GEN Z - UNDERSTANDING TOMORROWS LEADERS - "let me play and let me loose"
Positing the Malcolm Gladwell construct of 10K hours being sufficient experience to suggest that one might be an expert - perhaps my 289K hours (33 years) and over 50K delegate interactions means I can lay some claim along those lines. So when recently asked to help shape a development journey for a predominantly Gen Z group I was struck with how little I actually know about these strange beings from another metaverse.
I do have a son of 26 and can draw from that but he sneaks under the wire as Gen Y so maybe not
For those of you struggling with your Gens -
My lot are the Baby Boomers - born 1946 - 1964 ......(I only just qualify honest!) .
Gen X - Born 1965-1980
Gen Y (Millennials) Born - 1981-1996
Gen Z - Born 1997 -2012
Gen Alpha - Born 2012-2024
...and here's what I can thus far summise
Gen Z's are social warriors. They care about the planet, about identity and about the truth.
These guys want to be collaborative - to work with other people - and they want to be challenged.
They are pragmatic - they value success - they are significantly more entrepreneurial than previous Gens ( a recent survey suggests that up to 70% of them have some aspiration to start or be part of their own business) and they have less fear of change. Moving seemlessly between jobs is / will be a comfortable norm for them.
They are feedback junkies - wanting and needing both regular feedback and check-ins from all grades of management including the C suite and also they need positive affirmation of jobs well done but will happily take negative feedback as long as it moves them forward.
Unlike Millenials who have grown up with tech - these guys are Tech Natives. In other words they were born with it and to it. They are more likely to defer to what's app or social media than text or email and will deploy multiple devices, more likely hand-held or wearable tech than desk based or laptop. Whatever they do they will require digital assets to assist them in all that they do but being so immersed in a tech-centric life may bring with it boundary issues - ie struggling not to be 'logged-on'.
Job security and prospects matter as does money but more important is meaning & purpose. They require the truth.... and they don't want fluff and b*ll*cks (that's a technical term from previous generations) and references to 'the good old days' or 'how things were done before' wont necessarily add value for them (....note to self).
Being trusted, and being given the opportunity to innovate - to own responsibility and to learn is key. This lot would happily have multiple roles, simultaneously and wont be averse to side hustles too.
They will seek and in many cases demand fast progression and will ask for promotions regularly.
Apparently they don't live to work. Some are scarred by the pandemic and the disruption it made to their study years and early careers and certain preliminary reserach suggests they may be prone to anxiety. Being resilient matters!
Values and ethics loom large in their consciousness and the organisations they work for need to have real values they can relate too.They hate tokenism and diversity matters a lot in leadership, in population and in beliefs.
Co-location for job delivery ie working with real people in real offices is important and they need meaningful engagement beyond Zoom and Teams. Having said that they also value 'alone time' and when focus or delivery is required, having the permission and the ability to separate and work things out for themselves or work undisturbed is important.
In summary - These guys seek truth, justice and meaning, they want job security, continuous development and more money and they want it faster - they want it more flexible and they probably want an App or two to hep them get there.
So having just typecast an entire generation - predicted to be nudging 2 billion people, what would you do to develop your Gen Z colleagues?