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Picking the right manager for your ranch

First millennials, now Gen Z: Tips on how to survive

It may be a grandchild coming back to the ranch or a recent college graduate looking for a job. Either way, Generation Z is your next workforce challenge.

By Heather Watson

OK, so you’ve had millennials in your workforce for a while now—in fact, the oldest of the millennial generation are in their mid to late 30s, approaching that watershed event of being 40 years old. And you’re learning how to work with and manage the millennial, particularly the younger millennials.

Now comes Gen Z. What? Who?

Gen Z is growing up, graduating college, and starting to enter your workforce. It may be a grandchild coming back to work on the ranch, or a recent college graduate looking for a job.

While you probably feel you just got a handle on adapting to millennials’ workplace preferences, it’s already time to start focusing on this next generation of workers.

So, what’s the secret to engaging Gen Z at work? Feedback—and lots of it! Gen Z employees want (very) frequent feedback from managers.

In a 2017 Gen Z national study, 60% of these younger workers reported that they wanted multiple check-ins from their managers during the week. In fact, of those, 40% want an interaction with their boss daily or several times each day.

And while we saw this trend with millennials, it’s really taking off with Gen Z. But what does that mean? Do managers need to have hour-long conversations with Gen Z employees, multiple times during the week? Who has that kind of time?

What they actually want is not length, necessarily, but consistent recognition. Gen Z wants to know that you see them and that you appreciate their effort. A 2-minute, daily check-in could be all they need. For example, here is a quote from one of our Gen Z focus group participants:

“I’m really difficult on myself, so it means a lot to have a supervisor take time out of their day to be physically present and verbally say ‘We value you.’”

Feedback and check-ins with their managers are how Gen Z employees know they are doing a good job. And they do want to do a good job!

Unlike the generations before them, such as Gen X and Baby Boomers, Generation Z sees conversations with their managers as a good thing. Before, if your boss was talking to you, it meant you were in trouble; now, for Gen Z, the opposite is true. If you are not giving them frequent feedback, Gen Z feels something is very wrong.

What types of feedback does Gen Z want?

Engaging Gen Z at work requires coaching to the performance as well as the person, which might be unfamiliar territory for Baby Boomers. Gen Z wants both constructive, skills-based feedback as well as personal check-ins.

As the new generation in the workplace, they need senior employees, managers, and mentors to help build their skills. Not all of your feedback needs to be confidence boosting or high fives—they don’t need a trophy every 10 minutes. Instead, when you see areas that need development, say, “Hey, I need to show you how to do this differently, more effectively, or more efficiently.”

Additionally, while Gen Z definitely wants feedback on their job performance, they also crave personal interaction. For Gen Z, having a boss who’s also a friend or mentor is key to engagement.

As a supervisor, show them you are not only interested in their work, but also their lives outside of work. Get to know them as people, not just employees. Ask about their pets, hobbies, interests, family—anything, as long as you show that you care about their life.

Watson is behavioral designer at the Center for Generational Kinetics.

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