Doesn’t it feel like Gen Y have been the up-and-comers in business for an incredibly long time? Their demands for new ways of thinking disrupted the status quo, and every other week, an article runs on what industries Millennials are killing next, from napkins to diamonds.
However, Millennials are no longer newcomers. They’re here. They’ve been here. The oldest Gen Y turned 40 this year, and the very youngest has been in the workforce for a few years already. For years, decades even, “Millennials” have felt like a never-ending generation, relentlessly entering the business world fresh-faced and unruly.
And while we continued to treat the term “Millennial” as this all-encompassing name for anyone younger, we missed out on the following generation’s entrance into the workforce—Gen Z. Our constant discussions revolving around “these Millennial kids” have made us fail to realize that Gen Z is already here, and they’re even more vocal than their former new-millennium counterparts.
That being said, Gen Z is not here to needlessly tear apart your organizational culture. Gen Z is willing to work and fight for what they believe is right, and if the company they work for doesn’t match up with their beliefs, they will either try to change it or leave. They’re creative, inventive, and want to deeply understand the organizations they work for.
Gen Z craves transparency and openness throughout their professional relationships. According to Spotify’s Next Culture 2020 study, “A sizable 90% of Zs across the U.S. told us that they love understanding how ideas are born, and that doing so makes them feel a part of the creative process.” They want to know what businesses stand for and why certain practices take place.
Still, understanding those you lead is not exclusively an older-generation issue to conquer. Effective leadership is a universal topic for people in all sorts of leadership positions. Younger generations may also be in leadership positions over older generations—and they need to understand their followers just as well.
Adapting your leadership to fit the interests of your perhaps-younger employees isn’t “giving in to their demands.” By definition, leaders have followers. A leader who does not adapt to their followers will not stay a leader for long (and we’ve got a whole book about that).
Instead of figuring out why these “up-and-coming Millennials” entering the business world are asking for so many changes, it’s time to step back and recognize that Millennials have been in your workforce. Both Gen Y and Z are not generations to “prepare for” anymore. The blanket term “Millennials” no longer describes your youngest employees. This never-ending generation needs a cut-off date. They’re here, and they’ve been craving intentional change and development.