Generation Z is entering the workplace, and you should be preparing. Gen Z, Americans born between 1995 and 2012, are 72.8 million strong and radically different from millennials. Author David Stillman knows more about them than anyone. His new book, written with his Generation Z son Jonah, is called Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation Is Transforming the Workplace.
We caught up with David Stillman to talk about Generation Z and how they fit into today's multi-generational workforce.
What is "generational intelligence," and why is it important in the workplace?
Stillman: Each generation behaves and acts a certain way, and those businesses that tap into these differences will do a better job of recruiting, retaining, managing and motivating their employees. The biggest mistake with Generation Z would be to assume they're like millennials. They're nothing like millennials, and if employers treat them that way, it will backfire. This has happened before. I'm a Gen Xer, and when I showed up in the workplace in the late 1980s/early 90s, everyone tried to treat us like baby boomers. There were rules and regulations; communication was just so formal and political. It backfired because we just didn't look at things that way. My concern is that I'm seeing history repeat itself: Gen Z are not millennials.
So, who is Generation Z and how will they impact the workplace?
Stillman: One of the traits of Generation Z is that they're a driven generation. They're going to be competitive, driven, results-oriented and less focused on "meaning" than millennials. I think baby boomers are going to love that. Millennials are digital pioneers who advocated for more technology in their organizations. But now you have Generation Z, [who] just assume we're using technology because they're digital natives. They're going to help us make sure we're using technology the right way. Something else they're going to bring to the workplace is that they do not fear failure. They'd rather try something and fail than not get to try it at all.
What special challenges do Generation Z confront in the workplace around "fear of missing out" (FOMO), and how can businesses help them maintain focus?
Stillman: It's not necessarily that they get bored and don't want to finish the task — it's that they want to be working on a bunch of tasks. What they're savvy at is "task switching." Organizations need to help them take a task and break it down into a lot of smaller chunks. Prioritizing is going to be a huge thing that they're going to need help with it. And when you help them prioritize, don't just tell them what their priorities are. Sit down with them, discuss it and be open — because they're going to bring new perspectives to streamlining and optimizing strengths that we might not even be aware of.
How open are they to mentoring or coaching?
Stillman: Very, very open to it. They've always had a lot of people mentoring them and they're used to it. I think another difference between millennials and Gen Z is that Gen Z are used to getting tough love. They know there are winners and losers. Mentoring of millennials is often about building their self-esteem. It's about empowerment, the positive side. With Generation Z, mentoring and coaching is going to be easier because they've had more tough love.
Read more about how Generation Z may change today's workplace:
Part 2: How Generation Z Will Change the Workplace: An Interview With 'Gen Z @ Work' Author David Stillman
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