What Gen Z Wants in a Job and Expects From Supervisors | SOS Podcast

What Gen Z Wants in a Job and Expects From Supervisors | SOS Podcast

Gen Z's integration into the workforce has not been easy for many organizations; especially those in labor-intensive industries.  In this episode, host Joe White highlights job traits valued by the incoming generation and discusses characteristics they expect to see in supervisors.



The SOS podcast is a production of AEU LEAD, an organization redefining how mid and frontline managers are developed.

Joe White:
Welcome and thank you for joining us. I'm Joe White, and this is the Supervisor Skills Secrets of Success podcast. Today's episode is the 29th since our debut March 15th, 2021. It's also our first of 14 episodes scheduled for release in 2023.

As we embark on yet another year, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and thank our listeners wherever you may be. Never in a million years would I've imagined we will be reaching a global audience through this platform and certainly not this soon in our journey. The number of listeners outside the US, particularly those in Australia, New Zealand, Central America, and the Caribbean has grown exponentially. I'm humbled, honored, and most appreciative of your time and continued interest in joining us through this medium. Again, thank you.

Our topic today is a polarizing one. We're discussing Generation Z. We're going to break the topic down and focus our discussion on exactly what it is Gen Z employees value in a job and want to see in a supervisor. As per our namesake, we'll frame today's discussion on matter that highlights what mid, and frontline managers need to know about our junior most employees. That said, let's jump right into our topic.

Gen Z is our youngest generation. They're one of the largest in terms of numbers and are on track to be the most educated in history. By 2025, they'll make up one-fourth of the workforce, and by the end of this decade, a third of it. Born between 1997 and 2012, they're the most diverse generation to ever enter the workforce. In the US, 47% are ethnic minorities. They're the first digital natives and have never experienced a period whereby instant access to real-time information wasn't available. On average, Gen Z spends more than three hours each day on social media, and over half spend 10 hours or more on electronic devices. While clearly connected, they're often referred to as the loneliest generation. Only 45% feel their mental health is very good or excellent, and most struggle with stress and anxiety, and for some, depression.

As for what Gen Z values, they want to be part of an inclusive and diverse culture. Making a contribution to society is important to them and helps explain why meaningful work is something they look for in jobs. Gen Z values collaboration expects feedback and has a very relaxed view of authority. As for technology, they view it as essential and look to it as the starting point for problem-solving. In terms of employment, gen Z is income-motivated. Pay is important to them. They want variety, work-life balance, independence, and flexibility. As for dislikes, long hours, rude customers, and poor management top the list. They want access to their supervisor, input into decisions impacting their job, continuous and ongoing learning opportunities, and transparency.

As for what Gen Z wants in a supervisor, they want to work for supervisors they know and trust. Rapport and camaraderie are important. Integrity and authenticity are traits they expect to see in management, and most won't stick around if it's not present. Gen Z wants to be coached, not managed. They expect routine and ongoing feedback and will seek it out if it's not provided. As for what Gen Z absolutely doesn't want in a supervisor, it's old school management by decree, my way, or the highway leadership styles. Authoritative or autocratic management practices may have worked in the past. They won't work with our next generation of workers. It's important to remember we live in an era whereby the workforce is of utmost importance. Without employees, you can't serve a customer, and without customers, you can't survive.

As a firsthand account to demonstrate the importance of today's workforce, we don't have to look very far. In the city that I live in, more than 75 restaurants have closed within the past 18 months. Many were family-owned and had been in business for decades. Most cite their inability to maintain needed staffing as the primary cause for closure. The unfortunate reality is that the labor market is both complex and difficult to navigate. The forces driving it will get worse and not better throughout the remainder of this decade. Any organization wanting to improve employee recruitment or retention must focus on improving the employee's experience. As it specifically relates to Gen Z, if they work for you, it's by choice. If they stay, it's because of the experience you provide.

Knowing what Gen Z looks for in a job and wants in a supervisor is an important first step. That said, doing what's necessary to provide a favorable experience is what matters most. For supervisors wanting to work more effectively with Gen Z, here's several suggestions for consideration:


1. Get to know them.

As we've said numerous times before, building rapport with employees is important. This is especially true for a next generation of workers. Get to know them, find out what's important to them, and open lines of communication needed for dialogue and collaboration.


2. Give them challenges or problems to solve.

In the past, training strategies primarily involved sharing information with employees and measuring short-term retention through administered test. This practice had marginal impact at best and did little for the long-term development of employees. With Gen Z, challenge them to solve problems commonly experienced in the workplace. Doing so results in application and analysis of solution strategies, both involving far more effective learning experiences.


3. Ask for their input.

By their very nature, Gen Z employees are collaborative. They expect dialogue and want to be involved in decisions ultimately impacting them. Whenever possible, ask for input. In doing so, recognize their frame of reference for problem-solving is much different than senior generations. While prior generations may have relied on past experiences and find comfort in the way things have always been done, Gen Z wants efficient solutions and will challenge status quo. For many, technology will be a starting point. Being open to new ideas as a manager is something they will greatly appreciate.


4. Have them mentor others.

Technology is second nature to most Gen Z employees. Not only are they comfortable with it, but they're also able to see applications involving it that are novel and new. Look for opportunities to integrate Gen Z employees into situations whereby they're able to contribute these skills in meaningful ways. Most would welcome the opportunity to assist or mentored more senior employees where technical challenges exist. By demonstrating areas of competency for the benefit of others, you'll also help dispel stereotypes surrounding the incoming generation.


5. Offer ongoing feedback.

Performance management is a tool managers use to help employees reach their maximum potential. It's feedback-based and requires ongoing collaboration and dialogue with employees for the purpose of helping them grow and improve. Whereas performance feedback has historically been provided annually or semi-annually, that won't work with our next generation of workers. Gen Z wants real-time feedback. In providing it, you should remain focused on what needs to take place moving forward. Dwelling on the past is counterproductive as many will internalize blame. When this happens, defensive mechanisms are triggered, hijacking even the best of intentions.

Like all previous generations, Gen Z will find their way into the workforce and ultimately leave their mark on the workplace. Their strengths complement existing needs many industries have for the integration of technology. This is particularly important in labor-intensive industries that have struggled to recruit and retain our youngest generation of workers. Mid and frontline managers play a significant role in more effectively onboarding and integrating Gen Z employees and shaping their experience along the way. By simply understanding what the next generation values most and wants to see in a supervisor, you are far better prepared to act on it in a more meaningful way.

Thank you for joining us. We greatly appreciate our listeners and hope you'll spread the word about the SOS podcast. If you found today's topic of value, please share a link to it with others you know of that could benefit from it as well. Also, please take a few moments to review and rank your experience involving the show with your podcast provider. For additional information about AEU LEAD or to follow us on social media. Please use the links in the show notes accompanying this episode. That's it for now. Stay safe, and thanks for listening.

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About the Author

As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.

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