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Leadership speaker and consultant, founder of Turning Managers Into Leaders

Generation Z started turning 23 this year, which means that increasing numbers of them are working in more than just fast food and retail. Just as millennials changed the face of work, so will these young entrants to the workforce. Despite similarities between Gen Zers and millennials, there are more differences than not. Don’t make assumptions about who they are, what motivates them, and how they operate to get things done. Above all, don’t presume that they are just millennials magnified.

They are more entrepreneurial than millennials

As the first truly global generation, their entrepreneurial spirit is driven by the need to make an impact. Globally connected and well-travelled for their ages, they are aware of world events and business opportunities. They recognize that the planet has significant problems and they want to help. And many of them believe that the best way to have an impact is at a grassroots level by starting their own companies. It’s worth remembering that entrepreneurial thinking isn’t just about startups and venture capital. It’s also about taking initiative, solving problems creatively, being resourceful and dealing with roadblocks and disappointments, all traits that are critical in any organization. So as a leader, capitalize on these entrepreneurial aspirations in your workplace by encouraging ownership and autonomy, and by creating an environment that fosters and supports innovation.

They are more practical and realistic than you might expect

Rightly or wrongly, millennials carry a stigma of self-entitlement, much of it coming from their relatively charmed childhoods. But Generation Z grew up in uncertain times. Global recessions and a variety of economic crises, dramatically changing industries, the deep need for science and technology skills, the war on terror; all these have made them more pragmatic than the generation before them. As a result, they tend to be more goal-oriented, and thoughtful about seeking out sensible stable careers. If you are an employer, there are opportunities here to motivate and reward using traditional approaches such as growth, advancement, economic security and improved benefits.

Tolerance has shifted to togetherness

The topic of diversity in the workplace isn’t new – boomers and Gen Xers have been talking about it for a while. But millennials were the first generation to go beyond dialogue and truly embrace different lifestyles, ethnicities and backgrounds. Generation Z has taken it one step further. Most of them have lifetimes of interaction with others of different backgrounds and circumstances; they’ve connected through social media to people around the world; they gravitate towards cities where populations are more ethnically and culturally diverse. As a result, they overwhelmingly expect cultural, racial and gender diversity at work. This level of inclusiveness bodes well; it means that your organization will not only attract the best and the brightest from around the world, but also keep them.

Not just digital native, but mobile native

Having grown up around technology all their lives, millennials are certainly tech-savvy. But Gen Zers are tech-innate. As the first generation to grow up with high-speed mobile internet access, they have moved from a two-screen, 3D world to a five-screen, 4D planet. Gen Z’s constant connectivity means that not only do they consume and share content with ease, but they are also comfortable interacting online with others. This fluency in adapting to new technologies and rapidly implementing them into their workflow promises significant payback to your workplace, but only if you create an environment that promotes collaboration and input from all levels.

Their communication preference is “old-school”

Given the constant connectivity of Generation Z, you’d expect that they’d appreciate digital modes of communication. Text them, slack them, instant message them, or send them a message on Facebook, right? According to the latest research, you would be wrong. In a 2016 Randstad and Future Workplace survey, while both millennials and Gen Zers recognize the importance of communication in the workplace, Gen Zers define it differently. They want more face-to-face communication, either in person, or virtually by using technology such as Skype, Zoom or FaceTime. Like millennials, they don’t just want to be talked at, your conversations need to be two-way streets where you’re also soliciting and valuing their input. So engage your Gen Zers by talking to them instead of e-mailing. Have regular one-on-one performance chats. Take the time to get to know them and how they feel about the work they’re doing.

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