Assistant Dean for Career Services Jamie Belinne Shares Expertise on Getting the Most Out of Younger Generations
As an employer, have you figured out how to get the most from the young people who work for you?
Ready or not, Generation Z is suiting up, preparing to leave its own stamp on business operations.
If that seems scary or challenging, chances are you haven’t yet read Jamie Belinne’s book, “The Care and Feeding of Your Young Employee: A Manager’s Guide to Millennials and Gen Z.”
In it, Belinne, assistant dean for career services at Bauer College, draws on research gathered over nearly three decades of working with young people about to enter the workforce.
Despite myths and stereotypes about each generation, the landmark events that shaped their lives do result in some common characteristics employers and recruiters would be wise to pay attention to, Belinne says.
“Individual differences trump generational differences every time. We are all unique individuals that can’t be summed up by our generation,” Belinne said.
“At the same time, the world this generation grew up in was very different than previous generations, in terms of how they communicate, how they solve problems, how they work together,” she added. “Because this generation outnumbers all generations in the workplace right now, we need to adapt.”
One common challenge for working with Gen Y (also known as Millennials, born from the late 1970s to 1990s), and Gen Z (born since the late 1990s), is that they score lower on standardized tests than previous generations when it comes to writing skills. But employers should recognize their other communication strengths as a way of drawing in today’s customers, Belinne said.
“Their ability to do visual and video presentations is far beyond anything previous generations could do because they’ve grown up doing it, and by the way, if you’re trying to communicate with your customer base, having someone who knows how to do that visual presentation is important,” she added.
“The drop in attention span goes across all generations; the average attention span of a U.S. citizen is eight seconds. If you’re not able to capture someone’s attention quickly, you’ve lost a customer, regardless of their age,” Belinne said. “Having people on board who know how to put together concise, attractive and gripping presentations is incredibly important.”
Gen Y has probably been somewhat misunderstood when employers complain about a perceived lack of motivation, Belinne added. Employers may need to more explicitly communicate “meaning” in order to reap “motivation,” she explains.
“Both Gen Y and Gen Z need to understand how the work they are doing is making a difference,” Belinne said. “The solution may be better explaining to the employees how the product you’re creating is improving the lives of your customers, or how you’re able through your work to make businesses successful, so that people can have jobs and take care of their families.”
She added: “Whatever the purpose and meaning are behind the work that you’re doing, be very clear on those values with your workers, and live those values you say your company stands for. They are very turned in to whether or not your values are legitimate, and are in line with their own.”
Another takeaway from the book concerns how Gen Z just now entering the workforce is impacted by being digitally native.
“Gen Z came into the world, and they could use their iPad before they could speak, and as a result, they’re very accustomed to just going off and doing their own thing without talking to anybody about it,” Belinne said.
“So instead of having programs to encourage people to take initiative and take risks, we need to have programs in place to explain hierarchies and boundaries,” she added. “Because they don’t see that. They see a very flat wall. And they’re more likely than any previous generation, if they don’t like what’s going on at your company, to just go form their own competitor.”
By Julie Bonnin