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Gen Z male working remotely
Gen Z blend their on and off-line worlds seamlessly – a huge advantage in the remote-working context

Depending on when you are reading this, the outbreak of COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus, may have already been brought under control. Or, it may still be on the rise, disrupting global supply chains, rocking economic sectors from health to hospitality and shutting schools, universities and places of leisure worldwide.

And just like the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 were for Millennials (born between 1981-96), this pandemic is likely to be the Threshold Moment – the moment when everything changed – for members of Generation Z (born after 1996).

And you know what? They’re much more ready than we may have realised.

Say what you will about Gen Z – they’re anxious, they’re socially awkward, they’re clueless about history and cultural norms of even a few decades ago, they have zero understanding of professional norms.

Such commentary typically comes from their bosses and managers as they enter the workforce. But Gen Z are also completely at ease in conducting their lives from the mobile dashboard. Seamlessly moving from platform to platform to execute and keep a multitude of tasks in play.

Given the global turn to remote working in the interests of safety and limiting the spread of the Coronavirus – another Threshold Point (this time for all of us) – Gen Z’s ease in adapting their personal spaces into ultra-targeted and efficient command centres, will be important to learn from.

Of course, in a multi-generational workplace, every cohort has things to teach and offer to the others in terms of guidance, leadership and experience. But for those of us who have a Gen Z colleague, it may already be time for them to take the lead, showing us how to preserve efficiency, productivity and focus while working remotely, far away from the emptied offices.

Because Generation Z’s Threshold Moment, is likely to become the new normal.

Generation Z consumer
Gen Z’s shopping tastes are distinct from Millennials’

If you’re a 21st-century business, the buying preferences of Millennials (also known as Gen Y, born between 1981-1996, according to the Pew Research Center) are most likely known to you.

Millennials, by this point, are well-known for preferring to invest in experiences over traditional purchases. They initiated the sharing economy, as a result of being debt-burdened by expensive university degrees, while delaying home-buying, marriage and parenthood that were the traditional adult milestones of earlier generations.

But how much do you know about the shopping habits of Generation Z (also known as Gen Z, iGen or Homelanders, born after 1997)… whose 2020 purchasing power has been estimated at over 140 billion dollars?

The fact is, Gen Z, are not parting with their cash in the same ways as Gen Y, and their distinct characteristics and preferences, and these deserve and demand to be acknowledged in turn.

For one thing, as identified by cloud-based CRM company Salesforce, Gen Z are less willing to pay extra for higher customer service. It’s important, but not so important to the Zs as it is to the Millennials.

For another, Gen Z are MORE demanding than Millennials when it comes to true innovation. Gen Y definitely supports products that are unique, disruptive and break the mould – but Gen Z has an even higher standard of what that looks like. Again, unsurprising – these are the guys who grew up with YouTube and Netflix and can’t remember a time before smart devices and the internet, whereas older members of Gen Y can still remember pre-cellular phones and analogue video players.

Also… cynical Gen Z individuals don’t trust brands easily. They can smell hype and manipulation a mile away. Just because your company SAYS it does something or has a worthy mission, doesn’t mean they’ll believe you that quickly. Earning their trust as customers means the value you say you offer had better be demonstrable in practice. Because Gen Z are more cynical pragmatists than idealistic optimists, like their Millennial predecessors.

Having said that, Gen Z take Millennials’ social concern to a whole new level. To win Gen Z loyalty as customers, a brand will rise and fall on its integrity, its willingness to support diversity and in approaching its potential generation Z clients as individuals, and not, as Millennials prefer, as a creative tribe.

More consuming differences include Gen Z’s frugal, budget-conscious mindset, their opting for in-store over online purchases (so they can be sure they’re buying a value-for-money product) and their preference for influencers who are ‘real’ people, not necessarily celebrities.

A final thought on Gen Z consumers: getting to the point. When it comes to selling to these digital natives, it’s even more important than it is for Millennial customers. Gen Z’s attention span is 8 seconds (versus Millennials’ 12 seconds), so elaborate, glossy ad campaigns are less likely to engage them.

To re-cap: understanding how Gen Z want you to interact with them – whether you are a service or product provider, or their educator, mentor or employer – will be key if you want to engage effectively with this enterprising and independent generation.

Learn more about my mentoring services here and here.

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.

Let me tell you about Millennial so-called ‘disloyalty’.

You know what I’m talking about… the job-hopping tendencies of this generation, (also known as Gen Y, born roughly between 1981-95) whose CVs and resumes often read like fusion cuisine menus.

What looks like a problem with retention is to misjudge or simply misunderstand this generation’s values. In other words… this is not so much a problem with Millennials’ ‘disloyalty’ as a problem of Millennials’ ‘disengagement’.

This is a generation that values impact, experiences and profound self-development. And they are a generation in a hurry. Why wouldn’t they be? A whole world of information and potential experiences has opened up to them, thanks to the technology they so confidently use. Meanwhile, the online landscape where all of the opportunities exist, is at their finger tips.

Remember also, this generation is nomadic and tribal. They love travelling and experiencing new cultures, and are constantly swapping information with each other, sharing good and bad experiences, letting peers know which new skills, self-development strategies and chances to grow – professionally and personally – are around the corner.

Of course, for established, legacy companies, led by older generations for whom a reasonable pay cheque, stability and predictability of environment, were enough to expect from a job… these tendencies, and the urge to move on to new pastures after only a short stint with a company, represents a considerable loss in terms of training and investing in Gen Y.

But the fact remains… Millennials were not brought up to be satisfied with mere job stability, predictability and a pay cheque. Their parents and teachers, growing up, taught them to expect great things of themselves, and to be constantly on the alert for the next chance to manifest something significant.

And until the Great Recession of 2008, when the first Millennials were about to enter the workforce, these bold visions of having great impact in their lives, remained unchallenged.

Flash forward to today, and many Millennials have experienced the disillusionment and burnout from that period: the debt, the lack of jobs, the inflexibility of the working world, the financial inability to move up the social ladder…

But this doesn’t mean Gen Y’s values have changed. They still yearn for peak experiences, a chance to unleash their expectation to impact the world through their work and to grow and lead as soon as possible.

And catering for these values should matter to companies, because most statistical predictions place Millennials as the largest generational cohort in today’s job market, worldwide.

So, the first piece of advice I offer companies that want to retain Gen Y hires is… give them a clear picture of their career prospects within the organisation.

In other words, traditional, vertically-organised, top-down, command and control companies need to let new Millennial hires know how and when they will rise through the ranks of the organisation (remember also that Millennials prefer horizontal organisational structures).

Given that the Baby Boomer generation (born over 1946-64) still lead several legacy companies, and Boomers’ own values include basing self-worth on long work hours, titles and accomplishment… it can seem to Millennial hires that their own chances to be promoted, exercise influence and impact are likely to be delayed indefinitely.

But there are ways to accommodate the experience of Boomers, (and Gen Xers – born roughly 1965-80!) while satisfying the desire for impact of Millennials.

One solution is to give Gen Y recruits a clear roadmap of their career journey within an organisation, including criteria and timelines for rising in leadership roles.

Tell them at the hiring interview and during the on-boarding process and remind them at feedback sessions thereafter, where they fit in the structure of the company and how their ability to serve and impact clients will evolve and grow as they continue with the organisation.

Too many organisations leave recruits in the dark as to how the organisation will advance their career beyond an income. A progress roadmap signals to Millennials that, just like in their childhood, their workplace is invested in opening new professional doors for them the longer they remain.

I will explore the next factor to help retain Millennials – giving them ownership and encouraging their input – in my next post.

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

Why is it that sometimes, the thing that we want most, actually backfires on us, and can even make us miserable?

At this point, it is well-documented that Millennial or Gen Y employees truly value flexibility in the workplace and are unafraid to ask for it…

And yet… if they are given such flexibility, the additional pressure to manage their time while continuing to manage their social and personal lives, often proves overwhelming to them, leading to the stress and burn-out that this generation is experiencing at epidemic levels….

Let me give these thoughts a bit of context.

I’ve been a corporate trainer and a mentor for almost two decades. Over this time, I’ve seen the values and working preferences of several generations, up close and personal.

And what I have observed of Gen Y or Millennial workers (i.e. those born between 1981 to roughly 1995), they greatly value being able to structure their work around their other life interests. The famous ‘work-life balance’ that managers complain about and which their Gen Y colleagues continue to demand.

Now, this makes complete sense when you consider Millennials came of age during the rise of the internet, apps and smartphones, designed to harness online power to organise and carry out everyday life tasks in a matter of clicks.

But…

Unlike the generations before them, specifically their Boomer and Gen X bosses and managers… Millennials have had less practice in deliberately limiting themselves, their options – and in particular, their time.

They have had incredibly structured lives growing up – structured by parents and teachers willing to provide them with the scheduling and support they needed, so that they could focus on their studies, their interests, their potential, their aspirations.

Flash forward to their working life today… and whenever work-related flexibility is granted to Millennials, their professional tasks and deadlines end up competing with the parallel opportunity for them to explore and participate in lifestyle options older generations were not distracted by… simply because they didn’t exist!

Think about it… when you can identify, follow and participate in so many online forums, arrange dates, book workout classes, sign up for language classes and organise meet-ups for innovative collaborations… it’s far harder to set yourself the kind of limits that return your focus to meeting work-related goals.

What happens next is that Millennials try to do both – i.e. carry out professional tasks while SIMULTANEOUSLY managing their personal and leisure time, leading to overwhelm, stress and, often, dramatic burnout.

So, how should managers of Millennials respond?

Should they simply take flexible working hours off the table for their Gen Y employees? Or should they cave in, despite the time management challenges, hoping in this way, to retain a job-hopping generation of workers?

As it happens, the answer is… neither.

Flexibility of work is a GOOD thing. And more and more, I believe we will only see more need for it and it’s unwise to eliminate it as an option.

Rather, to get the best from their Gen Y team, managers need to keep flexibility on the table IN ADDITION to making it very clear about what they will STILL be required to carry out (and by WHEN) in terms of work.

Managers need to zero in on the deadlines and the deliverables, and let Gen Y know they will support them in setting an appropriate timeline, preferably with key milestones, to help them handle the challenges of distraction and overwhelm.

In other words, managers today have to wear two hats: one as the authority who keeps Gen Y on task… the other as the coach who ‘supports’ and guides them in implementing healthy time management.

I elaborate on how managers can support their Gen Y team in this way, in an online course I am currently developing, called Millennial Advantage. More about this course in future posts!

For now, let me end by saying that: if you, as a manager, are willing to go the extra mile for your Millennial teammates by facilitating and helping them manage their desired flexibility… they will reward you with a truly innovative ability to think outside the box, act as ambassadors of your organisation among their peers, and use their comfort with tech-based work to better serve your clients.

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.