Why this Houston business leader integrated Gen Z employees into his workforce
My experience hiring Gen Z has been extremely positive — though many employers have complaints about that generation.
In my experience, employers say Gen Z folks:
- Don’t have a work ethic
- Lack discipline
- Demand instant gratification
- Think they deserve attention just for being alive (because they have always had attention)
- Think they are better and smarter than their bosses
- Are happy to tell their bosses what is wrong with them
- Are overly sensitive and easily offended
- Demand freedom and “personal space”
- Won’t bother learning something they don’t think is important
In a very recent ResumeBuilder survey of more than 1,300 managers, 74 percent of respondents said they find Gen Z more difficult to work with than other generations. Of those, 12 percent said they had to fire a young worker within their first week on the job.
That’s a damning list of negative attributes, especially to mature generations who were raised to believe the world didn’t owe them a living. Many older hiring authorities expect their team to behave the way they did 30 or so years ago. Namely, that new people at the firm should work hard to demonstrate that the company is their most important priority and, in return, they can patiently earn promotions over time after having proved themselves.
My firm manages over half a billion dollars for a short list of individuals and institutions. Every client is extremely valuable to us. Why would we ever hire Gen Z employees who, according to all the negative descriptions above, might endanger our client relationships?
Truth be told, I haven’t found the negative stereotypes about Gen Z to be accurate. I actually like hiring them and helping them integrate with our current mix of employees.
I think Gen Z employees expect their leaders to give deeply of themselves because they want the same thing we all want: to work for a company with a meaningful mission statement that gives a sense of purpose and significance to its employees. They want to see values, not the values hanging on the wall as a beautiful display, but the kind that actually set the tone for daily service, team commitment, and performance. They are sharp enough to immediately recognize when a company does not practice what it preaches. If they are disillusioned, they’re not going to perform as well and maybe they’ll leave.
Gen Z, like all of us, is hungry to learn what they need to know, especially when the knowledge will truly help them make an impact at their job. They are looking for valuable guidance instead of the “party line,” and they respond well to honesty and integrity (also known today as transparency and authenticity).
If a smart, talented professional at the start of a promising career is disillusioned with your company, you should first ask yourself if you’re using them as a disposable resource, or if you’ve truly invested in them by promoting a company culture that is honest, open, and transparent.
Problems with Gen Z in the workplace may be more complex than just pointing a finger at the youngest employees while waving a list of stereotypes. For example, Gen Z employees are said to be overly sensitive and easily offended. Maybe that’s another way of saying they expect to give something valuable for the salary they earn, and they (like all of us) want to see and understand a clear path to advancement. “Do it because I said so,” doesn’t work because they’ve seen so many of their parents give years of effort to a system that downsized them without warning.
When a company’s leaders fire an entire department over the weekend, they may have helped improve the bottom line, but they also have shaped the way that incoming generations look at the workplace. Because up-and-coming professionals have seen the bosses of today reducing benefits and eliminating pensions, they are logically asking for more genuine attention and commitment from their leaders.
On our team, we find that a great first step to changing that cycle is to listen to Gen Z hires, not because of their age, but because all members of the team have a stake. When our leaders’ actions show a genuine encouragement to share opinions and insight, it’s not just Gen Z workers who flourish. When the leaders of a firm model integrity in an environment that offers a clear path forward in their employees’ careers, all members of the team, regardless of generation, will feel the loyalty that is the natural response to respect and dedication.
There will always be other jobs at other companies offering various levels of pay. When you provide your team with a meaningful place in a growing organization that comports itself in a way that makes the members proud to be associated with it, then suddenly a few more dollars of salary at another workplace doesn’t look as attractive.
I just hired another member of Gen Z, and I’m looking forward to working with this young employee who will undoubtedly have a fresh perspective and hard questions. You might enjoy a similar experience if you stop thinking of them as a stereotype and instead honestly exchange ideas. Let your daily discipline and commitment to high ideals give them an example that they can look up to and admire.
I’m reminded of this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
Gen Z offers a chance for all of us to improve how we do business. Take advantage of it and teach them well.
Christopher Manske is a Certified Financial Planner and president of Houston-based Manske Wealth Management. An author, his next book, Outsmart the Money Magicians, is expected this fall with McGraw Hill.