But let’s just take a moment to consider why emerging generations may be approaching work and trust from a different angle.
Generation Z (born 1995-2009) have grown up in a rapidly changing, technologically immersed world. A world where they don’t see geographic boundaries defining community or connection. A world of flatter structures – where they can connect with world leaders, celebrities, brands and friends through social networking platforms. A world where barriers to entry have been broken down – previously to have a job opportunity, one needed to do entry level work in an organisation – whereas today people are more empowered to market directly to their ‘followers’, embrace the gig economy and connect their skill sets with market needs (from Uber driving through to online freelance platforms)
They have been saturated with limitless options for personalised learning and entertainment – and as a result, will only give their attention to programs, people and portals that are engaging (and often entertaining), where they see the point in investing into – and where it is fun and rewarding to do so. They have become sensory engagers, expecting constant stimulation, and opportunities to be not only the consumers but also collaborators and co-creators of content. This has created an environment where they have a voice from a very young age, where they shape the narrative, and where they value a digital, virtual world as much as an offline, physical world. Amidst such rapid change, Gen Z have seen the rise of disruptive organisations and platforms, and the decline of those who have not kept pace with the change. As a result, they fear irrelevance – they place a high value on change and being in a context which is innovative and entrepreneurial so that they are not left behind. Added to all this, they have not only been exposed to unprecedented news updates about global events and are acutely aware of the broken state of the world – but they have been told they can change the world for good – and are deeply motivated to make a difference. They want their life and the investment into their careers to actually change the world.
And then we bring them into a work environment which has a well-defined hierarchical structure (and yes, where they as the new workers are far removed from the boss, from leadership, and from having a context to contribute ideas or bring in change). We give them the job descriptions that go with the entry level roles – often tedious, repetitive, and seemingly meaningless work. And Generation Z don’t stick around. This can immediately cause frustration and intergenerational tension for older generations who did work hard in this traditional way, who did the ‘boring’ jobs for years to earn their stripes, and who believe this should be the same path for emerging generations.
3 Keys to Build Trust and Engagement:
- Be genuine, authentic and relatable.
Gen Z are looking for leaders who are real, authentic, relational and genuine. They are quickly disenchanted by leaders they perceive to be fake, superior, or out-of-reach. They crave an authentic connection with their leaders, rather than a distant, removed authority figure who takes no interest in them and does not ‘speak their language’. Lucy (b. 1996) stated: “What works is when people are relatable and genuine. I think it’s easy to sort of spot people who aren’t being genuine – I think we can pick that up quite easily and it doesn’t leave a good taste in your mouth.”
- Shape a contributing culture
With Gen Z having a voice from the youngest of age, contributing to blogs, social media sites, shaping the global encyclopaedia Wikipedia through their own entries and edits, when they enter the workforce it is only natural to them to expect to contribute ideas and continue to shape processes. From team meetings where ideas and questions are encouraged from anyone and everyone (regardless of age or tenure), to innovation hackathons (encouraging people within the organisation to come up with innovative ideas and presenting them), to online platforms which capture the ideas of all team members – try to shift the culture from an expectation that the leaders need to come up with all the ideas to one where the best innovations and results can be discovered as the strengths and talents of the team intersect and are fostered together to create a greater outcome than what would be possible on their own.
- Cast a compelling vision
Gen Z will be attracted to organisations where they are impelled by a vision, and motivated to do their day to day work in a way that is connected to a greater sense of purpose and mission. Casting a vision of purpose will resonate with a deeply felt need in many Gen Zs who want to make a difference and while contributing want to be challenged and developed.