As a speaker and trainer on generations in the workplace, I often witness older employees assuming that Gen Z and Millennials (also known as Gen Y) are identical and interchangeable. This couldn’t be further from the reality of things! Just on the basis of who raised each generation—Baby Boomers raising Millennials, Gen X raising Gen Z—differences will make themselves apparent. Drawing generational lines can be tricky, but most sources agree that Gen Z consists of adults born between 1996 and 2010. The older section of this demographic is almost 22, and more than ready to make a real jump into the business world.
So how can we prepare ourselves to successfully manage the next wave hitting our companies?
Millennials typically received a good amount of feedback from their parents, most of it positive reinforcement. We all know the old stereotype of a Millennial continuously knocking on their boss’s door just to “check in” and see how they were doing. It spread across workplaces like a wildfire!
There are some similarities between Gen Z and Millennials in this regard. However, when it comes to Gen Z, the feedback loop becomes even tighter. This is a generation that has grown up constantly monitored and observed. They’ve spent their childhoods on the internet and using smartphones. Everything they’ve done—from grades posted to online portals to iTunes and Amazon purchases—has been tracked and documented. And Gen Z is fully aware of this tracking and have opted into it. They are used to frequent recommendations and suggestions. It’s no surprise that they want their workplace to reflect the rest of their lives!
But there’s good news—where Millennials typically want things sugarcoated, Gen Z prefers their feedback straight and to the point. Their parents never gave a rose-tinted version of things, so why should their leaders?
Like we said above, Gen Z lives in a world of continuous updates. What counts as “relevant” is constantly being reworked and redefined. Their lives are in a state of constant flux, moving from one social media platform to the next, jumping from app to app, staying on and ahead of the trends This can lead to a shorter attention span, as they’re used to jumping immediately into what’s next.
While this might seem like bad news, it’s also very, very good news. Gen Z, as a direct result of that shortened attention span, are better multi-taskers than their Millennial counterparts. They’re used to typing up a document on a laptop while doing research on their phone and streaming a movie on the television and—well, you get the picture! They can shift gears quickly, code-jumping between work and play, and keep an eye on multiple projects at once.
Did you know that 72% of teens say they want to start a business of their own one day? This Entrepreneurial spirit is really what defines this up and coming generation. And now more than ever, with the world just a wifi connection away, it’s not as far-fetched a goal as you might think. Gen Z appreciates feedback, but they’re ready to work independently and hit the ground running.
That’s because Gen Z has great expectations. Millennials remember coming home, logging into AOL, and waiting for the dial-up connection to rev up. Gen Z was born into a fast-paced world that never stops moving. This does lead to some pitfalls, like the tendency to panic when something doesn’t work right away. But it also leads to quick and quality turn arounds on assignments.
Like with every generation—the Greatest Gen to Gen Z—there is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all answer to managing a specific generation. It’s easy to say that Millennials can’t take bad feedback or that Gen Z is flighty and easily distracted, but they’re really no different than the generations that came before. We all want work that matters, and w all want to know that we’re performing above the expected caliber in our positions. It’s common sense that is unfortunately not so common any more.
Don’t fear Gen Z coming into your workplace. With a little time and a little feedback, you’ll have a strong team that will help support your business for generations to come.