A New Approach to Managing Generation Z

Manager talking to Generation Z employees

At RainmakerThinking, we’ve been helping managers bring out the best in their newest new young workforce since 1993. So many of the other so-called “experts” on the Millennial generation are still telling managers nonsense like they should praise Millennials regardless of performance, reward them with trophies just for showing up, put mobile devices in their hands and then leave them alone to manage themselves, let them come to work whenever they feel like it (and bring their dogs), and try to make work “fun.” The latest bad advice is that companies should eliminate managers and just let people supervise themselves. For 99 percent of employers, this approach makes no sense.

Our research at RainmakerThinking demonstrates clearly that Millennials — especially the second wave of Millennials we call “Generation Z” — need leaders who take them seriously at work, not leaders who try to humor them leaders who set them up for success in the real world, not leaders who pretend Gen Zers are succeeding no matter what they do.

Yes, of course, members of Generation Z want more money, more flexibility, more training, more interesting projects and more exposure to decision makers. Yes, they want more of everything! But that doesn’t mean they are a bunch of disloyal, delicate, lazy, greedy, disrespectful, inappropriate slackers with short attention spans. And it also does not mean that they only want to learn from computers, only want to communicate with handheld devices and won’t take no for an answer. They don’t expect anything on a silver platter. They just want to know, every step of the way, “Exactly what do I need to do to earn that?”

Every day in my seminars, I teach leaders and managers the strategies and tactics that work for real managers in the real world about how to bring out the best in Generation Z. Here’s what you need to know:

Generation Z calls for strong leadership

Managers should never undermine their authority. Instead, make performance standards clear. Guide, direct, coach and hold people accountable. Solve small problems immediately before they turn into big problems. And make it clear that extra rewards require going the extra mile.

Generation Z requires truth in advertising

Managers should never oversell a job or undersell the difficult aspects of a job. Don’t pretend it’s going to be more “fun” than it is. Don’t pretend young people are going to have more power, more freedom or more rewards than they are. Tell them the downsides of the job in advance so they know what they are getting into.

Generation Z needs clear expectations every step of the way

Never suggest that a task is within the discretion of a Millennial if it isn’t. Never gloss over details or let problems slide. And never offer praise and rewards for performance that is not worthy of them. Instead, managers should spell out the rules of their workplace in vivid detail so Gen Zers can play that job like a video game: if you want A, you have to do B. If you want C, you have to do D.

Apply strong and highly engaged leadership through every step of the employment lifecycle! Get Generation Z members on board fast; get them up to speed quickly and turn them into knowledge workers. Practice in loco parentis management and teach them how to manage themselves. Teach them how to be managed by you, and teach them how to earn all those special rewards they want.

If you want high performance out of this generation, you better commit to high-maintenance management.

For additional insights into managing Generation Z, download Robert Half’s white paper Get Ready for Generation Z.

Bruce TulganBruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. Tulgan is the best-selling author of numerous books including The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (2009), and It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007). He has written for the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Huffington Post. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @brucetulgan.

More tips for recruiting and managing Generation Z

Tags: Generation Z