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Preparing the Workforce for the Arrival of Generation Z

Big Think Edge | June 12, 2018

The workforce, which primarily currently consists of Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials, is now seeing the introduction of Generation Zers. Individuals who fall into the last category are typically defined as people born in the mid- to late 1990s to the mid-2000s, which puts them in the 18-23 age range.

In recent years, organizations have been trying to provide employee training to promote diversity & inclusion training and help bridge the generational gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Here are a few of the ways organizations can integrate Generation Z into the workforce:

Recognize the Generational Differences

When trying to integrate multiple generations in the same workforce, it is a necessity to first recognize the differences between these groups.

Some of these differences arise from their respective situations growing up. For example:

  • Baby Boomers grew up before the advent of the Internet—many Millennials and Generation Zers have grown up with it (although Gen Zers have not known life without it).
  • While Baby Boomers grew up during a period of mostly predominantly strong economic growth, Millennials spent their formative years living through the housing market crash. Many Generation Zers were too young to necessarily understand its full impact.
  • The different groups were raised with different social and political values and family life situations, such as the shift from being raised in primarily two-parent households to an increasing number of single-parent households.

The latter two generations also are more socially, racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations — which can be highly advantageous for implementing effective diversity & inclusion training.

Create and Foster Mentorship Opportunities

Mentorships help employees learn from others who have more knowledge and experience in different (or specific) areas. However, these relationships do not only have to mean teaming up Baby Boomers with Generation Zers—you can pair up Millennials with Gen Zers as well. These collaborative opportunities provide individuals who fall within the different groups with a chance to interact with and learn from one another.

Foster an Environment of Meaning, Trust, and Transparency

Organizational psychologist and Big Think expert Jennifer Deal speculates that some of the clashes between generations boil down to one concern: power struggles. Older generations think they have “paid their dues” and deserve to hold the power in the workplace, whereas younger generations think they should have the power to make their own rules.

Unlike Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, Millennials and Generation Zs are less likely to want to follow orders without knowing how their efforts make an impact. However, Deal says that everyone ultimately wants the same thing:

“Everybody wants a job where they’re well paid, they do interesting work, they work with people they like and trust, they can trust their bosses, they have leaders who are credible and trustworthy, they have the opportunity to advance, to learn and develop. If a job has all of those basics, most people are pretty happy. The thing is, a lot of jobs don’t have those basics. But, if you as a manager can make sure that all of those bases are covered, your employees will be much happier because they’ll have most of the things that they want in the job.”

If there is a lack of trust in leadership, it can create cynicism, which makes implementing successful diversity & inclusion employee training initiatives more difficult.

Implement Flexible, Effective Diversity & Inclusion Training

When done well, diversity & inclusion training helps employees overcome misconceptions about other groups—regardless of whether they are different ethnically, racially, socially, in technical abilities, or in terms of age. It also helps to facilitate the development of interpersonal relationships between members of different groups — similar to the effects of mentoring, but on a larger scale — and increase employee engagement and retention.

There is no one-size fits all solution when it comes to curricula or learning formats for workplace diversity programs. This is why using video learning programs — either as standalone training or blended with in-person training — can be highly beneficial to many companies. It accommodates different learning styles and is available how and when your employees need it

Big Think Edge is a virtual resource chock full of video lessons from many of the world’s leading experts in the areas of diversity & inclusion, including Kenji Yoshino, Jennifer Brown, and Valerie Purdie-Vaughns Greenaway. Click on the image below to learn more about our Diversity & Inclusion course.

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