the shape of leadership

Thriving Together

How to Lead Gen Z in the Workplace

Kent Ingle on November 13, 2023

When a new generation enters the workplace, it requires substantial adjustments for leaders and workers alike. So, it’s no surprise when that generation is dubbed the most difficult to work with. This happened when Millennials started their careers in the 2000s, and now we are seeing it with Generation Z.

A recent survey by found that 74% of managers said Gen Z is more challenging to work with than any other. Managers explained this was due to a lack of technological skills, motivation, effort and poor communication.

Gen Z members entering the workforce aren’t a new dilemma. But with growing numbers (nearly 30% of the workforce is expected to be Gen Zers by 2025), it’s coming to the forefront of conversations.

Starting a new career isn’t always easy. You can probably remember your first job after college. It took determination, passion and a lot of patience. It also required the willingness of a leader to guide and mentor you in the right direction.

As you welcome more Gen Zers onto your teams, below are three ways you can support their transition into the workplace.


Create a Sense of Belonging

For the first time in history, there are currently five different generations in the workforce — from the Silent Generation to Gen Zers.

You have most likely seen the Reels on Instagram characterizing and imitating each generation’s attributes in the workplace. While they can give a good laugh, the Reels also teach the importance of what makes each generation unique and what it values. Many Gen Zers want a sense of purpose and belonging.

To improve motivation and morale among younger adults, start by cultivating genuine relationships with them. A sense of belonging will help them be more dedicated to what your organization is trying to accomplish. It will also give them the confidence to approach you if they have questions or concerns.

Work on building strong relationships among your team members. Encourage moments of what we used to call “water cooler chats,” leaving time before or after meetings for people to talk about life. Cultivate a team where everyone feels valued and free to speak up, so their voices are heard. You will find the relationships they build can empower and embolden them in their roles.

As 1 Corinthians 3:9 says, “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

The heart of leadership is relationships. When you foster relationships among your team members, you help build their confidence — and their loyalty.


Listen to Understand

Everyone has those days when it can be difficult to concentrate and grit through work. There are probably a million other things you want to do, instead of what you need to get done. But when issues regularly occur with someone you work with, it can be alarming.

A lack of motivation isn’t necessarily due to incompetence or laziness. Rather, it could result from an absence of emotional and mental commitment to an organization, insufficient confidence in one’s abilities, or feelings of being overwhelmed.

The heart of leadership is relationships. When you foster relationships among your team members, you help build their confidence — and their loyalty.

Before jumping to conclusions or getting frustrated, ask how you can help the young adults on your team flourish in their roles. Take time to listen and be engaged so you know where they need support. A decline in performance could be due to a lack of direction and understanding of what is required of them.

Communicate clear expectations, provide feedback, and check in more regularly to see how team members are doing. Set milestones to achieve, and then reward and recognize them once those goals are accomplished. Ask them to share their ideas and take initiative so they feel a sense of ownership in what you are trying to accomplish.

James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

When younger team members talk, be the first to listen. Their ideas, opinions and perspectives could be exactly what your team needs to move forward in breakthrough growth. And it may be just what they needed to feel confident, energized and motivated in their roles.


Lead Like a Coach

One key trait that sets Gen Zers apart from other generations is their desire to develop and grow in their roles. A study found that “74% of Millennial and Gen Z employees are likely to quit within the next year due to a lack of skills development opportunities.” To provide development pathways in your organization, start thinking like a coach and not a manager.

Focus on growth metrics to enhance your team members’ performances. Understand their strengths, weaknesses and motivations. Then, guide them, support them, and encourage them as they step into more responsibilities. Make sure they understand what resources are available to help them succeed.

Think of it like a mentorship role. Be committed to investing in your younger employees so that they can release their full potential. Remember how others poured into your life and how it made a difference in fulfilling what God designed you to do. Encourage them to be surrounded by other positive influences that will help them grow.

Proverbs 27:23 says, “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.”

God has placed every team member under your care, and He calls you to steward those relationships. As you guide young adults, provide them with wisdom that will provide the confidence to move in the right direction.

While pursuing my first job in broadcasting, I approached the news director and said, “I can do this. Give me a chance.” He gave me the opportunity to produce a set which eventually led to me getting hired.

Whenever we have new employees from younger generations join our team at Southeastern University, I’m reminded of starting my first job and how I want to be like the producer who gave me a chance.

Each generation brings something new into the workplace. You are bound to run into problems, encounter miscommunication, and face learning curves. But there will also be moments of pure joy from a sense of togetherness and accomplishment.

Members of the next generation are waiting for you to give them a chance. Be the first to say, “yes,” and support them so they thrive in their new roles.
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