How to Lead Generation Z in the Workplace

What Gen Z wants from their leaders

In today’s world, increasing demands on leaders to cope with rising business challenges are undeniable.

The importance of effective leadership strategies in a diverse workplace cannot be overstated. How to lead, manage and inspire Generation Z is also becoming a hot topic.

Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s, brings forth a set of distinctive qualities uniquely different from the millennial generation and baby boomers. Generation Z might be seen as “challenging” or “difficult.” Generation Z indeed has particular expectations from their employers, but I believe there is much-untapped potential in them, and if leaders understand how to lead and inspire Generation Z, they can unlock the potential and discover opportunities that Generation Z brings.

As a leadership coach, I believe learning to work with Generation Z has the greatest purpose and significance. Leaders are in the best position to build an inclusive work environment, and in today’s workplaces where five generations come to work, managers are in the best position to foster a culture that respects and celebrates individual differences; everyone in the organization can then thrive in an atmosphere of collaboration and open communication to ensure that every voice is heard and valued.

To effectively lead and engage this generation (like how you’ll engage millennials and baby boomers), the first starting point is to thoroughly understand people’s characteristics, anticipate their needs, and adjust your leadership strategies accordingly.

Leading others the way they want to be led is one sure way for you to drive innovation and creativity within your diverse teams and tap into the collective potential of Generation Z.

The Captain is particularly skilled in creating high-performing teams where team members complement one another. Naturally, with more understanding, empathy and respect for what makes others unique, he leads with high emotional intelligence, building an inclusive team culture by ensuring the psychological safety necessary for agile teams navigating complexities in today’s workplaces.

—an excerpt from Leaders People Love by Yeo Chuen Chuen

Understanding Generation Z: How Do They Differ from Previous Generations

To bridge the generation gap in the workplace, let’s first look into the key attributes of Generation Z and understand what makes them different from other generations.

1. Digital Natives

Unlike the previous generation, Generation Z grew up in a digital era and was immersed in technology and hyper-connectivity from a young age.

Being digital natives has shaped their communication styles, making them adept at leveraging digital platforms, social media, and instant messaging. Compared to the previous generations, they are more immersed in technology and social media. They have extensive knowledge about the internet because they simply cannot imagine a time when the internet didn’t exist.

2. Authenticity and Transparency

Compared to the millennial generation or generation y, Generation Z is known for its transparent and authentic approach.

Some people might think they are being blunt or rude, but according to Mckinsey & Company, Gen Z’s “search for authenticity generates greater freedom of expression and greater openness to understanding different kinds of people.”

3. Social Causes

Gen Z is motivated by purpose and aims to support various causes that will help improve the environment.

As a result, organizations need to prioritize specific values, including company purpose, proof of corporate social responsibility, and work-life balance, as emphasized by Korn Ferry, if you wish to attract generation z talent.

4. Inclusion and Diversity

Creating an inclusive work environment is crucial. Gen Z appreciates diversity, equity, and inclusion.

For leaders working with them, you need to create space such that their voices are heard, and individual differences are respected and celebrated.

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, a majority of 62% of Generation Z believes that increased diversity benefits society. Additionally, a survey conducted by Quantilope on 630 Americans revealed that almost 80% of Generation Z think it’s important for brands to focus on diversity and inclusion.

5. Purpose and Meaning

Gen Z prioritizes work that aligns with their values and has a meaningful impact on the world.

Contributing to a greater purpose and making positive changes is essential to their lives.

For example, Mckinsey & Company suggested that Generation Z prioritizes taking action to prevent climate change from worsening and promote fairness for all. Compared to other generations, Gen Z values purpose, accountability, providing more opportunities for diverse and underrepresented individuals, and implementing sustainable practices.

6. Growth Opportunities

For Gen Z, growth opportunities are important when considering if they’ll join or remain in a company.

They will seek companies that commit to investing in their development by allowing them to acquire new skills and apply existing ones.

To unlock their full potential, focus on developing and leveraging their strengths using frameworks like CliftonStrengths. This empowers Gen Z employees to excel and contributes to personal and professional growth.

Discover your CliftonStrengths and Values here.

7. Work-Life Balance and Well-being

As they reshape work culture, Generation Z sets themselves apart from older generations and baby boomers by valuing a balance between work and personal life. Their priorities include ensuring a healthy balance between work and personal life, caring for their mental health, and maintaining overall well-being.

Our previous blog titled “10 Signs of a Toxic Work Environment and How to Fix It” listed poor work-life balance as one of the signs of a toxic work environment. Gen Z will pay more attention to the work environment than older generations.

Providing options for flexible work arrangements, like working remotely or adjusting schedules, can help employees balance their personal and professional responsibilities. Additionally, providing mental health support and opportunities for self-care is crucial for their well-being.

Check out this article: 6 Important Leadership Skills Managers Need to Lead a Hybrid Workforce

8. Communication Preferences

“Communication leads to community, that is, understanding, intimacy, and mutual valuing.”

Rollo Reece May, writer, psychotherapist, and philosopher

“In the workplace, people must feel enabled to share their ideas and opinions and speak up freely.” I believe it’s crucial to practice communication at all levels of the workplace, regardless of generational differences.

Generation Z highly values open and transparent communication. They prefer clear and frequent contact with their managers. They love proactive managers who keep them informed about work-related matters and provide timely feedback on their performance.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, Gen Z values open and digital communication in the workplace. The research found that 95% of Gen Z individuals own a smartphone, indicating their high reliance on digital platforms for communication, Pew Research Center, “Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018.”

This preference for digital communication channels resonates with their desire for quick and efficient exchanges in the fast-paced work environment. Managers can incorporate digital and in-person communication methods to effectively engage and collaborate with them to foster a culture of open dialogue and collaboration.

Read more:
8 Management Skills Every Leader Needs For An Agile Organization
10 Leadership Skills Every Effective Leader Needs

Understanding What Generation Z Expects From Workplace Leadership

Photo by mentatdgt on

As the workplace evolves, it becomes evident that different generations may have distinct expectations and preferences. Gen Z, in particular, stands out with its unique set of values and priorities. Understanding these differences is crucial for managers aiming to engage and motivate this emerging generation effectively.

To better understand Generation Z, here’re my recommendations for engaging Gen Z employees.

1. Demonstrate Authenticity and Transparency

Generation Z deeply values leaders who embody authenticity, transparency, and genuineness in their actions and communication.

Cultivating authenticity as a manager involves being open and honest, sharing a clear vision, and providing regular updates on the organization’s progress and challenges. Building credibility is achieved through this approach, which is crucial for Gen Z employees who seek truthful information and reliable guidance.

Authenticity creates a sense of psychological safety, allowing employees to express themselves freely and contribute their ideas and concerns. When managers trust their team members with honest communication, Gen Z employees feel more engaged and committed to their work.

2. Embrace Digital Transformation

Businesses can take advantage of Generation Z’s focus on digital solutions and technology-driven lifestyles by embracing digital transformation to stay competitive. As such, managers should take the lead in implementing new technological strategies within their organization.

Managers can start by making sure their teams have the necessary tools and resources to work well and get things done. This includes ensuring that everyone has access to the latest software, hardware, and platforms that will enable them to better collaborate with customers.

In addition, managers should invest in upskilling all their team members to check they have the right digital skills. Don’t forget your employees from older generations. This could include offering training courses that teach employees to use different software applications or creating a learning environment where staff can try new technologies and develop their knowledge.

By embracing digital transformation, managers can gain an advantage over their competitors and ensure that Generation Z is appropriately engaged.

3. Provide Mentorship and Opportunities for Skill Development

Growth and mentorship are significant for Gen Z employees, and outstanding leadership requires managers to prioritize and consider these essential aspects. Leaders can do this by developing coaching as one of their leadership skills.

Driven by a desire for continuous learning, skill development, and career advancement, managers can meet these needs in Gen Z by focusing on growth and mentorship. This also helps managers create an environment that fosters professional development and personal fulfillment.

Be sure to provide regular feedback and coaching and offer clear professional development and advancement opportunities.

Prioritizing growth and mentorship also contributes to employee engagement and retention. Gen Z employees are likelier to stay with organizations that invest in their development and provide a clear path for advancement.

4. Demonstrate Social Responsibility

Are most people aware that sustainability is a significant concern for Gen Z?

Gen Z was raised in an era where climate change, pollution, and plastic waste are prevalent issues, and they possess a heightened understanding of how humans affect the planet. Consequently, Gen Z is highly dedicated to sustainability and other social problems.

As leaders, we can connect with Generation Z by demonstrating our dedication to social responsibility, specifically regarding environmental issues and addressing climate change.

We can align our values with the values of our generation by engaging in environmentally conscious practices like reducing waste, adopting renewable energy sources, and supporting eco-friendly initiatives.

By showing genuine concern for the environment and social issues, we encourage Gen Z’s interest in sustainability and cultivate a sense of purpose within our teams.

5. Prioritize Work-Life Balance

Gen Z prioritizes work-life balance and seeks managers who promote and support it. Managers can encourage work-life balance by implementing flexible work arrangements, promoting a healthy work environment, and respecting personal boundaries. Leaders, too, are role models in this domain.

Aside from that, it contributes to their overall well-being, job satisfaction, and retention. Numerous studies have highlighted the importance of work-life balance and its impact on employee engagement and organizational outcomes.

Employees with better work-life balance are more likely to be engaged and less likely to experience burnout. They emphasize the need for organizations to prioritize work-life balance to attract and retain top talent.

6. Provide Feedback and Recognition

Feedback holds immense importance for Gen Z employees as they seek continuous improvement and personal growth in the workplace. Gen Z values constructive feedback that helps them understand their strengths and areas for development. They desire managers who can provide timely and specific feedback to guide their performance and professional development.

As discussed in 10 Leadership Skills Every Effective Leader Needs, managers can create an environment where Gen Z employees feel supported, engaged, and motivated by prioritizing feedback and implementing effective feedback practices. This leads to enhanced performance, increased job satisfaction, and higher retention rates among this valuable generation of talent.

7. Promote Collaboration and Teamwork

Generation Z looks for a collaborative work environment because it aligns with their values and work preferences and helps them perform well in the workplace. Collaboration allows Gen Z employees to collaborate, share ideas, and leverage collective knowledge and skills.

“By acknowledging generational differences and encouraging collaboration, managers can help build above-average profitability, succession planning, and next-generation leadership.”

—Yeo Chuen Chuen, founder of ACESENCE and author of 8 Paradoxes of Leadership Agility

To create a collaborative work environment, managers can foster a culture of teamwork and cooperation. Encourage open communication, active participation, and knowledge sharing among Gen Z employees. Implement collaborative tools and platforms that facilitate virtual collaboration and project management. Provide opportunities for team-based projects and cross-functional collaborations to encourage synergy and idea exchange.

How Generation Z Adds Value to Organizations

Gen Z employees bring unique strengths and contributions to businesses and companies, adding significant value to their growth and success.

Here are five ways Generation Z employees positively impact organizations:

1. Tech-Savviness and Digital Fluency

Generation Z’s innate familiarity with technology allows them to effectively leverage digital tools, platforms, and trends. Their tech-savviness enables them to streamline processes, embrace innovative solutions, and adapt quickly to emerging technologies, increasing efficiency and productivity.

2. Fresh Perspectives and Innovation

Generation Z brings a fresh and forward-thinking mindset to the workplace. Their diverse experiences and exposure to various cultures and ideas make them natural innovators. They offer creative insights, challenge the status quo, and contribute fresh perspectives that drive innovation and help companies stay ahead of the curve.

3. Adaptability and Resilience

Growing up in a fast-paced, ever-changing world, Gen Z has developed strong adaptability and resilience. They quickly learn and adjust to new environments, technologies, and challenges. Their ability to embrace change helps businesses navigate uncertainties, seize opportunities, and thrive in dynamic markets.

4. Social Consciousness and Purpose-Driven Mindset

Generation Z is characterized by a strong sense of social consciousness and a desire to impact positively. They prioritize purpose-driven work and seek companies that align with their values. Their commitment to social responsibility and ethical practices enhances a company’s reputation and attracts socially conscious consumers.

5. Collaborative Mindset and Teamwork

Generation Z values collaboration and thrives in a team-oriented environment. They excel at working collaboratively, leveraging diverse perspectives, and building strong relationships. Their teamwork skills contribute to a more cohesive and harmonious work environment, fostering productivity and enhancing the company’s overall performance.

By recognizing and harnessing these strengths, organizations can tap into the full potential of Gen Z employees. Leveraging their tech-savviness, fresh perspectives, adaptability, social consciousness, and collaborative mindset, companies can foster innovation, drive growth, and stay ahead in today’s competitive landscape.

Engaging Generation Z Must Be Top Leadership Agenda

Leading Generation Z in the workplace requires a deep understanding of their unique characteristics and preferences.

Managers must prioritize authenticity, transparency, and inclusivity to build trust and create a work environment where Gen Z employees can thrive. Embracing digital transformation is essential, as Gen Z is highly tech-savvy and values organizations that leverage technology for efficiency and collaboration.

Prioritizing growth, mentorship, and providing opportunities for skill development is crucial to engage and retain Gen Z talent. Demonstrating social responsibility, promoting work-life balance, giving feedback and recognition, and fostering collaboration are key strategies for effective leadership.

By embracing the strengths and contributions of Generation Z, organizations can drive innovation, adaptability, and success in today’s evolving business landscape.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Take advantage of Chuen Chuen’s extensive experience coaching leaders worldwide and her deep expertise in designing agile leadership corporate training solutions for your teams. No matter which stage of leadership you are at, we can partner with you and meet your business needs. Explore our executive coaching programscorporate training coursesor hire Chuen Chuen as your speaker so that your organization will become agile and adaptive.

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