Ep. 556 – HMRP Monday Edition: Tips For Managing Your Gen Z Employees

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You’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. I’m Jamin Brazil, your host. 

Support for the Happy Market Research Podcast and the following message comes from Michigan State’s Marketing Research Program & HubUX. 

This is episode 556.  And, 20 years ago today, according to Alexa, Thong Song by Sisqo was the number one song in the US. 

Enjoy!

Alright, let’s make this a kick ass day!   

Management Tips for Gen Z (Part Two)

This is the second installment of a 2-part series on the topic of “Tips For Managing Your Gen Z Employees”.

In May 2022, Chris Hauck, founder of HauckEye and Erin Sowell, founder of Thoughtful Research gave a talk at QRCA’s annual event in San Diego titled: “Connecting Generations”. Their work analyzed how each generation views both itself and other generations. 

You can find links to both of their profiles at the end of this blog post. I know both of them would love the opportunity to engage with you about their research on generational differences.  

How Gen Z Views Themselves 

According to Chris and Erin’s report, Gen Z views themselves as: 

  • Tech savvy
  • Open minded
  • Creative
  • Fast learners
  • Detail oriented

How Other Generations View Gen Z

All generations see Gen Z as Tech Savvy. However, there are some negative views held by older generations when describing Gen Zers including… 

  • Entitled
  • Lazy 
  • Needy
  • Moves too fast
  • Narcissistic

While all of us have struggled with scrutiny from older generations, things are different today. We are in the tightest labor market in the last 30 years. This tight labor market means companies are having to cator more and more to employees wants, needs, and even desired. Simply put, if your first job was in the 80s, 90s or early 2000s, you probably had to do a lot of adapting to your work environment. 

For me, Gen X had to conform to the value system of Boomers. The outcomes where on work life balance. In fact, Gen X had to get approval for doctor appointments during the workday. 

My first job was in the mid 90s. We were required to get approval for even a 30-minute dentist appointment. And, if you were out of the office for any length of time, the minimum PTO cost was half a day. 

Not only were corporate policies prioritizing time at work, Boomers and Gen Xers saw working long hours as a badge of honor. In fact, employees would expect social shaming by peers and managers alike if you had several doctor visits in a month. 

The advice I was given by my dad was, “If you want to be the best employee, be the first in and last out every day.”

Compare that to this TikTok of a Gen Zer explaining to their boss about what their boss should care about: 

BE WARNED! Don’t be offended. Being offended because a generation has a different value system is a trap. Listen to what the Gen Zer is actually saying. 

“You told me what to do…I did it…what’s the problem?” 

This leads to our first tip…

Tip 1: Identify What is Important (Outputs) 

As a manager or owner, you need to prioritize what you care about. Is it attendance? Is that more important than the actual deliverables? If it is, that is fine. 

You just need to be clear on what your internal expectations are. This will give you a lot more peace as a manager. 

I can’t underscore this point enough, be true to yourself. Don’t feel bad for prioritizing things like “early starts” over “work done”. 

Tip 2: Don’t Micromanage  

Let your employees have a strong influence on when the workday starts. The flip side is you also need to be clear on what work needs to be done in that timeframe. 

Remember, just because you can’t see them working at their cubicle doesn’t mean work isn’t being done. Trust your team and don’t micromanage. 

For example, if I see an employee is often offline on slack my Gen X mind says, “They are likely watching Stranger Things for the 3rd time.” And this thought can lead to mistrust and even resentment. 

Don’t give in to that. 

In my early days as CEO of Decipher, I would walk around the office to check in on people. This walk was never about making sure people were working. It is just too easy for employees to hide inactivity. Alt-Tab has always been a thing. 

Don’t over index on green bubbles that are supposed to show active status when managing remote staff.  

Tip 3: Verify Outputs 

Trust is the first half of the equation. The other half is to verify the outputs. 

If you prioritize start time, for example, please be at your computer no later than 8am every day, then track when people are not at their computer. 

How would you do that? That’s up to you. 

However, if you prioritize doing a specific task or project, then measure that. 

Here is my management framework:

  1. At the start of the quarter I set a specific goal for each direct report, e.g. number of leads generated per week, ontime project delivery, etc. 
  2. This gives each subordinate a clear picture of what they need to do and helps them prioritize their time. It also creates a clear and unbiased assessment of how they are performing. 

I then meet every two weeks for 30 minutes with my direct reports. Here is the structure of that meeting: 

  • Review stated goal vs actual performance
  • Gap analysis: 
    • If they are behind, “why?” and “what can we do about it?”
    • If they are ahead, “Woohoooo!!!!” 
  • Start: Any activity or behavior I’d like them to start
  • Stop: Any activity or behavior I’d like them to stop
  • Continue: Focus on the things they are doing well 
  • I end every one-on-one with this question, “Is there anything you need from me to do your job?”

Action: How often do you have one-on-ones with your direct reports? This will help you set the culture of measurement and accountability. 

Tip 4: Celebrate Success 

Gen Z loves recognition. Consider a small discretionary fund for managers to use for these micro celebrations.

Managers should look for opportunities to celebrate the same work milestones that would be celebrated if we were all in the office together. 

But don’t stop there! Managers should also be looking for opportunities to praise their employees for little things. 

Example: Some companies are recognizing employees with videos that celebrate workers’ contributions. These videos can be placed in the public domain like your website and social media. 

I’m on the board for a solar company who does this and it has 2 outcomes: 

  1. Attracts new talent that is in the Employee of the Month’s network. What is powerful about this is that good people attract good people. 
  2. The second benefit is that it connects with current and potential customers. By publicly recognizing employees you are making a statement about your culture. And, today’s buyers want to buy from companies that share their values. 

Qualtrics even has an award they give out for the biggest failure of the month. In an interview I did with their CMO he talked about a customer support employee troubleshooting an issue with a client. The employee had to use the bathroom and forgot to mute their phone. 

While it was embarrassing, this incident underscored the priority the company had on servicing the customer at all costs. 

Tip 5: Challenge Yourself to See the Other Side

This is really hard. We all get dug into thinking our view is the right one when the reality is there is truth on both sides. Here is an example of a post for Employees who are being taken advantage of…

Now, we have the other side. Here is a post by an owner who feels he is being taken advantage of by his employees. 

https://www.tiktok.com/@downanddirtyservices/video/7058333126245928239?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc&web_id=7078398368863520298

It is vital we try and check our biases and prejudices at the door when managing staff. I believe the single greatest super power a manager can have is adaptability. By that, I mean the ability for you to not apply a cookie cutter approach to managing staff. We are all unique and, today, we expect to be managed as such. 

For Further Consideration 

If you’d like to learn more about the work referenced in this post:

  • Chris Hauck, founder of HauckEye. HauckEye is a marketing research consultancy providing insights through deep ethnographic and experiential research. 
  • Erin Sowell, founder of Thoughtful Research. Thoughtful Research helps businesses understand and meet the sustainability, inclusion, and wellness needs of their customers and employees. 

Some of the data for this report was gathered using HubUX, A research operation platform for private panel management, qualitative automation including video audition questions, and surveys. 

If you’d like to learn more about HubUX please reach me on social or via email at jamin@hubux.com. 

Lastly, you are always invited to attend the MRxPros’ Virtual Lunch. This is a group of UX, CX, and market researchers that meets every week for 30 minutes to do 3 things: learn one new thing, make one new friend, and have fun.

Happy Researching! 😊 


References: 

Sponsor MSMU: https://broad.msu.edu/marketing

Sponsor HubUX: https://hubux.com

Chris Hauck, founder of HauckEye 

Erin Sowell, founder of Thoughtful Research

Sisqo – Thong Song (Official Music Video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oai1V7kaFBk   

Millennials at work by PWC: https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/documents/millennials-at-work.pdf

The Science Behind Social Media’s Hold on Our Mental Health BY BRITTNEY MCNAMARA: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/the-science-behind-social-medias-hold-on-our-mental-health