Gen Z'ers Signal Hope for Leadership...Really!

Here’s something that you probably don’t hear often…I love working with millennials. Over the past year, I have had the privilege of coaching many 20 somethings and I have to say…they are fantastic.

The next wave of workers in this cohort make up GenZ, a subset of millennials. This generation encompasses those born after 1996, and by 2020, might supply up to 36% of the workforce, according to some observers. In a recent Robert Half study, the key characteristics of GenZ include the following:

· They are digital natives

· They are more diverse

· They are more educated

What I find exciting is the refreshing outlook which the Z'ers bring to the workplace. GenZ'ers are characterized as being highly creative and innovative. Additionally, they are lifelong learners. How can this not be exciting to those who are looking for the next generation of leaders to step up? So, what can current leaders do to prepare for this crew?

1) Get your technology up to date. Yes, I realize that technology costs money. Newsflash…we can’t keep accepting donations of five-year-old desktops from our donors. We can now buy things like laptops at reasonable prices. These machines actually run our software quickly and can save us money in the long run. We can get more done in less time. Efficiency has a price tag and we need to be willing to pay for it.

Whether we have a new events manager or volunteer coordinator working for us, new professionals want quick access to data. So many of the programs we are using in nonprofits are now cloud-based. As long as we have great internet service, we don’t have to have machines that look and act like dinosaurs.

Without attention to technology, we risk losing Z'ers to other organizations. Research shows that 60% of these workers won’t use an app or website if it’s too slow. Access and speed are important to this generation of workers. They are used to it and expect it.

2) Get ready for a lot of face time. Z'ers love face to face communication. Yup, believe it or not, they are not hiding behind their computer screens. This may controversial, but some research indicates that despite being digital natives, GenZers have a true appreciation for relationships. Because they are lifelong learners, they want live feedback from supervisors so that they can continue to grow and develop.

I have observed this first hand in my coaching business. Millennial clients are like sponges. They crave coaching and feedback and thrive on future-focused action plans. As a matter of fact, many of my clients who came to me originally through their employers are now requesting ongoing personal coaching with me, regardless of the cost out of their own pockets. They seem to be in a process of continuous personal improvement. Z'ers want to be prepared for new opportunities in their personal and professional lives.

And, you might be surprised to know that they don’t keep their phones out during our sessions!

3) They enjoy working collaboratively and expect cross-functional teamwork. Technology plays a part here too. A good team communication tool can be a wonderful asset to your organization. Many of my peers resisted shared programs like Google Drive and Dropbox. GenZ’ers embrace these additions to the technical landscape.

Some of my favorite recommendations in this area include Slack, Trello and Workboard. These inexpensive apps (often based on number of users) can do wonders for keeping team members engaged and informed. Each of these tools offer employees a way to build and comment on team ideas. What an easy way to capitalize on the gifts of innovation that this generation brings to the workplace.

4) Z'ers crave authentic feedback from leadership. Enough said. I know this is why they are so incredibly fun to coach. My experience coaching millennials is that once you have earned their trust, they crave good actionable feedback. And they want to act on it!

As leaders, we tend to make the feedback process so cumbersome. “Feedback” has become a dirty word in many organizations. We are always waiting for the right time to have these sometimes tough conversations. What is so refreshing about this generation is that they crave continuous feedback... and they are willing to accept it and move forward. Enjoy this!

Real-time coaching is a priority for GenZ. One of their top priorities is growth and they actively seek it when evaluating a new employer.

Think about it…these 20 somethings have access to tons of information every day. And, they value jobs that work with their lives. And, they value professional growth more than $$$. They are native learners. I have heard this crew complaining about being under-challenged in the workplace.

So, the million dollar question is…what are you doing as a leader to prepare for the Z'ers? Consider the five points that I've shared with you above, and be proactive in creating a win-win workplace.

My take is that if this is what’s next…bring it on! And if you need support in bringing these tactics to the workplace, Think Good can help. Find out more by checking us out at



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