The Gen Z Dilemma

Imagine, 50 years ago, walking in to your manager’s office asking them whether you can work from home for a week?

Or during an annual review (if any) you raise some concerns about your work-life balance and that your personal life is affected by the workload on your shoulders.

Or as a customer,  you ask your supplier about their “Go Green” policy, or charity and social responsibility activities?

Gen Z “Norms”

These questions were even beyond thinkable! The business world used to have a handbook, but not anymore. The old rules, traditions & “norms” are very obviously not applicable to the current generation occupying the entry and mid-level jobs. “Gen Z”…whether we like it or not or whether we choose to believe that or not.

When the next generation took over, companies started to adapt slowly to these “new” norms of doing business and more relaxed work environments/office culture. Companies like Google & Facebook were looked at with eyes-wide-open by millennials who aspired for such a casual and “easy going” work environment when others were still in their strict business culture.

But how could they start adapting to these norms earlier than others? And how did it really affect their image among millennials back then who are nowadays leaders in their own organizations?

Who is Ready?

Up until before the pandemic hit the world in 2020, many businesses wouldn’t openly encourage working from home, nor allow it; especially in certain geographies. But, they were forced to adapt in 2020. It took them longer to figure it out, get their systems up to speed and optimize their people’s behavior, discipline and efficiency as it would be if working in an office.

However, those who had adopted this habit years ago, for them it was a walk in the park.

The Workforce Breakdown

Nowadays, Gen Z makes up more than 30% of the world population, and by 2025 it will make up about 27% of the work force. In about 5-10 years, this generation will start taking up leadership roles in many organizations around the world…but are businesses ready today for this change?

But…Where’s the Issue?

The current CXO and senior leadership members are likely to be 2 or more generations older than Gen Z, and in most cases, they’re not on the same wavelength…exactly like it was 50 years ago! Realizing the gap and acting to bridge it in now will make the transition much easier and smoother rather than waiting for Gen Z to take over and fill the gap themselves…they’ll just be years behind others who had already managed to change.

The Needs and Values of Gen Z

The needs of this generation are just different, what they value, what they believe and what they want to achieve in life is just not the same.

My parents, like many others, wanted a stable job, steady & secure income, a good social standard for themselves and their kids. They wouldn’t switch jobs every 2-3 years, and relocating for a job was a BIG decision…not one that you would take overnight! Unlike my younger Gen Z colleagues who *everyday* would challenge the system and have a strong drive to change the world…literally!

They would spot the fault in everything, every process and give their views on how it should be done. They’re impatient; they need to see the change happening yesterday, not today and not tomorrow. They don’t understand corporate Bureaucracy, nor do they want to…they just need to get things done.

They like to be given the space to innovate, given room for error, and appreciate mentorship and feedback (as frequent as daily). They need to be involved, understand the “why” before the “how”. They need genuine care and empathy; a personal “well done” and a “tap on the shoulder” means much more than a printed “thank you letter”.

Their aspiration is also much higher, a good social standard is not good enough for them, and a fresh grad’s salary is just not worth their effort (let alone if it is a boring routine job)…hence they jump on to entrepreneurship opportunities at levels we haven’t seen before.

According to Bloomberg, in 2021 Startups raised venture capital funding more than ever hitting $621 Billion globally. And here arises the issue… If business do not play hard to attract, grow, polish and develop Gen Z’ers, they’ll just leave!

How to Deal with the Needs for Gen Z

To know the answer to the equation, you need to understand the elements…in this case, Gen Z. McKinsey quoted on an article:

“Our study based on the survey reveals four core Gen Z behaviors, all anchored in one element: this generation’s search for truth. Gen Z’ers value individual expression and avoid labels. They mobilize themselves for a variety of causes. They believe profoundly in the efficacy of dialogue to solve conflicts and improve the world. Finally, they make decisions and relate to institutions in a highly analytical and pragmatic way. That is why, for us, Gen Z is “True Gen.”

  • Actions speak louder than words (trust- authenticity – clear & honest communication from top-down – they want to be involved and given the opportunity to share their opinions)
  • Adapt to the current external environment; meaning that your evolution speed should not be anything less. Developing dynamic and concise training and leadership programs, with a real and tangible focus on diversity, would be a good place to start attracting Gen Z’s.
  • Develop the profile of a great employee, establish internal apprenticeship programs, or hire smart, talented people and then match them with a role once inside the organization.
  • Consider partnering at the university level to adopt top female talents to attract more women candidates for more complex roles.
  • Create latticed career paths and multiple work formats.
  • Set up internal marketplaces to match projects with needed skill sets.
  • Leverage the expertise of Gen X, Gen Y, and Boomers to help mentor Gen Z into strong leaders.

Gen Z Experiment

As an experiment, pick your top Gen Z talents currently in your business and invite them to your board meetings (or Senior leaders meetings) for the next quarter. After every meeting let them share their thoughts on how some of the issues could have been solved differently.

You’ll be surprised how quickly can they adapt to this senior environment and in a few months they will indeed propose impactful changes….like the ones we need to make now!

Lean In to Gen Z Talents

The answer to some business performance issues is not only the fault of people who under-perform….it might very well be how you utilize their talents to achieve your business goals. This generation is very talented and open minded, but also with a natural feeling of entitlement, impatience & higher self awareness than older generations “in my opinion”.

You may call them “Crazy” because their gift was seeing things from a different perspective.

You may call them “Stubborn” because they have the courage to stand up for themselves and say NO.

You may call them “Selfish” because they believe that their priorities are themselves, their time and their energy…then everything else.

You may call them “Rebels” because they won’t blindly follow in others’ shoes.

But the fact is, this is what “Gen Z” breath in and out everyday.

Now is the Time to Act

They need space, empowerment, trust and empathy. Let them make mistakes, because they’re fast learners and faster to rebound. Don’t tell them how to do it, instead, tell them what you want to achieve.

Accept the differences Embrace & Shine the new talents. Manage downwards, not upwards. AND Finally, make an “ACTUAL & IMPACTFUL” change to your work environment before changing your pricing, marketing or sales strategies and you will definitely see a positive outcome.


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