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In recent discussions about generational differences, Millennials dominated the conversation.

However, experts such as Nancy Ahlrichs of FlashPoint say another generation is emerging. Called “Generation Z,” people born between 1990 and 1999 are beginning to enter the workplace. The introduction of Gen Z makes five generations in today’s workforce: Veterans (70 and older), Boomers (Ages 51-69), Generation X (Ages 39-50), Millennials (Ages 26-38) and Generation Z (Ages 16-25).

Ahlrichs says as with Millennials, employers should consider the characteristics and expectations of Gen Z in order to foster high productivity and retain top talent.

  • Gen Z prefers a teaching-style of leadership rather than following orders without explanation.
  • The preferred communication channels for Gen Z are face-to-face; tweets and texts; Instagram, Vine, Snapchat; and no phone calls/meetings. Interestingly, Gen Z typically does not use Facebook because that’s the social media site used by their parents and grandparents.
  • Gen Z requires feedback on a frequent and consistent basis.
  • Training for Gen Z is essential and should be offered regularly.
  • Diversity is important and change is expected by Gen Z.
  • As a result of choosing their career paths around the time of the Great Recession, the worldview of Gen Z is “realistic,” which is defined as “accepting things as they are in ​fact and not making ​decisions ​based on ​unlikely ​hopes for the ​future,” according to Cambridge Dictionaries Online. In contrast, Millennials are characterized as “hopeful.”

These traits may require some adjustment for organizational leaders who grew up prior to the invention of the Internet. Veterans and Boomers, for example, prefer group meetings and desire training only when necessary. In contrast, Gen Z likes face-to-face meetings, craves ongoing training and wants managers to serve the role of mentor.

Ahlrichs stresses that employers should contemplate adjustments in the workplace in order to maximize the rewards of employing workers from the newest generation. For additional reading on the topic, she recommends the report, “Get ready for Generation Z” by Enactus and Robert Half. A copy of the research study can be found here.

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