On the succession planning keynote speaker circuit—and in this blog—I talk a lot about Millennials in the marketplace. Comprising half the current U.S. workforce and expected to reach 75% over the next five years, this complex generation cannot (and should not) be ignored.
But as a sought-after succession planning expert, I’m also advising my clients to think quite a bit further ahead. With the oldest Millennials nearing 40 and already exploring the upper echelons of leadership, the NEXT generation of leaders are just now entering the workforce. Here are the top five things Generation Z will need from you in order to succeed.
1. Autonomy. Thanks to the endless stream of information pouring out of our phones, it can be difficult to remember that there was a time when “Google it” wasn’t a viable solution for every one of life’s conundrums, from weird aches and pains to the mysteries of Microsoft Excel. Gen Z hasn’t experienced that world. So, while you should do all you can to mentor your digital natives in the finer points of their roles and responsibilities, know that they’re also pretty darn resourceful. When facing a new challenge or a gap in their knowledge, they’re less likely to raise a hand for assistance—and more likely to scour YouTube for the top-rated tutorial.
2. Feedback. Maybe it’s the unexpected result of their DIY learning style, but early research shows that Generation Z is not only open to your input—but actively craves it! A recent study revealed that 66% of surveyed Gen Z-ers wanted multiple weekly check-ins with their manager throughout the week, and also that these quickie face-to-face meetings were proven to improve productivity and reduce turnover. As I’ve mentioned to my succession planning keynote speaker clients, grooming this generation for leadership requires a very delicate balance between fostering self-sufficiency and reassuring, light-touch guidance.
3. Mission. By now, you’ve probably already heard that Millennials are a great deal more motivated by causes than previous generations—they need to know they’re making a difference, and that the companies for which they work align with their personal values. This trend will continue (and likely trend upwards) with Gen Z. Whether your family business is a community-centric non-profit or driven by high-volume sales, your Gen Z employees will want to know your organization’s mission and your vision for impacting the broader world beyond HQ doors…and they WILL expect you to walk the walk.
4. Innovation. While the Millennial workforce has dabbled in the gig economy and largely left it behind in favor of a steadier paycheck (and greater long-term emotional rewards), Gen Z has never known anything else. According to a recent study, 41% of Gen Z-ers are planning to start their own business—as compared to the meager 4% of Millennials who have made this a reality. Now, it may be too early to tell how this will bear out. But suffice it to say that giving your Gen Z employees room to experiment and even fail is a good strategy; they’ll learn valuable lessons, and you may uncover new solutions to old problems.
5. Balance. Ahhh, good old work-life balance! As a “corporate survivor” who inherited and turned around a failing family business, THEN applied those learnings to a second (and more balanced) career as a succession planning keynote speaker, I have seen both sides of this coin. My generation, X, watched our parents work themselves into early graves, so we’ve always been more protective of our personal downtime. Millennials, struggling under the heaviest student loan burden in history, are learning to find balance in other ways: flexible and remote work schedules, or culture perks like game rooms and rotating food trucks.
But wise-beyond-their-years Gen Z? They’re learning from all of this. They know that nearly 30% of Millennials are experiencing career burnout in their 30s, so they’re proactive (and firm) about balancing the demands of their careers with the demands of their lives. They’ve fully embraced technology, but they also know that the human element is what will keep them connected and fulfilled both at home and at work. For best results, lead them with an open mind, a light hand and—perhaps most importantly—a willingness to learn.
Here’s to Your Business Success!
Richard J. Bryan
Business Contingency Planning: What, Why + How