get it right. And don’t be shaped by one or two “bad” hiring experiences. In an environment of meaningful work, mutual respect and regular mentorship, wrapped in your company’s founding/core values, common alignment can be achieved. GROW’s Gen-Z staff improved so many aspects of our business and, as Millennials, we’re fortunate to be in a position of leadership for the next generation too. Try to enjoy the ride.
The original article can be found at: Forbes (Entrepreneurs)