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GenZ young person

Digital natives, anxious, money-conscious. Private, diversity-oriented, crisis-aware.

These are all words that could describe Generation Z, also known as Gen Z, iGen or Homelanders, born after 1997, according to the Pew Research Center.

While much of this blog is dedicated to Generation Y, aka Millennials, (born between 1981-96), the conversation in work culture, Human Resources and Management circles has become increasingly about Gen Z as well. Which makes sense when you consider that members of this generational cohort are entering the job market, bringing with them their own distinct values, traits, preferences and fears.

But beyond a fresh presence to consider in the educational and professional context, who are Gen Z, really?

One answer for those of us who are parents, teachers, recruiters and managers, is that Gen Z are today’s teens, students and young adults. In other words… individuals preparing for, or beginning the journey of life beyond the boundaries of school, and navigating the countdown or entry into adult life. Unlike Millennials, Gen Z do not remember a world without the internet and are dependent on their smart devices to be able to feel safe and capable of navigating their world.

The longer answer, according to veteran youth mentor and author Tim Elmore, is that they are young people whose characteristics include:

  1. Chronic sleeplessness
  2. Raised anxiety and depression
  3. Poorer memories
  4. Diminished attention spans
  5. Increased impulsive behaviour

And who could blame them? They have been born into a world facing a multitude of escalating global crises, from climate change to international acts of terrorism, all while the relentless 24/7 cycle of social media distracts, confuses and undermines their mental health and self-esteem.

They’ve also watched Millennials struggle with debt and unemployment and are far less willing to take on student loans – even if it means bypassing university studies, and unlike Gen Y, Gen Z are hiding, not sharing information, in the form of short-lived Snapchat posts and carefully curated, fake Instagram or ‘finsta’ accounts.

Gen Z are also more individualistic and guarded than their team-loving, collaboration-friendly Millennial predecessors. The open-plan Gen Y offices don’t suit Gen Z – they want their own, clearly delineated work areas with effective boundaries for privacy.

But similar to Millennials, their ease with technology means they are at home multitasking on several devices at once (although their person-to-person communication skills are definitely in need of a boost).

Nevertheless, like the optimistically disruptive Gen Y, Generation Z are also entrepreneurial and want to play a role in tackling the problems threatening to overwhelm the planet (environmental activist Greta Thunberg is a member of Gen Z). And they’re hungry for mentoring and supportive leadership from adults – whether at school, college (if they take the financial decision to attend) or in the workplace.

Keeping Gen Z engaged, motivated and on track as parents, educators and employers is therefore a considerable puzzle and challenge… but one definitely worth tackling as these talented young people step into the picture.

Ultimately, on their young shoulders rests the fate of our species, and our survival in a future where much is changing rapidly and is unknown.

I will continue to explore Gen Z’s unique traits and perspective in future posts, but for now, I firmly believe it is our duty to support and not obstruct this generation in expressing their highest potential, and join with them to face the global challenges that have marked their coming of age.

Learn more about my teen mentoring services here.

In the past few blog posts, I’ve been exploring the topic of employee retention with regards recruits who are Millennials, also known as Gen Y, (born, give or take, between 1981-95).

Figuring out retention is a big challenge for businesses today, with the analytics and advisory company Gallup estimating Gen Y turnover to be costing the US economy alone, 30.5 billion dollars annually.

In earlier posts, I have covered retaining Millennial loyalty by clarifying career prospects and inviting their input. Now we come to the most important element in keeping Gen Y on payroll… and that is: providing mentoring.

Most companies know, by now, that Millennials’ earliest experiences – in their families, at school and in university – was a constant, targeted, structured stream of feedback, letting them know how they were ‘performing’ in their studies and extracurricular activities, and how to refine and improve such performance.

Most companies also understand that Millennials therefore carry an expectation of being mentored in the workplace.

But what many companies have not yet realised is the depth of engagement that mentoring provides – not just with their Gen Y hires, but across all generations on payroll.

Put a different way: mentoring doesn’t just keep a Millennial colleague more connected to the organisation longer-term, but fosters an adaptable, continually evolving work culture in general, across every level of a company.

So… where’s the problem in implementing an effective mentoring system in organisations? Surely it’s an obvious win-win for any company to include in its employee offerings?

It is… but when it comes to building a culture of mentoring in the workplace, there are a number of challenges to overcome.

Often, the investment of time to mentor is seen by too-busy managers as just as great of an obstacle as the investment of budget. Surely, there should be more self-sufficiency and taking initiative, and less ‘hand-holding’ and ‘checking in’ for employees who are, after all, supposed to be adults?

To that, I would reply that, at the end of the day, time management is always a matter of priorities. Mentoring does not have to mean ‘micro-managing’, neither does it have to mean extended, one-on-ones with each Gen Y employee.

A related concern, for managers who are ‘naturally’ inclined toward mentoring, is ‘tying them up’ when their expertise is demanded on competing, equally important tasks and responsibilities.

But mentoring does not require one permanent ‘elder’ assigned to a mentee indefinitely.

In fact, Millennials are used to passing from one mentor’s guidance to the next – just as they were at home, at school and on campus. Implementing such rotational or progressive mentoring though, is not going to happen ‘by accident’. It has to be designed and built into the long-term career progress paths of a Gen Y-friendly organisation.

Keep in mind that, despite the stereotypes that Millennials are ”arrogant’, ‘self-important’ and ‘narcissistic’, too impatient to do the slow, often unacknowledged work of figuring things out on their own… Gen Y recruits are actually humble when it comes to the limits of their own knowledge and experience base – that’s why they’re hoping you’ll mentor them!

While they are very comfortable researching solutions on the internet and via their network, they know there is key institutional knowledge they don’t possess about the organisation, and that there are standards of performance that are not going to be clear outside of specific feedback about what adjustments or improvements to make.

Meanwhile, beyond retention, and in terms of the broader benefit  to companies, mentoring gives Gen Y hires a chance to share their generational interests, affinities, values and fears with their mentors, while simultaneously educating their guide in turn, drawing on their own tech expertise and awareness of innovation trends.

This last point is known as Reverse Mentoring – something I plan to discuss in a future blog.

For now, it is important to keep in mind that in managing and retaining Millennials, the role of a mentor, as one whose greater mission is to further the development of the less-experienced mentee, is one that, if undertaken, rewards the mentor as much as the mentee.

Retaining the restless, endlessly creative and innovative Gen Y (as well as their more conservative, cautious and their equally mobile successors, Gen Z) is demanding unprecedented levels of adaptability, open-mindedness and investment in human capital.

Fortunately, mentoring is one of the solutions whose reward ranges far beyond merely engaging and refining of the talent it hopes to retain.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/

You’ve got the job. You’ve arrived at your new workplace. You’ve toured the coffees and teas in the kitchen. You’ve shaken hands with your colleagues.

Fast forward a few months, or perhaps even a year or so… and there are question marks in your head.

Question marks concerning YOUR performance.

You’re doing what the job description asked for in the original posting. You’ve got the relevant academic background. You’re at your desk on time and deliver on your deadlines…

And yet, you get the distinct feeling that you’re still… not quite living up to expectations…

Which also means you’re probably not getting the kind of professional attention to be entrusted with greater responsibility, promotion and professional advancement.

Sound familiar?

Actually, it’s only TOO familiar, given the stories I hear from the young professionals I mentor. And yet they can’t seem to figure out what they’re doing wrong.

My feedback for them is that it’s often what they’re not doing that might be holding them back.

Of course, there are many employability traits and soft skills that can make you shine in your career, and I explore them in other articles on this blog.

But in this post, I’d like to mention the three traits that most often come up, whenever I talk candidly with Human Resource officers about skills gaps in their hires.

  1. Resilience

This translates to the ability to remain focused and productive in times of adversity, to keep going in the face of obstacles and challenges and to display adaptability during unfamiliar or unforeseen circumstances.

Which is a fancy way of saying: being tough-minded.

Now, I’m not implying today’s young professionals don’t have the CAPACITY for resilience. Many DO in fact, express tough-mindedness and adaptability in times of challenge in the workplace.

But unfortunately, as hungry to find meaning, grow and develop at their jobs as Millennial hires may be… and as quick to learn and implement new technologies as Gen Z recruits are… both generational cohorts can struggle when they are professionally tested and placed under pressure, and when their managers and coworkers are unavailable to provide guidance or support.

Yet resilience is precisely the skill they would need to express at such times, and precisely the attribute that would draw a manager’s or HR officer’s appreciation and attention.

  • 2. Problem Solving

You would think problem-solving is in our nature. A basic part of the blueprint of being creative, thinking beings… and it is!

After all, the ability to provide innovative solutions to problems is one of the reasons Millennials are so entrepreneurial… at least when it comes to brainstorming and collaborating among themselves.

But place them in a traditional workplace, with top-down power structures… and it seems that natural, innovative problem-solving impulse often shuts down.

Which means there has to be a compromise.

Millennials and Gen Z employees need to remember that traditional organisational structures are not going to fade away overnight, and that they need to find the self-motivation to express their innate problem-solving powers irrespective of their environment.

On the other hand – and as I tell senior management and HR officers at every EVOLUTION corporate training I deliver… they have to be willing to LISTEN to the solutions that their younger team members propose, while empowering them to act on their most promising suggestions!

Either way, the greater the problem-solving capacity that a young professional demonstrates in the workplace, the greater their chances of being selected for career advancement.

  • 3. Self Motivation

And then there’s self-motivation. Human Resources, management and senior executives all seem to be united on this front: new hires need more of it! It’s also referred to as ‘taking initiative’.

Again… there are a number of things to say about this.

It’s definitely NOT that my Millennial and Gen Z mentees are lacking in passion, or ideas for how to change the world, or to up-level their own high performance.

And yet… their willingness to take initiative and be self-motivated in the workplace often gets road-blocked.

Why?

Part of the reason comes from not having the same support and mentoring system that was familiar and available while they were still at school, thanks to the undivided attention and guidance they were used to receiving from parents, teachers and friends.

And part of it is the fact that their suggestions and ideas are often not taken seriously in more conservative job sectors and traditionally-minded industries.

Once again, young professionals would still give themselves a massive career advantage by developing, expressing and continuously raising the bar on personal self-motivation at EVERY stage of their career, and developing the resilience (see above) to keep going and giving their best – even at times when the support and guidance they crave is not forthcoming.

To take a fitness analogy… if you don’t keep flexing your self-motivation muscle, you can’t rely on its strength when times get chaotic and more is expected from you than you had anticipated.

But on the other hand, if senior management has no intention of allowing Millennial and Gen Z hires to act on their initiative and self-motivation, and never creates opportunities (and rewards) for their young talent to exercise their self-motivation, they will either continue to see roadblocks on this front… or, eventually, their employees will take their obstructed self-motivation to a different workplace.

In our professional, as well as our personal life, it always pays to grow our resilience, problem-solving and self-motivation abilities… But such traits express themselves best when all stakeholders commit to empowering their expression!

To work with me one-on-one to take your professional and personal performance to new levels, please check out the LIMITLESS track of my services at: https://www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/limitless/

Remember your early twenties? I remember mine.

With a university degree under my belt and inspired by the relationships I had cultivated with both fellow students and professors, I was full of passion (still am), optimism and self-belief, and gripped by the absolute conviction that focus, discipline and clear goals were all I needed for success.

Today, hand on my heart, I still believe in those principles as crucial to professional and personal growth and achievement…

However, like all of us as we acquire real-life observations and experiences, I’ve evolved my views over time. Especially when it comes to getting young people ready for the 21st century workplace.

These days, the words on everyone’s lips are ‘disruption’, ‘automation’ and ‘Artificial Intelligence’, as well as ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’.

In other words, a tsunami of relentless, escalating and no-guarantees change on every level – from technological to financial to professional.

Here are a few more words: ‘unemployment’ and ‘Generation Z’.

Gen Z are the newest cohort to be showing up at hiring interviews, following on the heels of the famously entrepreneurial ‘Millennials’ or Gen Y, having been born after 1995.

More risk-averse, conservative and privacy-loving than Millennials, Gen Z have never known a pre-internet world, and they are the true digital natives.

However… my takeaways in mentoring these young people, either during the FEARLESS self-development workshops I lead, or the one-on-one mentoring I undertake throughout the year, is that most Gen Z teens are still VERY under-prepared for the skills expected in today’s workplace.

According to professional networking platform LinkedIn, the top five HARD skills that companies need most in 2019 are:

  1. Cloud computing
  2. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)
  3. Analytical reasoning
  4. People management
  5. UX design

What about 2019’s top five most-desirable soft skills? LinkedIn tells us they are:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Time management

But I think that beyond hard and soft skills… there are timeless LIFE skills which new Gen Z workforce members need to know and implement, in order to become a truly FEARLESS generation.

And these are:

  1. Cognitive flexibility (the ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts, or think about multiple concepts simultaneously)
  2. Problem solving (finding solutions to difficult or complex issues)
  3. Critical thinking (competently analysing facts to form judgments)
  4. Goal-setting and execution (the development of an action plan to motivate individuals or groups to materialise a target or achieve a pre-determined milestone)
  5. Resilience (the ability to cope with a crisis or failure, or minimise the impact of stressors or pressure)

These are the game-changer skills that people of all ages would do well to learn… and they are PARTICULARLY crucial to Gen Z, who, unlike previous generations, will have managed their home, school and social lives almost exclusively via smartphones and apps, without having had the independent opportunity to cultivate and practise the life skills listed above.

They say time waits for no man (or woman), and that is especially true today, with exponential disruption occurring across almost every industry and profession.

And for every generation still represented in the workplace – and most particularly for Gen Z hires – displaying cognitive flexibility, problem solving, critical thinking, goal-setting and resilience – are only going to grow in desirability in the years ahead.

Which is why, helping young people acquire these skills, so they become as natural as brushing teeth or riding a bike, is ultimately part of my personal mission in helping create (and grow!) a truly FEARLESS generation.

For one-on-one mentoring to transform your teen’s communication, leadership, self-management and long-term employability potential, please check out the FEARLESS track of my services by clicking here.