Generation Z really is a new breed — and this should be music to entrepreneurs’ ears. Recent research from LinkedIn found that these young thinkers bring a more adaptable mindset to the workplace along with an ability to learn quickly, pivot seamlessly and pioneer free-form work styles.
Generation Z has the kind of quick-learning, adaptable mentality that’s valuable to startups in particular. Members of this generation are on the cusp of entering the employment market, and their traits already suggest they’ll thrive in fast-paced, creative environments where employees wear many different hats.
What makes Gen Zers uniquely suited to startup life?
Gen Zers are independent, to say the least. They follow their own ideas and experiment all the while. Because they grew up with an understanding of the gig economy, they’re not scared to try new things within their careers. This has given them a natural inclination for all things entrepreneurial.
Gen Zers were also raised around technology and fast-paced innovation. For many of them, technology is part of who they are. Devices function as learning and work tools, rather than shiny toys, and this has given them a preference for immediate gratification and rapid learning. If employers give them the opportunity to act on this habit, they can become proficient in just about anything — zeroing in on a startup’s problems and inventing solutions all on their own.
Of course, these young people also bring a keen understanding of their fellow Gen Zers to the table, and nobody can explain their preferences better. As a startup leader, you’re probably already targeting this group. It’s now responsible for $143 billion in spending, according to Barkley, and this number is only set to increase as spending power grows. This kind of insider knowledge is invaluable for startups of all stripes.
These qualities will surely set Gen Zers up for success in startup environments, but they also bring the potential for clashes with other generational groups.
Handling tension between generations
The existing members of your team — likely Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers — all have their own ways of working, and they’ve honed these styles over the course of their careers. As a team, you’ve probably also developed a system of working that relies on relatively set systems and processes — even in a fast-paced startup environment. So when it comes time to bring Gen Zers on board, adding their self-led style to this mix could create an air of competition.
Communication styles will certainly differ. Although the norm for office communication has moved from phone and email to speedier platforms such as Slack, Gen Z is actually bringing back in-person contact (yep, you read that right). According to Robert Half, many Gen Zers have a fear of being treated like children by their more seasoned counterparts. This means they tend to have their most important conversations with managers face to face, gauge whether they’re being taken seriously and go back to working independently.
Any new addition to your culture can take some getting used to, and differing work styles and communication preferences can cause serious tension if left unaddressed. Here are three ways to manage your cross-generational team, nurture its members and bring out everyone’s best qualities:
1. Help generations get to know each other.
First, build some foundations to prevent communication mishaps and help team members get to know each other. Because they’re brilliant at maintaining their own working styles and creating new work systems, Gen Zers need to appreciate the processes you’ve already created.
To read more about the three ways to manage your cross-generational team, click here.