We as individuals may not be getting any younger, but the opposite seems to be true of the workforce at large. I’m meeting more Gen Z prospects as they age into the first jobs of their careers, and no doubt many employers find themselves in the same boat.
I’ve hired young grads out of college to great success and look forward to ushering in more members of this generation to the workforce. But given that we’ve seen some pretty dramatic changes to the world of work over the last year and a half, now feels like the right time to reevaluate how we do things with this group in mind.
To make sure we’re setting them up for success, I gathered my team for a virtual summit on what Gen Z needs to thrive in our work culture. The best practices we came up with are as much about emotional intelligence and empathy as about workplace and communication strategy:
Make asking questions a requirement
It’s likely your Gen Z hire has lots of questions they’d like to ask — so make sure they know it is all right to ask questions!
That’s one of the paradoxes of first encounters between the workplace and the first truly digital generation: some of the assumptions we used to make about communication may not be so obvious to them.
Being new to the workplace, some Gen Z employees may not yet know what questions they need to ask. Among the clear expectations you should set, include “We expect you to ask questions.” Make soliciting questions part of how your managers conduct check-ins and solicit feedback.
Consider creating an informal digital bulletin board for new hires’ Q&As as they come up, where questions can be posted anonymously and the answers are high-quality, accurate and clear.
If you have a big workforce and your HR team uses chatbots, there’s a great opportunity here to expand your library of information that new hires need to know.
Our policy: no question is too simple, no question goes unanswered and knowledge is power.
Acknowledge the disruptions happening to them
On a very human level, that new Gen Z hire needs to know that their new employer has got their back.
After the last year and a half, they may be experiencing anxiety, and that may require a light touch. For older Gen Z workers, their entire entry into the job market — a traditional first step that can shape their perceptions of the working world — has been entirely disrupted from the start.
A survey by the Pew Research Center found that, among the oldest Gen Zers (ages 18 to 23), half reported that the outbreak had caused them or someone in their household to either lose their job or take a pay cut. Among other generations, rates are lower: 40% for millennials, 36% for Gen X and 25% for baby boomers.
Since Gen Z employees are just starting out, they may fall victim to a double whammy — last hired, first fired, especially if they have been working in the service sector.
So provide informal time in your meet-and-greets and even your meetings to get people talking about their experiences during COVID-19. It’s a great way to get your newest hires to share their own concerns and reassure them that they’re not alone and that yes, you do understand.
Set clear expectations and be willing to adjust
For the rest of us, we may suffer from a cognitive bias that makes us forget all too quickly how odd starting that first “real” job can feel. So put yourself in Gen Z’s shoes — you may be their first “real” employer, teaching them how to conduct themselves in an organization.
For anyone, it can be a challenge to join a team and become a productive, cohesive member. For someone who’s never done it before, it’s going to be even harder.
Provide an abundance of clarity since there’s no easy and unconscious assimilation taking place, or that side-by-side parity in which behaviors are learned by doing.
The best practice is to make it crystal clear what the rules are: when to be present, when and how to respond to a meeting invitation, how to act in a meeting, who to communicate with, what the structure of their team is and who they need to report to, how to follow up and what not to do.
Encourage your managers to clarify their roles to new hires. Since it’s all part of the digital workflow now instead of just part of the daily routine, it’s worse to let misunderstandings brew.
Implied in all three of these strategies is a larger one: Always Be Coaching.
The absence of guidance and mentoring creates a vacuum, and that can wear on an employee experience quickly. The best manager-employee relationships are built on frequent communications across multiple channels.
The sooner your managers know what their Gen Z hires are capable of, the sooner they can give them the freedom and the support to grow.
Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized analyst, author, speaker and brand strategist. The founder of TalentCulture, she hosts #WorkTrends, a popular weekly Twitter Chat and podcast. Her career spans across recruiting, talent management, digital media and brand strategy for hundreds of companies, from startups to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google. She also serves on advisory boards for leading HR technology brands. Meghan can be regularly found on Forbes, SHRM, and a variety of other outlets. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.