“Changing” Gen Z Starts With Us

This post was written by Kendra Raguckas, Senior Director of Learning at The Latimer Group.

We hear many of our senior executive clients say, over and over, that their Gen Z employees are lacking certain critical communication skills that are required for business success. We get asked all the time to help bridge this gap, and coach them towards better communication.

And, at the same time, we also always hear that Gen Z wants to make a difference, have a say, and wants to have a seat at the table.

On one hand, we hear that they are lacking certain skills. On the other hand, they want to be heard. So, something has to give.

Now, the idea that the new generation is not ready to thrive in the business world is not necessarily a new idea. And if you are on TikTok you have undoubtedly stumbled upon one or two generational comedy videos. Throughout history, whenever a new generation joins the workforce there is often a concern from previous generations about how to get them to conform. In our experience the origin of the issue stems from the word “conform.” Each generation wants conformity to their ways of doing things from younger generations, and each generation resists conforming to the prior generations’ expectations.

However, we are aware that Covid-19 has exacerbated this issue of generational divides, with forced remote work environments. We have all hired new employees during this time and have struggled to integrate them into the culture. But now that many companies are returning to the office part-time, perhaps more, it is shining a light on where we may have failed during their on-boarding. Since they are no longer “new” we have higher expectations of them.

If you are a current business leader, don’t ever forget that you need your younger colleagues to be able to perform. You want them to be productive, and you want them to want to stay at your company long enough to give you an ROI on your investment in them. And at the same time, they need you to get established in their careers. You need them. And they need you. So, our recommendation is to to find some middle ground, and not always try to push them to meet your predetermined expectations. Rather we encourage you to strive to partner with them. Every employee need guidance and mentoring if they are going to develop and become a productive part of the team.

For those of you who have been following The Latimer Group for a while, you know one of our primary principles is to be authentic in your communication. AND, at the same time, we encourage the people we coach to also be “appropriate” to the moment, the culture, etc. Great communicators are both authentic, and appropriate.

But the problem with the concept of “appropriate” is that it is always a sliding scale. It is never static, always dynamic. Which means what is “appropriate” can, should and will evolve over time. Let it evolve. Don’t fear that evolution. Within our Latimer organization, many elements of our culture have evolved over the years, especially since March of 2020. Which means that our definition of “appropriate” is a lot different now than it was even a few years ago.

So, if we are going to let things evolve, and if we are going to be good partners with our young employees, then here are three things to think about:

  1. Be crystal clear about your expectations: Identify, explain, and document what is non-negotiable. No one can meet expectations if they do not know what they are.
  2. Create clear development plans: Partner with them to create and document their development goals. When we own our development, we will be more committed to it. There needs to be mentoring and training but allow them input, so they are also invested.
  3. Give regular feedback: Schedule regular feedback discussions and start a dialogue about what is working and what isn’t.

If you are the leader of your organization, then you have a responsibility to create a culture that will draw talented people to you and make them want to stay.

Good luck!

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Kendra Raguckas

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.