Young Managers Need to Learn About Generational Differences Too.
I’ve written before about how people come for the organization’s mission but leave because of their manager when it comes to hiring and retention. That’s why it’s so critical for organizations to constantly monitor how they are training their managers–especially their middle managers and supervisors–because it’s an overlooked area where retention can be won or lost, especially with Gen Z.
The problem arises because CEOs and entrepreneurs tend to underinvest in middle managers. It’s not sexy. While they are happy to spend on top executive and sales talent, areas where they can see a clear line to value creation, they neglect their middle-management layer.
In the young days of a company, this makes sense. But as you grow and scale–and the distance between the frontline and the executives widens–you need to add the additional middle-management layer to keep the organization glued together. I’ve found that this typically happens when an organization reaches 50 to 100 people, since, ideally, each manager has only seven people reporting to them.
But if you fail to train your middle managers–by arming them with the tools they need–you’re risking the future growth of your business. That’s especially true these days when you might have generational conflict brewing between your supervisors and your frontline workers.
The Generational Shift w/ Gen Z
We live in an exciting time, in which multiple generations of employees–Boomer, Gen-X, Millennials, and Gen-Z–are all working together. While much has been made about the differences between the older generations and the Millennials, something else is getting overlooked: Millennials and Gen Z are not the same. While I am speaking in generalities–there will always be individual outliers–these two generations are not the same. Yes, they share some similarities, like seeking purpose in their work. But there are also some significant differences in how they are wired for the way they work–and that poses some potential problems inside your organization.
That’s because you likely have Millennials managing Gen Z employees. And unless you help your Millennials understand how they need to interact with their Gen Z colleagues, you could run into difficulties with retention.
When it comes to Gen Z in the workplace, there are three areas where Millennials and Gen Z generally diverge.
1. Groups Versus Individuals
As a group, Millennials are intensely collaborative. As a rule, they enjoy working in groups and chasing shared outcomes. That makes them excellent team players.
On the other hand, members of Gen Z are much more competitive. They like to win and chase personal achievements.
If you have a group-minded Millennial manager and a self-oriented Gen Z employee reporting to them, therefore, you might have the seeds for conflict.
Fortunately, that’s something we can overcome. But we need first to acknowledge the difference and understand it.
2. Frequency of Feedback
There have been a lot of articles written over the past decade about how Millennials need frequent feedback. It’s important to them. What’s interesting is that another name for Gen Z might be the “iGeneration” in that they have grown up with computers in their hands. For them, frequent feedback is not enough: They want constant feedback. After every meeting, they want to know how they did–good, bad, or otherwise. They want to know because they want the opportunity to adapt and improve themselves.
So, that means Millennial managers might need to elevate even their own ideas of how often feedback should be shared.
3. Socially Connected
Millennials are social creatures. Their default nature is to gather and hang out, maybe for drinks or with a pizza party. It’s how they prefer to communicate.
Gen Z is different in that it’s ubiquitous that half or even more of their friends are virtual. They may never have met any of them in person. That’s why, as digital natives, they prefer to communicate by text or instant message rather than in person.
That can be a difficult switch for Millennial managers, but it’s a critical area for them to be aware of when communicating with their team.
Building Team Dynamics
The critical point is that while it might be easy for older guys like me to assume that all young people are the same, they’re not. Significant generational differences are going on inside your organization. You need to help ensure that everyone–especially that overlooked but critical layer of middle managers–understands those differences and finds ways to overcome them. That’s how your organization can continue recruiting and retaining talent over the long run.