Many leaders and organizations are still fussing about their millennial employees who don’t react or care about the same things that Boomers and Gen Xers do. Segran, a staff writer at Fast Company, provided evocative anecdotes and data-driven insights into the realities of turmoil and choices for people in their 20s and 30s, including how they think about work and workplaces.
If leaders want the benefit of 20-somethings’ drive and creativity — and also want to maintain staffing levels and develop bench strength — they need to think about how to shift organizational realities to be attractive to these younger employees, and to help them thrive in unfamiliar workplace environment without suppressing their personalities. The following five recommendations from Segran can help demystify the process.
Get used to the fact that their expectations are off-kilter
Unlike prior generations who expected work to pay the bills, fund leisure and lifestyle — and only occasionally provide a calling – Gen Z has practically been raised by parents and teachers to follow their career passions. They may find those passions eventually, but research shows that job satisfaction tends to improve as we age, rather than being there as careers begin. Anticipate that Gen Zers will often feel restless, confused and out-of-sorts, particularly if their entry level work does not satisfy their desire for meaning and purpose.
“when they do find something that seems like a perfect fit and then something goes wrong with the culture, they’re just devastated.”Segran
Help them adjust to the realities of early jobs
Because they may be put off by workplace realities as they search for the perfect role, many Gen Zers will do significant job-hopping as they try to learn what works for them. They’re likely to start and re-start their careers multiple times in their first decade of work, and their workdays, therefore, will often include tasks and experiences they may find distasteful, either because there’s more grunt work than they anticipated, they don’t like what they thought they would or they’re shaken by the amount of political maneuvering and the arcane, unwritten rules that are common in many workplaces. So ground them by explaining what they can expect and describe how the development of their skills, relationships and maturity will lead to more satisfaction and success. Listen to what they want from their jobs and what they find off-putting to identify ways to help them feel appreciated and like they’re a vital part of the action. Be explicit about how your organization works, and where the best opportunities for growth and independence are likely to be.
To retain the ones you want, demonstrate your values and authenticity
This generation did not grow up with respect for hierarchy, and corporate roles and titles aren’t enough to earn the admiration of 20-somethings; they want their managers to be respect-worthy as individuals. Segran says that this generation was raised to think of managers as people that they can learn from, so it’s crucial for managers to articulate how they find personal meaning and value in their work. As children, these Gen Zers’ parents invested in them as if each one has a unique mission in the world. Managers who are willing to act as mentors and find what motivates each individual — and then connect that motivation to the manager’s and the organization’s values — have the best chance of cementing relationships and inspiring productivity and growth; when these young people are inspired they’ll work incredibly hard to deliver on your agreed-upon goals.
Look for ways to empower them as individuals
Gen Z is used to having a lot of freedom to operate according to their own preferences. You’ll get the most payback if you create the conditions under which they can take ownership of what they do and the way they decide to do it. Offer them opportunities that are geared toward a kind of personal expression and the chance to change the world; this will help them feel that it’s worth investing even in the parts of the job that they may not care for so much.
Ensure that your organization is walking your talk
As consumers, 20-somethings were raised with brands that have been public about their missions, whether those involve ethical supply chains, social giving, or Black Lives Matter, so they have a fine-tuned radar for companies that aren’t being authentic. And don’t be heartbroken if they leave you. Part of the tendency to rocket around means a need for speed and change, and for these young people, that often translates into serial job-hopping. It’s certainly disappointing to lose someone you’ve invested in.