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A Millennial (or Gen Xer) Manager’s Guide to Effectively Managing Gen Z 

September 20, 2023
Parker Pell

Managers now find themselves in a distinctive and somewhat unparalleled situation: they are tasked with overseeing a generation that expects greater fulfillment from employers, all while maintaining business requirements. The conventional approach of merely managing employees, offering generic career advice (“work hard and success will come,” for example), and expecting employees to fall in line falls short of resonating with the aspirations of Generation Z. 

If you find yourself perplexed (or frustrated!) by Generation Z, consider this: you’re not alone! According to a manager survey, 74% find Gen Z to be challenging to work with. Another study revealed that managers were more likely to fire Gen Z than any other generation. In addition to employers stereotyping Gen Z as entitled, easily offended, and lazy (to name a few), it can be difficult to find your stride in managing and motivating this new group. 

Handling younger generations has always posed challenges, but Generation Z brings a unique mindset and motivation that demands particular attention and understanding. With this guide, we aim to enable millennials and Gen Xers in being the most effective and successful managers possible. We also include a short quiz at the end so you can evaluate your own practices and strategies. Read on!

Be Agile & Understanding

With Gen Z continuously reshaping work dynamics, managerial flexibility becomes crucial in maintaining a positive and productive team. Prioritizing aspects like remote or hybrid work, flexible working spaces, and agile methodologies are pivotal to successfully mobilizing Generation Z. 

And, with nearly 75% of Gen Zers saying that workplace flexibility is the number one benefit they’re looking for, it’s up to managers to uphold that expectation. However, flexibility extends beyond adaptable hours or remote work. Gen Z isn’t content with a uniform career trajectory: they seek versatile career paths that enable them to transition across departments, teams, and even professions if it aligns with their goals. 

As a manager, being agile and flexible also applies to the use of technology. This entire generation has embraced technology for communication more than any other group. Unsurprisingly, managerial grievances often revolve around communication, and in the workplace, effective communication is often as crucial as technical expertise. Remaining empathetic to these needs, while supporting (and training - more on that below!) Gen Z employees can make a world of difference. 

Make Interactions Entertaining & Collaborative 

Gen Z exhibits distinct preferences when it comes to learning. Unlike older generations, who often seek guidance from experienced individuals, Gen Z tends to seek advice and learn from their peers. Furthermore, Gen Z’s preference for quick, snack-sized pieces of “infotainment” can diminish the effectiveness of traditional learning and instruction manuals. To address this, consider adding concise video content (2-3 minutes is plenty!) to help counteract distractions like social media. 

Consider, too, that Gen Z’s technology-driven nature can foster individualistic tendencies, potentially affecting collaborative work environments. While Gen Z’s preference for technology-mediated communication (i.e. chats, emails, video calls) contrasts with traditional teamwork dynamics (i.e. face to face meetings, coffee chats, informal office meetings, etc.), managers can mitigate tensions by encouraging more structured team activities, offering guidance on appropriate communication methods, and leveraging other team members as champions. 

Celebrate Their Impact

Gen Z is a generation driven by purpose: career and purchasing decisions are guided by the impact they make on the world. In the workplace, they are eager to understand how their individual efforts align with the organization’s mission and bottom line. 

And, having been raised in an era of limitless information, Gen Z is inclined to make independent and well-informed choices. They thrive on opportunities for experimentation to showcase their capabilities. Granting them opportunities to explore, innovate, or create within work processes can be an effective way to engage and motivate them. 

As a manager, try proactively acknowledging the commitment and hard work of Gen Z employees by implementing performance-based bonuses or incentives. Acknowledge their accomplishments or progress during 1:1 or team meetings, or spotlight their achievements through internal company channels (newsletters, social media, etc.). Additionally, ensure clear pathways for Gen Zers to leverage their strengths with technology and their inclination for connection. This approach presents a way to align them with your company’s mission, vision, and values, while simultaneously enhancing engagement through acknowledgment and recognition. 

Key Takeaways

Managing Gen Z employees is no easy task, but we hope this blog post provided some insights, practices, and strategies for you to take into consideration. Above all, we hope it got the conversation started around how and why Gen Z is different from other generations…and why it’s so important to lean into their assimilation into the workplace. 

To find out if your organization is truly managing Gen Z effectively, we have a series of short questions to answer - score yourself below!

For more ideas like these, check out Abode. Built by Gen Z, for Gen Z, Abode’s all-in-one platform helps companies better engage and communicate with their Gen Z talent. From offer accept through 100% productivity, let Abode build the community your early talent is looking for. To learn more, check out the platform here

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