As different generations enter the workforce, they bring with them new skills and ideas that can cause unexpected changes to businesses. While these alterations may prove to be beneficial to the company, they are often met with resistance from leaders and other coworkers who are comfortable with the established ways of running the company. As a result of this behavior, worker productivity may decrease and interpersonal conflict between the new hires and current employees. While older generations bring to the table their wisdom and past experiences, newer generations bring their newly obtained knowledge from undergraduate and graduate school along with open minds to their jobs. Both groups offer a lot in terms of skills and when they are combined, higher quality work can be produced. However, leaders and employers need to find approaches that can allow newer generations to feel welcomed in a work environment that is supportive of their ideas open to new ways of doing work. Several ways that companies have already begun to prepare for the entrance of Generation Z is through educating employers about what the future holds in terms of how new employees will be integrated into the company. For instance, employers may need to alter their leadership approach in situations where less direction is needed, and more support and discussion is encouraged. People within Generation Z may thrive in environments where there is more collaboration and less formal meetings. While this may strongly oppose the current dynamic in the company, integrating new and innovative ways to work may allow the employees to work better together.
The first step that needs to be established is for leaders and bosses within companies to be accepting of the changes that will result from Generation Z entering the workforce. In order for other employees in the company to be in support of the hiring of younger people, leaders need to be the ones who are the most excited and enthusiastic about it. They need to learn about the uniqueness of this particular generation and what their joining of the workforce means for the future of business (Forbes, 2020). For instance, Generation Z consists of a very diverse group of people with different needs. Leaders must learn to adapt to these needs such as allowing some employees to work from home or have more flexible hours. Some people may be single parents and will need to take an unexpected day off. While this is not an ideal situation for anyone, employers need to be aware of the constraints that employees have and try to make accommodations for them. Other ways for leaders to be more accepting to the new generation of workers is to put themselves in the shoes of those from Generation Z (Forbes, 2020). Since most people from this group were born in the mid 1990s, a large part of their upbringing included the use of cell phones. Most of them communicate quickly through text or through other forms of social media. This type of behavior may transfer into their work as they may prefer communicating with their coworkers through email rather than speaking to them in person. Other events that Generation Z experienced that have shaped their growth include the recession in 2008. This was a dark time for many families who may have lost their job or their home and struggled financially. People from Generation Z may have saw this and learned to become more frugal with their money. In addition, they may also be more aware of diversity and the importance of inclusivity. Their identities may play a large role in who they are and how they behave in the workplace. If employers are aware of the unique needs and past experiences that have influenced those in Generation Z, they may be more willing to work with them and create a workplace that is accepting of them.
Other ways for employers to better prepare for the entrance of Generation Z into the labor market is to not make assumptions. People from different generations experience different events that have affected who they are today. For instance, those who lived during the Great Depression saw what happened to the country as a result, and became strict with their money when they got older. Alternatively, those who are considered “baby boomers” went through different life events that have made them different from previous generations. Regardless of what generation you come from, it is important to set those differences aside and focus on learning about the new generation. By learning about what motivates and drives them to work hard, employers can better understand the work ethic of Generation Z (Forbes, 2020). For instance, if they believe that doing whatever it takes to get a job done well and on time is of upmost importance, then employers should recognize this and give them the appropriate tools to accomplish this. In addition, the more companies learn about Generation Z, the more questions they may have for them. In order to create an environment that is accessible for people in newer generations, companies must learn about their preferences, their struggles and what they are looking for in a job. This way, companies can better prepare for the incoming generations into the workforce. The only way for older generations to learn about the new generations is to be open and willing to listen to people who come from these groups. They may provide new insight that could prove to beneficial to the workforce. For instance, if people from Generation Z emphasize the importance of group communication, companies may change the typical setting of a “board room meeting” and make it more informal as a way for people to feel more comfortable and free to express themselves.
The advice that has been provided can only be possible if employers are able to use the situational approach to leadership. This method focuses on utilizing both a directive and supportive dimension to leadership that can be altered in different situations (Northouse, 2016). When employers are working with employees who have been working at the company for several years, employers can take on a less directive style and a more supportive style. The reason for this is because employees already know what is expected of them, they know they goals for the company and know their responsibilities. As a result, employers can instead provide more emotional and social support such as listening, praising employees and being understanding. This type of leadership may be the most effective in this situation because it is what most employees are comfortable with and work the best with. However, with the addition of employees from Generation Z, employers may need to alter their leadership style when working with them specifically. Since Generation Z is less experienced than other generations (Forbes, 2020), they may benefit more from instruction and direction. As a result, an employer may adopt a high directive style that focuses on working closely with their employees to ensure that they know what the goals of the company are and their responsibilities. However, people from Generation Z also experience higher rates of anxiety. From this, employers may also choose to also use a high supportive style in order to meet their socioemotional needs (Northouse, 2016). If an employee is feeling overwhelmed, the employer would be willing to sit with them, talk about their struggles and be able to reach a resolution. In addition, praising their work can also be a helpful tool in a highly supportive style (Northouse, 2016). If an employee hears that they are doing a good job and excelling at the company, they may feel more confident and willing to work harder and take on more responsibilities (Forbes, 2020). The use of situational leadership by employers when working with people from Generation Z may be very useful in helping the company succeed and allowing employees to reach their full potential. As people from Generation Z enter the workforce, their skills and knowledge can significantly alter the typical practices in companies, but can prove to be very beneficial in improving workplace conditions.
Forbes. (2020). 14 Ways Leaders Can Prepare For Generation Z’s Entry Into The Job Market. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/02/06/14-ways-leaders-can-prepare-for-generation-zs-entry-into-the-job-market/#6bd0c80f2ca5
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.