8 August 2023

Written by Sarah
Confessions of your Gen Z co-worker

Gen Z are larger than any other generation, contributing to 20% of the Australian population. And today many have already entered the workforce. Are you ready for us?

 

Back in 2020 – aka the year that shall not be named – I finished university via a Zoom screen and graduated through an unceremonious email. An achievement I celebrated with pizza in my bedroom. When I got my first marketing job, I was once again tethered to a desk at home, less than three feet from my bed. Nonetheless, I celebrated with pizza again – because a win is a win right?

My experience isn’t unique. Many of your new Gen Z hires (those born between 1997 and 2010 – between Millenials and Gen Alpha) would have very similar stories. In what was meant to be one of the most transformative times of our lives, we were in limbo. Lockdown took our hospo and retail jobs away, delayed internships and graduate placements. It forced us to study over Zoom and adapt to full-time work from a bedroom, lounge room or home office if we were lucky. This, combined with other unique characteristics of our generation – such as our pragmatic nature, empathy, and digital fluency – has uniquely defined our skills. It has also shaped the hurdles we face now that we’re in the office.

But fear not, I’m here to help you get to know us better. Here’s three things you should know about the Gen Z hires on their way into your team.

 

What Zoom uni didn’t teach us

One thing Zoom uni couldn’t teach me in its onslaught of video lectures was the reality of business communication. The simple lesson of being in a room with others where you have the opportunity to read body language and learn by observing was completely lost. Plus, lockdown made it a struggle for many of us to gain hands-on experience in the real world of business workplaces.

I understood that my fun little memes and emojis didn’t belong in client emails (that’s what Slack is for) but there were many tiny business-isims I wasn’t aware of. For example, opening an email with “Hey” is too casual. Or I didn’t know how to set up a robust brief and project templates to help the team do their best work. These are things I learned from my coworkers here at Writers, when we could finally return to the office.

The question is, how can you help Gen Z learn the countless nuances of the business world?

The answer – take a seat with us and have a chat. Face-to-face.

68% of the Gen Z workforce wants a workplace that has a sense of community and strong social connections – and that also suggests how we want to communicate and learn. We want to talk, collaborate and connect in the workplace. To further back this, Stanford affiliated research asked Gen Z participants what their favourite form of communication was. Nearly every single one responded “in person.”

So, take that extra time to sit down with your newer Gen Z hires over that new project or brief to discuss the details and the approach. Give them a mentor they can learn from, or schedule in regular support meetings where they have the freedom to ask questions or debrief on projects. Without this level of face-to-face support, I wouldn’t have the confidence I have today to run our weekly WIP meetings or brief the team in on a project I’m coordinating.

 

A generation full of renaissance people

Deloitte believes the future of work will require a “renaissance person” – someone with technology skills, a comfort for analytics and data, business management skills, an aptitude for design and creative flair. Gen Zs already embody many of these. It’s what I do here at Writers – I write our own marketing copy, co-ordinate projects and marketing, design graphics, collaborate with clients… and am known as our chief chatterbox. The variety of a role like this is fulfilling, it allows me to learn new skills while also getting the opportunity to do things I love.

Gen Z is well equipped for this thanks to our position as digital natives. We’ve been exposed to more information and knowledge than any other generation before us, mining the internet for information, skills, and entertainment our whole lives.

But renaissance people still need clear guidelines and support around their role. We’re still new to the game, we’re hungry for mentorship and feedback.

As Stanford scholar Roberta Katz explains about Gen Z, “they are so used to finding what they need on their own. They are not always right; often they don’t know what they need, especially in a new setting, and this is where inter-generational dialogue can be so helpful.”

And while we may have many of the skills and plenty of creativity, our role can’t revolve around doing it all, all the time. Renaissance people could be quickly overwhelmed without the right guidance, tools and support.

So if you do create this kind of role for a Gen Z hire, be clear and realistic about their responsibilities and tasks. Let them get creative with automation and tech and give them access to the tools they need. Trust me, you’ll learn some cool new stuff from them too. And most importantly, check in on a regular basis to see what’s working for them and what’s not.

 

Making up for lost time

One of the biggest differences between Gen Z and other generations is that we’re looking for work that aligns with our core beliefs and values – 68% of us are looking for this in our careers. And 72% of us are looking for a job that gives us a sense of purpose and meaning.

It’s a mindset that deeply influences how we choose our work – and if we choose to stay. We’re not willing to be taken for granted in a role that we don’t enjoy or connect with. And we’re well known for walking away when this is the case.

Why? I think it has a lot to do with lockdown purgatory.

Lockdown was a horrible time for everyone, I want to acknowledge that. It was unique for Gen Z because it put what was meant to be the most amazing years of our life on pause. We watched it all pass by from our bedrooms.

So today, we don’t want to waste time or feel stressed and anxious. We want to progress, learn, grow, and ultimately take control of our lives – as much as we can at least.

Show us where our role can take us, what we can achieve and what it means. Help us connect with your business’s values, mission and vision – and make sure you’re walking the talk. And back this up with meaningful benefits and mental health support.

Gen Z puts high value on all of this, and they’re factors that are important in any modern organisation – big or small. By making these shifts or double-checking your existing structures, you can prepare your business for the long term.

 

While Gen Z might be a little different to the other generations in your team, we all have one need in common: support. And given the right tools we might just become your secret weapon.

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