Navigating Career Conversations with Gen Z 

Gen Z enagagement tips for effective career conversations. Woman with pink hair sat on a sofa working.

By now, it’s well known that the COVID-19 pandemic caused lasting disruptions to work for all generations. But it had a particular impact on Gen Z.  Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z saw a significant drop in engagement. They felt less cared for, had fewer growth opportunities, and felt disconnected from the organisation’s mission. They are also more likely to be remote and actively seeking new job opportunities (Gallup Workplace, The New Challenge of Engaging Younger Workers). It’s now crucial for employers and managers to adapt their communication strategies to better engage Gen Z employees. 

Gen Z are known for prioritising career growth and development over job stability. Many Gen Z employees are looking for clear pathways for progression, almost like following a GPS for their careers. This desire for predefined routes and milestones is perhaps unsurprising. Often, their recent experience is in academia, where there are clear milestones like exams and ‘promotion’ to higher classes. 

The evolving career landscape

However, today’s career landscape is more like orienteering than a sat nav. Career development now involves individuals taking the lead, understanding their surroundings, consulting the map, and making adjustments along the way. 

In a world where work is continually changing, managers must encourage Gen Z employees to redefine career progression beyond job titles and promotions. The average person spends nearly 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime. So, it is more important to focus on the enjoyability and employability of their roles. Increasing their enjoyability means enhancing the personal satisfaction they get from work. Improving their employability means developing their skills, knowledge, experiences, achievements, and personal attributes. 

Tips for Effective Career Conversations with Gen Z 

  1. Understanding and Listening: Gen Z craves authentic connections and values feeling heard. By actively listening to their concerns and aspirations, managers can establish trust and show genuine interest in their development. This fosters a sense of belonging and engagement, crucial for retaining Gen Z talent in the long run. 
  1. Reflection: Encouraging Gen Z employees to reflect on their experiences helps them gain self-awareness and clarity about their career preferences. In a fast-paced world with endless options, developing self-insight will help them align their personal values with career goals, leading to more fulfilling and purpose-driven work. 
  1. Clarity of Direction: Unlike previous generations, Gen Z seeks meaning and impact in their careers beyond traditional success metrics. Helping them define their ambitions and envision success provides a sense of purpose, motivating them to pursue their goals with passion and dedication. 
  1. Self-Awareness: Gen Z values authenticity and transparency. By providing constructive feedback and opportunities for self-assessment, managers can empower them to recognise their strengths and areas for growth. This self-awareness is critical if they are going to make informed decisions and navigate career paths effectively. 
  1. Change of Perspective: Gen Z is known for their adaptability and willingness to embrace change. Encouraging them to explore new perspectives and opportunities fosters innovation and resilience. By supporting them to step out of their comfort zones and try new things, Gen Z employees can uncover hidden talents and discover uncharted career paths. 
  1. Decision Making: In a world inundated with choices, Gen Z can feel overwhelmed when making career decisions. Providing guidance and support in evaluating alternatives helps them make informed choices aligned with their values and aspirations. This empowers Gen Z to take ownership of their career development with more confidence. 
  1. Building Networks: Gen Z places high value on collaboration and community. Navigating organisational dynamics and building professional networks are essential skills for career progression. By fostering a deeper understanding of workplace culture and politics, managers can empower Gen Z to leverage relationships and seize opportunities for growth. 
  1. Action Planning: Gen Z thrives on action and tangible results. Concluding career conversations with actionable plans provides them with a roadmap for success. By outlining clear steps and setting achievable goals, managers can empower Gen Z to take initiative and drive their own development journey. 

Creating an inclusive culture for career growth

By understanding and addressing the specific needs of this generation, managers can cultivate a supportive and inclusive workplace environment where Gen Z talent can thrive and contribute their best. Approaching these discussions with a growth mindset and a genuine intent to empower career development is key to their success.  

Such conversations rely on powerful questions that keep the focus on the employee, help them reflect and empower them to take ownership of their career development. That is what our Career Conversation Toolkit has been designed for. Find out more about our Career Conversations Programmes for managers and employees, which help organisations to maximise performance, whilst employees maximise their career in line with the goals of the organisation.

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