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Thoughts around a generation's journey to adulting...

Guidance for Gen Z Job-Seekers — and Those Who Would Hire Them

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A friend recently shared these articles with me and I think they merit some dialogue:

Business Insider article on Challenges Working with Gen Z

Business Insider article on Firing Gen Z After Only a Week

Experienced managers are probably familiar with the topics at hand, as Gen Z workplace failure stories — and complaints from people managing Gen Z employees — seem to be everywhere these days. Broadly, the word on Gen Z employees is that they may:

  • Demonstrate a lack of professional readiness or maturity
  • Take offense easily in stressful or challenging work situations
  • Not put significant effort into learning new things or give up too easily
  • Resist requests to work on things that are not clearly in their job description
  • Be not inclined to build meaningful relationships with colleagues
  • Prefer a narrow (perhaps transactional) set of job responsibilities
  • Be uncomfortable with personal accountability
  • Expect a lot of praise and recognition
  • Feel overly empowered to challenge workplace practices that they do not agree with
  • Prefer and try to work remotely, rather than being live in the workplace
  • Expect to be promoted and/or get raises after a short amount of time in a role
  • Quit a job at the drop of a hat, without regard to giving customary notice

Of course not every Gen Z employee has these behaviors, but if / when these patterns manifest, they can be seriously problematic in the workplace and create headaches for managers.

Consider these experience-based recommendations in support of successful employment outcomes all around as Gen Z joins the workplace..

Employers and Hiring Teams

  • In advance of filling roles that might be appropriate for Gen Z candidates, talk specifically about these possible generational challenges and related experiences your company may have had. Seek to distill any lessons learned. 
  • Develop screening approaches and interview questions that should help to identify when a Gen Z candidate may be well equipped (or not) with regards to success attributes such as maturity, stability, perspective, learning agility, entrepreneurship and tenacity.
  • Consider the design of the intended role to ensure that the type of work, the work environment, and the manager’s style and level of experience may be complimentary to the success of Gen Z candidates.
  • Confirm that a plan is in place to support a new Gen Z employee in a structured and sustained way as they on-board into the organization and/or their responsibilities. Recognize that their support needs may be different than candidates with other profiles.
  • Consider developing cohorts of Gen Z hires for shared learning experiences and relationship-building.

Managers of New Employees

  • Help Gen Z hires to succeed by setting clear expectations for standards of performance, cultural norms, dress codes and measures of performance in the role. Don’t leave them at risk by being unclear on these things. From the outset, be watchful and reinforce those expectations as needed in constructive but unapologetic dialogues.
  • Be aware that the Gen Z employee may be encountering many concepts, terminology, business tools, and related experiences for the first time. Be ready with lots of support to help them ease through learning curves with minimal anxiety or confusion.
  • Schedule weekly in person check-ins for the first month or so — actively soliciting from them how they are doing in on-boarding, etc.
  • Consider events and ice-breaking activities to help the Gen Z employee get to know their colleagues. Look for opportunities to help the Gen Z employee gain work friendships.
  • Assign on-boarding buddies with temperament, skills and perspectives to help the new hire get up to speed. Consider assigning a set of buddies to support on different topics such as work processes and organizational culture.
  • Be ready with compliments, affirmations and recognitions whenever they are warranted. At the same time, set clear expectations around considerations for raises or promotions. 

Gen Z Candidates

  • Know from the outset that employers are cautious about hiring Gen Z candidates, and for good reasons.
  • Be prepared to position yourself as mature, stable, thoughtful, learning-agile, entrepreneurial and tenacious — and then BE THAT when you get the job.
  • Commit to interpersonal effectiveness and building workplace relationships at every turn.
  • Commit to asking questions without hesitation or embarrassment as you encounter new topics or work through learning curves.
  • Expect that this new role will bring imperfect and challenging experiences. Commit to staying calm and focused from one day to the next while you work through learnings and gain the skills needed to succeed.
  • Seek opportunities to be physically present in the workplace as much as possible. That is where you will learn the organization and the business of the organization, develop professionally, and build relationships. Do not be tempted by the lifestyle ease of working remotely in your pajama pants.
  • Don’t expect lots of compliments, affirmations or recognitions.
  • Don’t look for quick raises or promotions. Just focus on learning your job and being good at it.

Parents or other Mentors of Gen Z Candidates

  • Understand that in taking on a new job, the Gen Z candidate may be filled with anxiety and may have important gaps in life experience that need to get filled in.
  • Don’t wait for the Gen Z candidate to come to you with problems, frustrations or fears. By the time those are voiced, it may be too late. Schedule regular and structured talks about how it is going. In those moments, probe for topics or concepts that may be challenging or even embarrassing to the new hire so you can give specific counsel on those items.
  • In the event that something isn’t going well, encourage the Gen Z hire to remain calm and constructive, staying the course with confidence that things will work out. 

In my coaching practice I like to stay connected with young adult clients for the first 2 or 3 months of new employment to give counsel on topics like these. I believe that when we support a young person with off-line perspectives and mentorship, we greatly improve their chances of success as they get up to speed in a new role — and we reduce the chances of an employment failure that could be detrimental to their life and career trajectory.

Anyone who would like to connect with me on these topics is invited to check out my website at www.otoolecoaching.com.

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Martin O'Toole

Marty is a great listener who asks a lot of curious questions. When he asks about your day or how you are doing, he really wants to know. And he comes equipped with a supply of anecdotes and stories that keep the time together interesting.

He is practical and results-oriented. He believes in showing up every day to do the work and learning by experience. He preaches action orientation, resilience, entrepreneurship, and the importance of good decision-making.