What Does Gen Z Want in a Leader?
As a leadership skills speaker, I get the pleasure of training established and emerging leaders on everything from communication to operations! Now that Gen Z is at work, what needs to change? This week, our intern gives us some insight on leadership skills Gen Z wants in its leaders!
With Gen Z beginning to take the workplace, leaders need to adapt their leadership skills to keep up productivity and efficiency. Gen Z has grown up digitally and is used to different content and technology from which they learn and their inspiration. As a part of Gen Z, I noticed a lot of things that made me feel more comfortable with my bosses and even in the classroom when I started working and when I went to college. Here’s a few things I’ve found to help me work with leaders or in a particular workplace:
Because they grew up so connected to the internet, Gen Z is used to feeling connected to many different people. They aren’t used to just seeing things a certain way; they’ve frequently encountered a very diverse group of people online. I know that I definitely see and interact with a lot of different people on social media or even just get different viewpoints when I look at the news. Gen Z has encountered an entire spectrum of age, race, gender, and occupations and value the input of others’ viewpoints. Try connecting your Gen Z workers with different professionals in your company or hold meetings with other departments so that they can see different effects their work has across the company.
Growing up with the internet has made Gen Z used to immediate results and feedback. Even in school, Gen Z is used to getting their scores right away or being able to make a quick Google search to find the answer to something. Leaders should ensure they’re very accessible during working hours. Especially now, with a lot of people working remotely, leaders should ensure that they are readily available to provide feedback. (Need to develop this leadership skill? Check out this blog post!) Gen Z likes immediate feedback and 53% prefer face-to-face communication. Try checking in daily over a Zoom call to answer questions, give feedback, and just connect with your younger workers.
One of the biggest things that Gen Z looks for in both leaders and their workplace is the chance to work on innovative projects. Gen Z is very creative and wants to make changes to what they’ve normally seen online. In the projects I’ve had to do for school, our teachers often encouraged creativity and thinking outside the box. Also, because of social media, a lot of Gen Z are essentially content creators. They do best in an environment that allows them to be creative and innovative with their projects and assignments rather than just following along with previous plans. Try giving your Gen Z workers more control over the creative aspects of their projects as long as they’re sticking to overall guidelines.
I’ve found that most of Gen Z are, surprisingly enough, individual workers. While Millennials like group work, Gen Z works best when there are fewer distractions. I know that working with my friends or in a group setting has almost always decreased my productivity since it’s easier to get distracted or side-tracked. Leaders can provide incentives through a friendly competition within their teams. In addition, Gen Z isn’t as motivated by long term benefits with higher rewards. They want immediate gratification through smaller incentives or recognition. Try implementing a badge system where small symbols show up next to their names to show off their accomplishments. Gen Z has grown up with this type of system in the classroom to their entertainment in video games. As a worker accomplishes more or hits certain goals, they can get the next badge along with a small incentive to keep climbing!
Growing up with technology has made Gen Z almost dependent on it. What’s more important though, is that each person has specific settings or preferences to how they like their technology. For example, a lot of my friends use Apple Macbooks, whereas I’m a fan of the Windows Surface. The same debate can be had for iPhones versus Android phones. The point is, Gen Z needs flexibility when it comes to the devices they use. They’ve had years of learning their preferences and a switch to unknown technology will create a larger learning curve for them. I know that some companies have certain software that only runs on a few computers or has security measures on company computers, but it’s important to let them use their favorite search engine or laptop for their everyday tasks.
Overall, Gen Z wants to hear different viewpoints and get a lot of feedback fairly instantly. They want to be creative and go about things in their own way to be the most productive. While Millennials appreciate group work, Gen Z has a more individualized work ethic and is highly motivated by small rewards and feedback. Lastly, they like having technology customized with their personal preferences. Leaders should adapt their leadership skills to cater to their younger workers by making themselves available for feedback and let their workers have more discretion with their projects and how they work.
Sakshi Krishna is a student at the University of Texas at Dallas studying Biochemistry as part of the National Merit Scholars Program. As a recent high school graduate and tutor for current middle and high school students, she knows firsthand Gen Z’s motivations and aspirations. Sakshi is also a National AP Scholar and has an insatiable need to buy every highlighter in every color!