The new hires and interns in your office are likely members of Gen Z — the roughly 86 million people born in the U.S. in 1997 and after. This influx is noteworthy since Gen Z is now officially the country’s largest demographic group, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
As with any emerging generation — and especially one coming of age at a time of rapid change — misunderstandings about Gen Z’s habits, likes and dislikes abound. As an administrative professional, knowing what makes Gen Zers tick will position you to help these young workers fit into your office and quickly contribute to company success.
Read on to separate fact from fiction, and learn how you can welcome this wave of co-workers.
Myth: Gen Z is always on the phone — and likes it that way.
Reality: While it’s true that Gen Z may not remember a time without smartphones, people in this age group value face-to-face communication, both virtual and in-person. Gen Zers love efficiency, and they’d rather tackle a list of questions in one Skype conversation than slog through a string of text messages to get the same work done. Try to meet with them face to face and encourage other team members to do the same.
Myth: Like millennials, Gen Z prefers to work on teams.
Reality: While Gen Zers can work well in groups, they tend to be self-starters who are adept at learning independently and devising solutions to problems. They’re also more private than their predecessors because they’re savvier about the negative effect of sharing too freely on the internet and social media. To make them comfortable, respect boundaries, avoid hovering and if you loop them in on your projects, feel free to let them work solo.
Myth: Gen Z needs constant supervision.
Reality: Gen Zers are masters at working just about anywhere and need only a pair of headphones to block out distractions. They don’t see the logic of being tethered to a desk to get things done. Make them comfortable by setting up areas that can serve as study nooks and collaboration lounges. Even better, advocate on their behalf for the chance to work a few hours each week outside the office. They’ll appreciate the chance to knock through their to-do lists at a local coffee shop or public park.
Myth: Gen Z loves technology.
Reality: This myth is partially true. Gen Zers grew up wired, so they use technology intuitively. They manage tasks simultaneously across multiple screens and communicate in bite-sized pieces. But their love affair with technology stops at email. This generation will use it, but they associate it with their parents. The takeaway? Keep work-related communications with Gen Zers focused and fluff-free. Look for opportunities to use videos and images to get your point across quickly — a diagram might be more effective than two pages of text, for instance. When you’re hoping for a quick response, text instead of email.
Myth: Gen Z has a short attention span.
Reality: Underestimating Gen Zers’ focus is a mistake. This generation has a well-honed ability to process information quickly. This can sometimes look like a lack of thoroughness, but it’s really a talent for efficiency. Ask your Gen Z colleagues to help with streamlining work processes, and don’t hold back from including them in long-term, strategic projects.
Myth: Gen Z wants an easy ride to the top.
Reality: Gen Zers watched their parents struggle through the economic downturn of the late 2000s. Financial security and career advancement matter to this generation. They don’t demand a quick rise in the ranks, but they do want frequent, clear direction on how to improve their performance. How frequent? Two-thirds expect feedback every few weeks. As an administrative professional, you can support management and contribute to the successful integration of Gen Z by spreading the word about the importance of honest feedback and career mentoring to these new hires.
Sharing the experience and aspirations of Gen Z with your team lays the groundwork for strong relationships when you make a new hire. By helping your colleagues and management understand this group, you’ll facilitate effective team collaboration and success.