How Gen Z is Redefining Leadership in the Workplace

How Gen Z is Redefining Leadership in the Workplace

As Gen Zers (people born between 1996 and 2010) begin to enter the workforce, your office may already be feeling the effects of having around four generations of professionals working together. These young professionals grew up surrounded by technology, creating a digital connection to the world around them.

They are driven by the idea of professional growth and the financial benefits that come with it. With this, it appears that neither cookie-cutter management solutions and mentoring nor traditional recruitment efforts will remain as effective with Gen Zers as it did with their millennial counterparts.

Whether you’re part of a recruitment firm matching talents with companies or an HR professional who wants to bring the best out of your employees, it is crucial to get a better understanding of what type of leadership works well with Gen Zers.

How Gen Z is Redefining Leadership in the Workplace

Millennials vs. Gen Z

While the demographics of millennials and Gen Zers overlap, these two generations have different expectations of management and leadership in the workplace. Being able to address their needs makes all the difference in improving their performance and growth with the company.

  • Coaching – Millennials benefit the most from collaborative environments. Aside from being able to work with their colleagues, the generation puts an emphasis on shared learning across all positions in the workplace. 

    Meanwhile, Gen Zers prefer mentorship—particularly face-to-face coaching—to be more effective for their goals. Collaborative efforts are part of the job, but what they seek is an individual and a complete connection with their leaders.
  • Organizational Structure – Millennials put the balance of work and personal life at the forefront of their career. Being able to complete work remotely or through hours of their choosing allows them to make the most of their time and makes a positive impact on their mental health and overall happiness. 

    Additionally, due to their desire for collaboration, millennials thrive in flat management structures. Firstly, this allows them to do their jobs without having to deal with overlapping management structures. Secondly, this opens up a wide range of ways for them to improve and develop their careers through unilateral movement.

    In the case of Gen Zers, their tight focus on their ambition drives them to seek organizational structures that provide challenges and competition. A company structure built on personal and professional growth, complete with a myriad of opportunities to improve their skills and promote continuous learning, suits them best. 

    This structure, however, must be supported by a rewards and benefits system that recognizes hard work through awards and incentives. Given Gen Zers’ competitive nature, their performance is often driven by the idea of receiving a corresponding reward—especially financial ones such as raises, bonuses, or even promotions. 

    By their logic, they want to validate that their efforts are working towards something, even in the long run.
  • Feedback – Millennials return to their need for collaboration by seeking pointers from both leaders and colleagues they have worked with. The kinds of feedback that matters to them the most are ones that empower them to make informed decisions and exercise their decision-making skills in their jobs. 

    This allows them to find purpose in their work without compromising their sense of self and worldview. 

    For Gen Zers, the need to build a mentoring relationship with their leaders is evident in how they like to receive feedback. As their generation has been raised in an era of almost-instantaneous communication, as facilitated by digital technology, they prioritize human connections but process things and make decisions at a faster pace. 
    Managers giving feedback to Gen Zers need to be available to provide it face-to-face and commit to frequent check-ins to demonstrate their dedication to employee growth and development.

Effective Leadership Strategies for Gen Z

Now that you understand what motivates Gen Zers, adapting your leadership style is a necessary step in keeping them motivated. Here are some effective leadership strategies for this generation:

1. Give timely coaching

In the fast-paced nature of business today—rapid communication, drastically-shortened delays between submitting outputs, and receiving feedback—Gen Zers find themselves in need of well-timed coaching. Ideally, coaching becomes more effective the closer it’s done to the activity or learning opportunity. 

2. Lead with questions

Guide the Gen Zers toward self-evaluation through the use of strategic questions, which can jumpstart their growth and empower their work. Questions like “What’s on your mind?”, “What’s the real challenge here for you?”, “How can I help you?”, and even “What more can you tell me?” open up opportunities for you to lead without imposing on their unique thought process.

3. Be brief and concise

While frequent check-ins are a must for Gen Zers, the effectivity of these check-ins is lost on them if you take too long, especially if it takes up precious time in their workday and knocks them out of their productivity flow. 

Instead of rounding up advice for multiple projects and topics, take it as a case-to-case basis. This also lets you provide feedback that is more precise and can be applied faster.

4. Create learning opportunities

Part of the ambition and drive that Gen Zers have include seeking out knowledge that will best help them reach their career goals and further their professional growth. This also means that they choose not to waste time on education that doesn’t seem valuable. 

Providing Gen Zers with self-learning tools and framing specific tasks or challenges as learning opportunities give them the opportunities they’re looking for.

5. Recognize good work

You’ll notice that Gen Zers work especially hard if they know there’s something in it for them. Conversely, they’re more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere if they feel like they have nothing to gain. 

Fostering office culture where a job well done is recognized is the first step in helping them reach their potential. In addition, consider offering certain benefits or perks for a few milestones to encourage them better.

6. Communicate better

Given that Gen Zers seek more personal and human connections in the workplace, it’s no surprise that they will value regular and transparent communication. That said, being consistent with your message and open about improvements, feedback, and other essential workplace issues demonstrates a real commitment to helping them grow and thrive within the company.

Lead Gen Zers Ahead

While millennials have focused on finding the balance between the personal and the corporate, Gen Zers have set personal goals and gains as the backbone of their professional life. Highly motivated by career growth and incentives, this generation is setting a new pace for how leadership is done in the workplace. 

Effectively managing Gen Zers to survive and thrive in your company boils down to genuine connections and the desire to help them help themselves.

Ron Cullimore