How to successfully lead Gen Z

Written by
Nicola McQueen

13 Jul 2016

13 Jul 2016 • by Nicola McQueen

In particular, and as highlighted in our recent report, ‘Generation Z – Agents of Change’, an overwhelming 83% of employers see recruiting the next generation as a greater challenge than meeting growth targets or innovating. In particular, employers are concerned that they won’t be able to meet the needs of this cohort, with 53% being worried about Gen Z’s need for instant gratification and immediate access to information and 44% concerned about the high expectations that Gen Z may have around technology in the workplace.

With this hurdle gaining prominence it’s important that businesses are in a good position to harness Gen Z employees as catalysts of long-term, over-arching change. A key responsibility of every leader is to ensure their workforce is productive and able to collaboratively help the business achieve its goals. With that in mind, below, I outline the three ways in which leaders can work towards effectively managing Generation Z employees:

Adjust your management style accordingly

Generation Z professionals are often stereotyped in the media as work-shy, with short attention spans and working preferences that conflict with existing businesses styles. This assumption is actually skewed. Our research shows that 58% of Generation Z prefer a more traditional, hierarchical structure, with a single manager (67%) over more diverse reporting lines (31%), which is usually the case with a flat structure. 

As a manager, it is therefore important to speak to employees and identify how they want to work with you from the start and find a balance that fits within the wider team and business. This will ensure you have a good working relationship with your employee. It is also valuable to understand during the recruitment process what management style candidates prefer as this will help in identifying the right cultural fit when hiring.

Harness employee strengths and develop them quickly

Generation Z offers many businesses the opportunity to tap into a pool of skilled professionals when recruiting. In fact, 93% of employers feel that with the appropriate training, young professionals will help to address skills shortages. However, over two thirds (68%) of employers feel Generation Z professionals are unprepared for working life. As a leader it’s important to recognise an employee’s strengths and help develop them where possible. 

Our research identified the most important skill that Generation Z need to develop further is teamwork, followed by critical thinking and commercial awareness. These findings highlight the importance of identifying an employee’s strengths and weaknesses both before hiring and early on during the on–boarding process to help them to develop where necessary. During this time, both manager and employee can identify areas of development that they feel confident in and others where they would like to focus on improving.

Highlight career paths

While leadership styles can be adapted to suit working preferences, and career development opportunities can be provided to help shape careers, it will only amount to so much if businesses are not able to retain these professionals. This is a notion that is quickly becoming apparent and our research highlights that 45% of employers expect Generation Z professionals to stay in their first role for three years or more. However, over half (54%) of this cohort expect to stay in their first job for just less than two years before moving on. 

With such a clear divide in expectations, businesses need to place emphasis on highlighting the career paths available to employees, or risk losing them altogether. The majority (93%) of Generation Z agree with this, saying that they look for employers who provide them opportunities to progress. Businesses can start by creating a succession plan to identify gaps in their workforce to highlight opportunities for professionals to move up, or even sideways. This will help when businesses come to recruiting Generation Z as they will have a clear idea of the career development options they can potentially offer.

In order for leaders to effectively recruit and manage Generation Z, they will need to be open and willing to change. While many are concerned they won’t meet expectations, it’s clear that more leaders are more prepared for Generation Z’s working preferences than expected. Those who are willing to adapt their leadership style will be able to harness the skills of Generation Z which will help improve productivity within their workforce and support business goals of growth and innovation.