How to Work Effectively with the Next Generation

Tips to help you successfully lead and collaborate with the next generation

To older generations, Generation Z may be perplexing and, therefore, difficult to work with. But what they lack in experience Gen Zers make up for in enthusiasm and tech-savviness. So how do you lead and connect with a generation that is so different from you?

Your approach matters

Generation Z is comprised of individuals born roughly between the mid ʼ90s and 2010s. They are constantly connected to the world via their phones, the internet, and social media. They can find the answer to practically every question they ever have on the internet. While they are extremely connected, they are also independent and self-sufficient.

According to Ryan Jenkins, Millenial and Generation Z expert, the key to working effectively with this self-taught generation is to take a coaching approach. He says:

“Coaching prompts introspection where Generation Z must turn inward to discover the right answer. This self-reflection and self-evaluation process allows Generation Z to become more productive…because they can apply their self-discovered solutions to similar situations they encounter in the future.”

Initially, you may read into Gen Zers independence and think they either don’t respect your expertise or are “know-it-alls.” But step into their shoes for a moment: a tech-saturated, instant world is all Gen Zers have ever known. So, in order to train and lead this generation, you have to become their “Jedi” of sorts. You have to challenge them to tap into their inner strength and creativity (which they have plenty of!) instead of defaulting to a Google search/looking outward for inspiration and solutions.

What Gen Zers and multi-cookers have in common

Let’s say you’ve only ever grilled or sauteed your food and then someone introduces you to a crockpot or an insta-pot. You might think, “Dump ingredients, set and forget? I don’t think so. I need to be in full control of the cooking process.” But crockpots and insta-pots are perfectly capable of making delicious dishes without the “handholding,” and Gen Z is the same way.

You may be used to telling your employees or team members what you need them to do and how you want them to do it, but Gen Zers just don’t speak that language. They need you to come alongside them, brainstorm their ideas with them a bit, and then give them some freedom to work on it at their own pace, in their preferred environment, etc.

If you want to work with Gen Z, you have to stop putting them in a box and walking them through every single thing. Instead, give them your vision and ask them to help you come up with solutions and practical ways to bring it about. You might be pleasantly surprised at how willing and resourceful they are! Then, come up with a timeline together to get the job done.

Practical tips for getting the job done

At their best, Generation Z is a self-motivated, work from home, multi-tasking workforce. Because of this, they may benefit from less structured work time, a freelance work environment, and plenty of opportunities to collaborate on a diverse team. As you lead and work with Gen Z, try to remember to:

  • Ask questions and spark introspection
  • Listen to their ideas and incorporate them if possible
  • Be approachable/available. (Go beyond providing your email address and office hours!)
  • Connect one-on-one and in groups. Try to make these meetings casual, yet focused and concise.
  • Leave room for downtime and socializing. Connection and commonality are how members of the younger generation build trust with one another.

Gen Zers can bring a lot of value and great ideas to your team. How are you connecting and working with this energetic, intelligent generation?