It may be tempting to dismiss Gen Z as too young to make an impact on the workplace, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Even in their relative youth, Gen Zers have practical and aspirational goals of working hard and finding success on an individual level – which translates well to a work environment.
However, older generations are reluctant to share in this positive view of these up-and-coming employees (even Millennials!). APPrise Mobile, a mobile employee communications and engagement solution platform, explored this topic in its recent survey. One of its biggest findings was that more than a third of managers believe that Gen Z will be more difficult to manage than older generations, while many also anticipate communication and cultural issues.
As Gen Z evangelists, we wanted to learn more and spoke with APPrise’s CEO and founder, Jeff Corbin.
Skyler Huff: What were the biggest surprises coming out of this survey about Gen Zers?
Jeff Corbin: When I look back at the survey, I’m most surprised by the number of managers (16%) that expect Gen Z to have a negative impact on their company culture. What this comes down to is fear of the unknown. Older generations were skeptical of Millennials and the term ‘entitlement’ was often tossed around when referring to this generation as they entered the workforce. In my opinion, this may be happening again with Gen Z. People don’t know what to expect and that is perfectly fine, but they shouldn’t rush to judgement. I actually am hopeful that Gen Z will bring a fresh way of doing business to the workplace. The fact that they are a totally connected generation having never known a day without a computer or mobile device should hopefully cause managers and the C-Suite to expedite the concept of a digital workplace as a serious business strategy in their companies.
Huff: According to this survey, only 20 percent of managers plan to change their management style to cater to the needs of Gen Z. For the 80 percent that don’t plan on changing, are they setting themselves up for failure?
Corbin: I wouldn’t use the term failure, but I think that the 80 percent of managers who said they won’t change may find it more difficult to engage their Gen Z employees. Changing management style doesn’t require a complete overhaul of work style. Rather it should mean making minor adjustments to better communicate, inspire and engage. If it’s determined that a group of individuals can be more productive if treated or responded to in a different way, why wouldn’t you want to accommodate this?
Huff: You also found that managers expect familiarity with technology to be a major asset for Gen Z employees. Do you agree? If so, how can technology be used to engage them and boost their contributions to the organization?
Corbin: Yes, absolutely. Technological savviness is going to be one of the biggest assets we can expect from Gen Z employees entering the workforce. As I mentioned, they’ve grown up with devices around them and in their hands pretty much since the day they were born. So, they have a lot of expertise they can bring to the table whether through social media, collaboration or productivity tools. While these employees have the technological expertise, it’s going to be up to the organization to stay up-to-date on the tools that actually make employees more productive and effective in their work.
For example, there are a lot of messaging apps and tools out there. Different members of Gen Z will proclaim that the one they use is the best. But it’s still up to senior management to ask the question of whether messaging technology is really the answer to greater productivity and work effectiveness.
Huff: How do the attitudes, work habits and needs of Gen Z differ from other generations?
Corbin: Gen Z is all about soundbites of information and instantaneous gratifications (they have the answers to anything they need to know in the palm of their hands). This is something to keep in mind when it comes to their work habits and needs. Chances are the methods of communication from the past aren’t going to work with this generation and managers will have to rethink the way they communicate but also what and how they communicate.
Take for example the traditional newsletter – the multi-page document that gets produced over a month’s time, contains numerous stories and costs a lot to print. Managers should question the effectiveness of the traditional newsletter in light of the incoming Gen Z class. Will they actually read it? Or might it be better to separate the stories into individual pieces – think Twitter posts or videos that can be pushed to an employee’s mobile device. Chances are they will read the stories if delivered this way.
Huff: How should management styles be changed or altered to best inspire, engage with and “win” over this cohort?
Corbin: First and foremost, managers should not lose sight of their experience and simply keel over to this new breed of employee. There is something to be said about experience and an old-school way of doing things. Gen Z needs to learn these ways. However, recognizing their needs and communicating to them in practice rather than just in words that you are willing to embrace what will make them happier and better in their work will go a long way towards building the necessary relationships to nurture and mentor a young person to become a great professional.
For more insights from the survey, check out our recent Forbes article.