With human capital being one of the most valuable — and costly — assets of any company, it is not always easy to know how to get the most out of your employees. And the challenge can be even greater when it comes to a younger workforce, as Mark Dickinson of DONE! Hospitality Training Solutions explains.
The title may be a bit presumptive — perhaps it is about managing all people, not just young people? Managing anybody requires skills and experience, and I am sure that if I asked you to create a list of what you think managing people means, you would come up with at least 10 ideas. No doubt your list would include the word “empathy” — the ability to feel with others.
Empathy is the key to managing anyone. You must feel with that person, regardless of age. Of course you must understand what work has to be done and be able to communicate that work in a way that others can understand, ensuring that they are respected as a person and recognized for what they are required to do.
Hierachical authority is an outdated concept. Many of those who depend upon such management techniques are often the ones who have been over-promoted (Peter’s Principle) in the hopes that they will succeed if given sufficient opportunity to do so, only to see them cover their own inadequacies with rules and dictates. Managing anyone requires kindness, decency and self-discipline. It demands that those who manage are exemplary in their own work and are masters at talking with others.
Young people are divided into two main cohorts:
Millennials, also known as Generation Y (or simply Gen Y), are the demographic cohort whose birth years are between 1981 and 1996, a widely accepted defining range for the generation, i.e. those aged between 24 and 39 (Wikipedia).
Generation Z (or Gen Z) is the demographic cohort succeeding Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. Researchers and popular media use 1995 to 2015 as the commonly accepted birth range, i.e. those aged between 5 and 25 (Wikipedia).
It is important for those who manage others to understand these generations and the ways they perceive life. They may look similar in appearance, but there are fundamental differences between the two groups. These differences vary around the world — culture plays a significant role — however, there are certain defining factors that are fairly consistent.
A broad summary of the differences are found in the common thoughts associated with each of the groups: Millennials being labeled as lazy, entitled, self-absorbed and always looking for experiences, while Gen Z are born with the Internet and are digital natives, tech-savvy, realistic, prefer authenticity, enjoy dialogue and are debt-averse.
Millennials have witnessed the advent of the Internet and the emergence of technology. They are a generation attached to their mobiles. Gen Z, on the other hand, have always been connected. Millennials will frequently be glued to their devices, while Gen Z can flit between devices and even go without any device just as easily.
So in managing a workforce of 18 to 25 year olds, you are working with a generation that understands life in a completely different manner to Millennials.
Managing Gen Z
Challenge them; give them a problem and let them figure out how to solve it. Avoid telling them how to do it. They will amaze you. Offer genuine support and follow up so that they do not feel lost or alone on the project. Celebrate successful outcomes with a group activity.
Engage in dialogue; get them to talk, to share their ideas and the evolution of their thoughts. Ask them for their advice on topics, and listen carefully to what they have to say, acknowledging their contribution. Listening is a key mark of respect for Gen Z. When you listen, they will perform.
Keep them busy; they are capable of producing a lot and quickly, so get them to do that. Their capabilities are extensive — they are knowledgeable about a lot of things. They are resourceful and look for answers online. They are never stuck for long and will look for solutions or create them.
Accept that they have a different way of seeing things. They will come up with some weird and wonderful stuff, things that their elders have never even heard of. They know of time-saving apps. Accept them.
Recognize their work. Gen Z employees enjoy being appreciated, but they move on quickly. Once the job is done well and they have been thanked, they are ready to get on with the next thing.
Avoid devaluing them as an individual. This is more chrushing to a Gen Z employee than others. They understand the environment and the need for a better world. They know that it takes everyone to make it work and personal attacks and insults do not generally register in their lexicon. Care and nurture will get the results.
The 25 to 39 category is the most fragile, and even more so if they are in management roles themselves. So how do we manage these folks? It is a minefield, but here are some key thoughts.
Status counts and whatever contributes to status is important, so in managing Millennials it is important to keep in mind their title. They need a title that they feel reflects their value. Let them choose their own title; it will accelerate results.
They expect precise compensation. Whatever you commit to must be carefully delivered. Write things down and ensure that you have mutual understanding on it.
Reporting systems should be set up agreed upon to ensure that you have clear reporting for progress and delivery. There is a tendency for priorities to be confused or disregarded. Deadlines are critical, as are interim project meetings.
Give them some latitude, and allow things to be done their way. Avoid competing over style — it is a complete waste of energy. When they feel that they are able to express themselves, they will perform much better.
Certificates, awards, trophies and other forms of public recognition work well with this group. It builds self-esteem and establishes their value to the group and to others.