Welcome back to the second blog in our employee experience economy series. Generation Z employees are coming into the workforce and shaking things up with their high expectations and willingness to withstand the traditional ways of doing things. These employees are pushing back on the traditional mindset of “paying your dues” and “waiting your turn” as a means of promotion. Generation Z employees crave development and seek out companies that provide growth opportunities. These employees understand that the world is ever-changing, and they must continuously learn new skills if they want to be successful. They expect companies to offer them the opportunity to do so, which means that most companies need to change their approach to training and development.
By 2025, 75% of employees will be millennials or Generation Zs, with many of them in management positions. As such, you must begin equipping them now to work through people, not over, so they can grow into leadership roles. Frontline managers have a significant impact on their employees’ experience because they work directly with their team each day. Unfortunately, most frontline supervisors and managers are not being equipped to give feedback, have tough conversations, provide meaningful recognition, nor communicate to different generations of workers. I’ve always thought that providing leadership training to employees only after they get a title is not an effective strategy. As this next generation expects to receive professional development early in their careers, companies will have to change their thinking on who gets leadership development. Rather than just focusing on the individuals at the top of the organization, smart companies will invest in leadership skills, specifically inter- and intra-personal skills, for their frontline staff. So, here are some tips on how to start developing your employees so they can be strong leaders who inspire performance:
1) Provide Clear Leadership Expectations: Generation Z employees are curious and know that their interests and career paths are likely to evolve. They want to understand exactly what is expected of them and how they can make an impact. With this in mind, organizations must have clear leadership expectations in place that define managers’ priorities as it pertains to their people and the culture of the organization. We often see leadership expectations that are focused primarily around delivering results and running the business, neglecting to focus on how managers interact with and lead people. Remember, there is a difference between management and leadership, and while both are essential to running a successful business, we find that the leadership focus is often forgotten. When developing your leadership expectations, consider your values and what you believe a manager will need to do to maintain those values and keep the people who buy into those values happy.
2) Create a Comprehensive Development Plan: A comprehensive development plan includes a wide range of content delivered in different methods. Generation Z employees are true digital natives, as they grew up with the internet and technology, and are used to learning through various forms of digital media. Approximately 43% of Generation Z employees prefer to learn independently through self-directed courses. But that doesn’t mean companies should simply put all learning and development online. Companies must create an engaging and effective development plan that consists of engaging, in-person leadership training sessions, bite-sized eLearning modules, and constant coaching. Also, you must ensure the development plan includes key content necessary for success. Many Generation Z employees have focused on developing hard skills but are lacking important soft skills essential for effective leadership. Include training on how to work in a team, communicate effectively, manage conflict, and manage time and stress to ensure they have a solid understanding of the essential people and personal skills needed in a leadership role.
3) Make Coaching and Mentoring Available: This generation wants to be coached, as 60% want multiple check-ins from their managers each week, and 40% want daily feedback. So, make sure you have the right leaders and mentors available to provide valuable input on leadership skills to these employees as part of their development plan. Often, managers are only focused on giving feedback on the hard job skills, but it will be crucial to coach frontline workers on how to demonstrate care, communicate, collaborate, and continue their development. By providing leadership training early in a person’s career, there is an added benefit that the right people can be promoted into leadership roles. People are usually promoted because of their efforts in completing a task rather than their ability to lead others. By training and coaching early on, organizations can ensure they promote not only people with some training, but also those who demonstrate the best disposition for leading others.
4) Incentivize Learning: While many Generation Z employees are self-motivated, incentivizing learning is a great way to propel these employees further. Generation Z employees have an entrepreneurial spirit that is driven by a sense of accomplishment and independence. In addition to wanting to improve their job performance, a significant portion of these employees stated that they want to learn new skills as a way to make more money and get promoted. Since there are other leadership factors to consider, a promotion is not guaranteed as a result of completing a development program. However, it is important to offer learning opportunities to everyone and make the connection between effort, knowledge, and growth by rewarding their achievements with recognition and increased pay. Although there is always a risk that your newly developed leaders may leave to find a promotion elsewhere, this risk is mitigated by the company establishing a reputation for growing leaders, thereby attracting and retaining the best people who are truly committed to the organization.
Learning, development, and growth are going to be hot topics for this newest generation of workers, so consider implementing these tips to help prepare your future leaders for their careers. Stay tuned for more upcoming blogs on how to be successful in today’s employee experience economy.