Technology-obsessed. Social-media crazed. Entitled. Unfocused. By now you've likely read a dozen editorials about Millennials and their effect on the American workplace. And by now you probably have several coworkers in their twenties and have been able to separate fact from fiction. (You also probably got them to help you figure out Twitter).
According to this study from the University of North Carolina, Millennials will make up 46 percent of the workforce by 2020. The influx of Millennials in the workforce has already posed a bit of a challenge for many companies, as it can be difficult to integrate this younger generation into the workplace. Considering Millennials' needs and desires while balancing Baby Boomer expectations and practices is no easy feat. But, your company is making it work. Your company's corporate culture has adapted to accommodate the new multi-generational workforce. You've managed to satisfy both the twenty-somethings and those in their forties and fifties. You can sit back and take a break from corporate restructuring for a while, right? Not quite.
You might have just gotten a handle on the Millennials, but it's already time to prepare for the next generation trickling into the workforce: Generation Z. Born in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Generation Z is growing up at the peak of technological advancement and innovation. This generation doesn't know a world without sleek laptops, smartphones, and the ability to connect with people via online communities.
Growing up under such circumstances, GenZ-ers are tech-savvy, vocal, and adaptable. But all that time online means they struggle to develop strong interpersonal skills, use appropriate body language, and understand privacy. As a whole, they're noticeably different from previous generations and they're bound to drive changes in corporate culture on an even greater scale than the Millennials did. Get ready, it's time to restructure... again.
We still have five to 10 years before Generation Z is fully integrated into the workforce, but as the challenge of accommodating the Millennials demonstrated, it's better to prepare sooner than later. Here are five ways to better meet Generation Z's needs while taking advantage of the unique skills they will bring to the table:
1. Replace your old organization chart with a project-based one.
Take notes from some of the new-age tech companies, like Medium and Zappos. These companies are ditching traditional hierarchy for Holacracy, a corporate structure without managers. While you don't need to completely throw out job titles, consider shifting the focus in your company's organization chart from individual titles to team-based projects. Even as fresh hires, the hyper-connected Gen Z-ers will have strong networks available to them. When you allow them to put these networks to use they'll feel more engaged and more valuable to your company. And as all leaders know, engagement is the key to quality work.
2. Broaden your notion of diversity. Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history thus far, and they like it that way.
Born and raised in a highly interconnected world, Gen Z is accustomed to diversity. They may not see a need to actively encourage diversity or inclusion in the workplace because they assume it's already present. The companies that will attract and retain Gen Z employees and the diverse perspectives they have to offer will be those organizations whose culture is fundamentally shaped by diversity. By making diversity a core part of your corporate culture you'll be able to spark more creative conversations in the office, increase the engagement of Gen Z-ers, and drive more business solutions.
3. Create sparring zones.
Sparring zones are spaces of power-free collaboration where employees of all levels can come together to share ideas, concerns, and plans. They're a space where employees work together in a respectful and responsive way. Having grown up with social media apps at their fingertips, Gen Z-ers are accustomed to freely expressing their thoughts, knowledge, and opinions online. This taste for self-expression will show up anywhere they work, and sparring zones will provide them with an environment in which they can be heard.
4. Teach the personal and the technical.
While Gen-Z employees will probably be more tech-savvy than you are, their interpersonal skills might be less refined. It's important to adjust company training programs accordingly. Beyond addressing technical issues, programs should train Gen Z about relationship building, body language, cultural dynamics, and privacy. Even in our increasingly tech-oriented world, the ability to interact and connect with others in person remains important. Your company should ensure that the future Gen-Z employees are trained to be as effective at communicating face-to-face as they are online.
5. Train in real time and make it engaging.
When teaching technical skills to Gen Z-ers, consider training them in real time. Generation Z has a short attention span centered on the "here and now." If they're not actually using the skills they're being taught at that very moment, they will be less likely to see the skills as relevant, and therefore less likely to retain them. Your company should replace some preplanned learning activities (like lectures) with more engaging activities that will teach Gen Z employees skills they can use and apply immediately.
The next generation of workers is sure to present some challenges -- just like any new generation -- and they will require some changes within the corporate structure. The task of adjusting (again) to the unique needs and wants of an entire generation may seem daunting, but making these changes will benefit the new generation and your company alike. Make sure you are equipped to handle the arrival of Gen Z and prepare early. And remember that, while they are seemingly unfocused and entitled, they will bring with them fresh ideas and energy that only they can provide.
Erica Dhawan is an author, keynote speaker and the CEO of Cotential, a global training and consulting firm. Her new book Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, co-authored by Saj-nicole Joni, is out now. Follow her on Twitter and receive her free Connectional Intelligence Report here.