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Tips for Leaders: Navigating the Workplace Nuances Between Millennials and Gen Z

3 Mins read

As Gen Z prepares to surpass baby boomers in the full-time workforce this year, and millennials maintain their significant presence, these two generations are emerging as the primary drivers of organizational success. But, there’s a problem: 32% of millennials and 39% of Gen Z aren’t happy at work. This growing discontent shows that organizations need to change their workplace strategies to better engage these key groups.

With Google searches for ‘how to work with Gen Z’ soaring by +96%, here are 3 essential tips on how to effectively engage them in the workplace compared to a previous generation.

1. Understanding motivation

The top priorities for Generation Z? Work-life balance, a supportive team, and the freedom to choose their hours and working arrangements. Forget traditional career ladders; they crave autonomy and flexibility.

Feeling valued and receiving validation is crucial for Gen Z, as is being part of a workplace community. They don’t want to endure the nine-to-five grind alone—and more money won’t change their minds, with job satisfaction trumping salary for 37% of them. Millennials also crave recognition for their work but seek it by following the path into leadership roles: for 91% of millennial professionals, career progression is the top priority when choosing an employer.

Gen Zers also value learning and growth opportunities. However, they aren’t just focused on reaching the top. They prefer jobs that let them explore various skills. Encourage them to experiment with new roles and understand that making mistakes is a key part of their self-improvement.

Additionally, both generations value health insurance as a non-salary benefit. For millennials, student loan debt repayments can also help to sway their decision-making, given they owe $20,000 to $40,000 in debt.

For Gen Z:

  • Offer flexible work hours and remote working policies.
  • Establish clear boundaries regarding after-hours communication.
  • Implement a “buddy” system to provide one-to-one support.

For millennials:

  • Show recognition through handwritten notes or extra time off for exceptional performance.
  • Invest in learning and development programs.
  • Offer opportunities for remote and hybrid work.

2. Providing feedback

Both generations value empathetic assessments that recognize their positive contributions. However, Gen Zers often seek timely feedback at a frequency that may seem excessive to older generations, which is tied to their upbringing in a digital age where information is readily accessible and instantaneous. They expect the same quick responses at work. They don’t just want criticism; they want ongoing conversations that help them grow. Additionally, the younger generation desires personal investment from those above them—They want to know you genuinely care about their success and progression.

Millennials, on the other hand, often prefer informal guidance and support that focuses on their long-term goals and prospects. They prefer meaningful feedback from their managers when it’s necessary—monthly is usually fine—but they rarely ask for it.

For Gen Z:

  • Provide daily feedback.
  • Engage in problem-solving discussions.
  • Build supportive relationships before offering critical feedback.

For millennials:

  • Foster a culture of two-way feedback, actively listening and validating their experiences.
  • Publicly recognize their achievements.
  • Provide coaching or mentorship opportunities.

3. Communicating clearly

Leaders can connect with both Gen Zers and millennials by being honest, transparent, and purposeful when communicating. Clear communication also means being direct and avoiding ambiguity.

However, their preferred modes of communication can vary significantly. Millennials want in-depth, face-to-face discussions when it’s possible and practical. Otherwise, send them an email. In contrast, Gen Z prefers instant messaging for its efficiency. Keep your communications concise and brush up on digital lingo, such as emojis. Since Gen Z is highly visual, use images, videos, infographics, and GIFs to make your communication more engaging.

For Gen Z:

  • Send instant messages instead of calling.
  • Distinguish between “cool” and “cringe” emojis.
  • Be present in the conversation.
  • Avoid long pauses or moments of silence.

For millennials:

  • Hold welcoming meetings and dive deep into discussions.
  • Plan video calls ahead of time.
  • Be predictable and offer plenty of support.

Both Gen Z and Millennials prioritize a balance between work and personal life, aim for fulfilling jobs, and excel in using technology. However, understanding their differences is key to organizational success. As these generations redefine the workforce, leaders need to adapt their strategies to meet their unique needs and preferences. Focus on what motivates them, communicate effectively, provide timely and meaningful feedback (and seek feedback from them). By promoting inclusivity and comprehension, companies can establish a vibrant and cooperative environment where different generations collaborate, innovate, and respect each other.

Avery Morgan is a productivity expert and chief communications officer at EduBirdie, with deep expertise in education and its intersection with the internet and student-related matters. Under Avery’s leadership, EduBirdie has launched numerous projects, helping junior specialists fight stress and burnout to become more productive and achieve higher work-life balance.

Millennials and Gen Z stock image by View Apart/Shutterstock

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