My buddy called me recently and, immediately, I could hear the consternation in his voice. “I thought I had figured out how to hire and work with millennials and now after spending all day interviewing potential interns and summer students I need to re-think what I thought I knew about hiring and working with younger workers”.
Millennials aka Gen Y, are born between the early 80’s and mid-to-late 90’s, although there is no real consensus on the exact time frame. My skeptical colleague, a true Gen X’er if ever there was such a thing, (born 1966-1976), was discovering what budding research in this area is now telling employers. The cohort just breaking into the labour market is similar to Gen Y but more connected, diligent and collaborative than the reportedly tolerant, entitled, narcissistic and overconfident millennials who came before them.
Don Tapscott, author and generational expert, has famously said we are not talking about a generation gap but a “generation lap”. This generation is so industrious and technologically astute, raised on smartphones, constant connectivity and social media, they are lapping their parents and their newly found workplace colleagues and bosses.
The emerging and, as of yet, limited data suggests they are more entrepreneurial, less motivated by money and more socially conscious than millennials. Craig Kielburger co-founder of Free the Children who works extensively with this cohort fittingly speaks of it as being more of a “We Generation” than a “Me Generation.”
Some warn of the impact of being raised on multiple screens, arguing that the result is a lack of social skills and an over saturation of the world’s problems from terrorism to economic instability and climate change. Others, like futurist and scholar Sanjay Khanna, contend that the emotional wellbeing of this highly educated and sophisticated generation will require due care and attention by those who lead and mentor them academically and in the workplace since they are so aware and want to do things better. He has even referred to this group as “GenStressed”, arguing that their tech skills will not compensate or prepare them adequately to make the changes they want to see.
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So what does this mean for my friend who is hiring and wanting to work effectively with this cohort? The good news is that with this generation, there seems to be an increased sense of loyalty. New evidence suggests this group expects to have four employers in a lifetime rather than the often reported five for Gen Y. Gen Z also seems to have a more conservative streak to their behaviour. Much to the delight of many employers, the pendulum may also be swinging on privacy and confidentiality as they’ve embraced forms of technology that are slightly more private…think Snapchat where a digital presence disappears without a trace in seconds.
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My pal will probably develop even more flexibility and adapt – so goes the advice for all multigenerational workplace issues. He will likely heed the emerging advice from the hugely impactful Sparks & Honey's work on Gen Z, which specifies you should communicate more often in bite-sized chunks. It also says you should let Gen Z employees work alone and speak often of value as they reportedly care about the cost of things.
My friend will also presumably learn to do more internet searches before engaging them because this is what they do. He should encourage them to be entrepreneurial as this is their nature and he should help them develop the expertise they crave as well as enabling them to build things. Most importantly he should help them create change and remind himself and others of how they contribute to the greater good. Gen Z seemingly want to change the world more than any other generation that came before them.
Want to attract top talent from Gen Z? Check out this article by Nora Cottrill, 'Hire Better: Focus on Your Mission, Vision and Values'.
Oh, and one more thing, my friend probably shouldn’t even bother giving the new interns voicemail and he may want to reconsider ever sending them an email.
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