By: Bruce Tulgan
They’re outspoken, screen-obsessed, digital natives with short attention spans and unrealistic demands – or at least, that’s what the stereotypes would have you believe about Generation Z. Smart employers understand the reality: that Gen Z is poised to be one of the most powerful manufacturing workforces ever. Gen Zers are used to continuously learning, adapting, and applying new skills, having grown up with access to invaluable online resources such as YouTube. But this doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in, or don’t understand the value of, learning from their colleagues face-to-face.
In fact, Gen Zers value the human element more than anything else in a job.
That insight comes from the survey conducted by our intern team this summer, reflecting the opinions of 4,093 Gen Zers: The Voice of Generation Z: What Post-Millennials Are Saying about Work. When asked to rank job factors such as flexibility, relationships at work, and creative freedom on a scale of least important to most important, 27% of Gen Z respondents stated that “supportive leadership” was something they “would not take a job without.” This further reinforces the findings of a Gen Z survey conducted by Door of Clubs, which stated that mentorship is the workplace benefit valued nearly as much as healthcare.
Hundreds of respondents to our survey chose to elaborate further on their job values in the form of open-ended responses, and many touched again on the value of the human element. One of the most prominent common themes was the desire to feel “respected” at work by both leaders and coworkers.
“I want to be happy at my job. And the more people who show that they actually care about my wellbeing, the happier I’m gonna be there,” said Dani, one of the Gen Zers interviewed after the survey.
“My supervisor was a good guy. He definitely took the time to sit down with us,” said Trevor, another interviewee. He would “sit in the intern office, where none of the other supervisors would go,” he elaborated further, noting how that distinguished this boss from other supervisors Trevor was required to work with while on an internship.
But Gen Zers don’t just recognize the benefits of supportive leadership and positive coworker relationships for themselves: there is a ripple effect that benefits both the work and your customers.
“My boss was incredible. He was caring, he cared about all the employees. He empowered us,” said Gen Zer Julia. And that meant, “everybody was happy, positive” which “made the customers happy, too.”
“You want to have a good relationship so that you can build a good product,” is how Gen Zer Evan views the importance of the human element in his work. “I think that’s just one of the things you need to do to make something happen.”
So, what is the takeaway for employers in manufacturing?
Make sure that you build a winning culture of highly-engaged management. That means having leaders who support employees, especially the newest youngest employees, in order to help them achieve success in their jobs and careers. Managers need to engage in frequent, ongoing, 1-on-1 conversations with their direct reports if they want to adequately coach, problem-solve, and mentor them.
Yes, this requires managers to be very hands-on. That transition might be difficult to make. But the huge benefit is that you will truly stand out as an employer who provides real support for employees to grow and develop.
About the Author:
Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an on-line training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (2009; revised and expanded edition 2016), It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007), Winning the Talent Wars (2001), FAST Feedback (1999), and the classic Managing Generation X(1995). His work has been the subject of thousands of news stories around the world. He has written pieces for numerous publications, including the New York Times, USA Today, the Harvard Business Review, Training Magazine, and Human Resources. Bruce also holds a sixth-degree black belt in classical Okinawan Uechi Ryu Karate Do. He lectures periodically at the Yale University School of Management in New Haven, Connecticut, where he lives with his wife Dr. Debby Applegate, author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning biography The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher(2006) as well as Madam: The Notorious Life and Times of Polly Adler (forthcoming).
About RainmakerThinking, Inc.:
RainmakerThinking, Inc. is a management research, training and consulting firm and the leading authority on generational issues in the workplace, founded and run by best-selling author and internationally recognized management expert Bruce Tulgan.