How to Inspire and Motivate Generation Z Employees

Millennials have been entering the workforce for the past two decades, but in recent years the youngest of the Millennials have been supplanted by the next generation: Generation Z.

With many customer service departments now being composed of an increasing number of Gen-Z employees, understanding this generation is key to maximizing their performance. So let's look at what makes this generation thrive in a work environment.

Generation Z is typically defined as the generation born between the mid-1990s and the present. The oldest members of this generation are reaching their early 20s and beginning to graduate from college and enter the workforce. The oldest cohort of Gen Z was born just as the World Wide Web began to appear and grew up during the social media and smartphone revolution. As a result, they are the first generation that never knew the world before the Internet and cell phones.

Because of this, their employment needs are different than other generations. Here are some suggestions for reaching them:

Give Constant Feedback.

Having had close relationships with their parents and constant connections with friends and family through social media, Generation Z expects frequent contact with their superiors in the workplace. What might seem like excessive neediness to Baby Boomer and Gen X managers is a normal level of socializing to Gen Z employees. What this means is that a failure to touch base with Gen Z employees on at least a daily basis can lead to feelings of neglect and alienation.

Personalize Coaching.

Like Millennials, Gen Z has been guided throughout their lives by their parents, role models, and friends to an extent that makes independent learning stressful for them. The close and informal relationships that they have had with parents and teachers also means that they expect their managers to be friends as well as superiors. Generation Z thrives on personal, one-on-one coaching even more than Millennials do.

Skip the Formalities.

Formality is a foreign concept to Generation Z. Placing official distance between managers and Gen Z employees will make it difficult for them to integrate and feel comfortable in a workplace. In fact, Gen Z will feel allergic to hierarchies of authority. Instead, they thrive in flattened organizations that make managers as close to equals as possible. That means managers will need to get to know them personally and be their friends as well as their leaders.

Incorporate Social Media.

No generation has integrated social media, Internet, and smartphone technologies into their lives to the extent that Gen Z has. This will become apparent in a number of ways. Gen Z doesn't see a reason to memorize information tha''s available at their fingertips with a Google search. Similarly, smartphones have made planning ahead less necessary because meetings with friends and family can be arranged at any time with a few text messages. While this can make scheduling and time management a struggle for them, Gen Z excels at personal networking and social resourcefulness.

Fashion a Fun and Creative Workplace.

Millennials have continued the trend towards valuing informality and personal relationships over hierarchies and authority. This is because their parents were friends and personal coaches, so they see authority figures more as equals than their parents did. The result is that Millennials thrive in flat organizations that give them the freedom to be creative without many formal restrictions.

Find Ways to Be Flexible.

Rigid rules and chains of command will turn Millennials off quickly. They prefer a workplace that's flexible enough to accommodate their personal needs. This could mean flexible work hours, the ability to work from home, or taking more time off for personal enrichment. A healthy work-life balance is expected by Millennials more than previous generations.

Embrace Technology.

If Millennial employees didn't grow up with the Internet and social media, they adopted these new technologies as young adults. The result is that they consider technology an integral part of life. Most will at the least be expert users of online content, and many will be competent at creating it. They expect the workplace to leverage technology as much as possible, while their parents often resist the introduction of new technology.

Show Loyalty to Get Loyalty.

Millennials expect active involvement with their leaders and will feel alienated without continuous engagement and positive feedback. They require more hands-on interaction from managers, but they are also less cynical about working relationships than older generations. If you give them the loyalty they expect, they'll give it back by getting fully on board with your team.

Create Collaborative Teams.

Millennials excel at collaboration with team members and feel oppressed by top-down micro-management. If you can put together teams with the right skills and personalities, Millennials can be productive and innovative without the need of heavy-handed authority. They do best when they work with equal partners to make a project successful.

Claudio Nespeca is vice president of marketing at Epik Networks, a provider of cloud-hosted VoIP, call center, and fiber optic internet solutions for businesses. He has more than 15 years of experience managing sales and business operations in the technology and telecommunications market.

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Posted January 18, 2019