Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

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And in most cases, it is small stuff.

Many of today’s business leaders grew up in structured company environments where conformity and adherence to rules of the road were critical to your career. Those who bristled at being a “company player” were weeded out since being “different” was not always valued. The larger and more complex the company, the more rigid they tended to be. Perform well inside of that box and you could be rewarded with career advancement and a limited set of perks.

The new workplace with Gen Z making up around 25% of employees by 2025 is clearly different.

Gen Z in the workplace

To be fair, Gen Z’ers entered the workforce under the challenges of the pandemic and the emergence out of the Great Recession. With the shift to remote work, younger employees want to be in a position to control their schedule (or at least have some flexibility). A 9 – 5 every day routine does not match their expectations, particularly if the work is, well, routine. These are not lazy or unmotivated folks; they just want to do more interesting and stimulating work—and do it when they want to do it. The days when the boss walked the halls of the office to see who was at their desk at 6:30 or 7 PM (“bed check” we used to call it) are over. Work/life balance takes center stage.

Technology really has changed everything. Zoom meetings have replaced conference calls and improved collaboration. Those companies with lots of interdependencies have invested in project management software, and not just for tech companies. This builds on the trend toward transparency and the availability of more resources in the workplace. Having grown up on social media sites where few topics are off limits, Gen Z folks readily share their feedback and feelings about lots of things—mental health and stress, diversity, giving back and being a good global citizen—in addition to career and compensation-oriented topics. Be ready to demonstrate that you are more than just talk—that you are taking action to address their priorities and concerns.

Two other outcomes resulting from the ubiquity of technology for Gen Z’ers is the need for variety, as they get bored easily and seek out challenges where they can see the impact of the work that they do. Patience tends not to be their strong suit and instant gratification scores high. The second shift is the reliance on social media and user-generated content as a source for news, opinions, rants, and raves. Even politics and all the vigorous dialogue that goes with it, especially in an election year, is conducted digitally.

Implications for employers

The competition for the best talent will only be getting tougher as demand exceeds supply. And Gen Z’ers are more willing than older employees to switch gears and change jobs, particularly if the new place is closer to home, offers more work life balance, and has more interesting work. Here again, technology has made it easier to test the waters and see what is out there.

Here are the top skills you should be looking for in your Gen Z employees:

Advanced digital tools and technology skills

Comfort with and expertise in data and analytics

The capacity to grow business management skills as they mature

Design and creative skills to create unique and compelling solutions

Beyond having a decent set of technologies in your workplace, you will want to consider ways to personalize your training and development programs. Maybe have apprentice spots available. Create a formal mentor program with Millennials and Boomers, bringing along the new hires. Reimagine your career paths for more variety that will be attractive to Gen Z’ers and help you match talent to the best projects or opportunities. Look at your employee engagement initiatives to be sure that you are inclusive, open, and flexible.

Then don’t get excited about their dress or hair color(s), their tendency to wear headphones and listen to music while in the office, their “values first” and “show me” attitudes. After all, that is largely the small stuff.

At Damen Jackson, we have the benefit of 24 years of embracing change and transformation in marketing working with almost 800 clients. And, yes, we have some Gen Z folks on our team.

Importantly, we stand ready to help you grow your teams and your business. We are deep thinkers with the courage to tackle challenges large and small. Whether you want an outside in look at your brands or your workplace, our fresh eyes are there to supplement and augment the experience of your leadership team while multiplying the odds of discovering meaningful new revenue growth or sources of competitive advantage. And we can help shepherd any special project team to the finish line.

Let’s get some great work done!

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