Previously published on Forbes
Generation Z is here, and they are working alongside you right now. Do you know how to manage them? Do you know enough about their expectations to be effective as a leader?
Let’s do a quick tutorial on this latest generation to enter the workforce, born from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s.
Here’s what Bonnie Monych tells us:
Gen Zers are independent, creative and much more entrepreneurial in how they approach work. Watching their parents struggle to make ends meet during the 2008 recession and growing up during the evolution of startup culture and the gig economy (think Uber) likely inspired their initiative.
This is good news! We want people with an entrepreneurial spirit. It means they may work as though your business is their business.
Gen Zers also blur the lines between work and free time (don’t we all now?). The artificial construct of a workday, with its clear-cut start and end times, may not work for them, especially since they know work can be completed anywhere at any time. Plus, they want to be recognized for what they produce, not facetime at the office—which isn’t really a new thing. Gen Xers and Millennials crave it, too.
What separates this group from the Millennials are their expectations.Unlimited PTO, being able to bring their dogs to work, vacation bonuses, flex time, ping pong tables and more—Millennials are known for wanting the fun stuff at work. They value a good time and balance it with working hard for their bosses.
Gen Z seems more focused on money-based incentives—student loan repayment assistance, excellent insurance plans, a competitive salary, retirement with high company matches, etc. The challenge is that they have some fairly unrealistic expectations about their starting salary when they graduate.
A recent research study by Clever Real Estate found that Gen Z students, on the whole, are overestimating how much they’ll make right out of college. The average undergraduate expects to make $57,964 one year into their career, while the national median salary is $47,000 for a bachelor’s degree with zero to five years of experience. On average, students who graduate with a four-year or graduate degree will earn about 23% less than they expect to earn right out of college.
Part of the reason they have these high expectations is that the cost of a four-year education has nearly doubled since 1992, while the median $50,000 starting salary has remained somewhat steady.
Managing and engaging Gen Z—and all the others, too
When the monetary expectations don’t necessarily line up with the reality of what you can offer in a salary, the challenge is how to attract—and keep—this up-and-coming talent. This is something I’ve focused on in my writing and research these past few years. How do you manage and engage this creative, entrepreneurial generation?
The same way I encourage you to manage every person on your team and in your organization: by engaging them eye-ball to eye-ball and listening. Who is this person in front of you? What do they care about? What motivates them? What discourages their contribution? What incentivizes them, at work and in life? Learn about your people, be curious, and be open to hearing what might surprise you or confound you.
Most of all, be present and stay present. It really doesn’t matter the age or the name of the generation; people are people. Regardless of someone’s age, background or other characteristics:
• Don’t assume and don’t overgeneralize.
• Coach them to succeed in your particular culture and organizational system.
• Appreciate their gifts and help them to overcome their weaknesses, one by one, person by person.
• Share yourself openly.
• Don’t assume you know it all. (Spoiler: You don’t.)
This is what a great leader does in the face of expectations, whether we think they’re realistic or not: Clarify, listen, share and come to a solution that works for all. Stephen Covey called it creating a win-win, and it holds true no matter what your age or generation.