business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Good piece in Fast Company that argues that it is an over-generalization to say that Gen Z is made up largely of people who are "quiet quitting" or doing the bare minimum at work, that they are devoid of a work ethic or any sort of ambition.

Sure, some of them are like that.  But I think it would be fair to say that some percentage of every generation has lacked a work ethic and ambition.

The larger problem, the author argues, is a "lack of interpersonal connection" and a sense of "belonging in the workplace."

From the Fast Company story:

"Gen Z currently makes up about 13% of the U.S. workforce, and many of us have never even experienced a pre-pandemic office. This means we’ve never built organic relationships around the water cooler or reached the collective effervescence of collaborating in real time. And these days, about 26% of U.S. employees work remotely. Within these percentages lies a generation of up-and-coming talent who are navigating the ambiguity of onboarding and relationship-building from the confines of their studio apartments, all while confronting the shift from campus life to virtual office.

"As the remote model of work continues to evolve, we must consider the long-term effects of such a setup on younger employees. We have to recognize the importance of these career-formative years, and identify new ways to develop and engage the next generation of leaders."

The article also offers a prescription:

"The young workers I know are hungry to work, to learn, to show off their strengths, and to become the professionals they’ve dreamed of becoming. When this excitement is neglected, it can be demoralizing, making it harder to find purpose and produce quality work.

"To prevent the precursors to quiet quitting and help young, eager talent grow, leaders must find ways to put this ambition into practice virtually.

"One solution is to expose these employees to work beyond their department or immediate team. Leaders, consider inviting these workers to new business meetings or other sessions that give insight into the company’s operations. Recommend books, articles, and other sources of learning that pertain to their skill set. Find ways to include them in public speaking or thought leadership opportunities.

"When younger employees are encouraged to participate in important conversations, they’ll feel more empowered, valued, and eager to make an impact. This builds confidence, career skills, and a motivation to continue learning. For this cohort, work is still new—which means it’s still exciting. Put this excitement into practice."

As I hang out this week with students in the Western Michigan University Food Marketing program, I can see so much potential, excitement and ambition.  But they've also been through an unusual and taxing few years, and so I think it is critical for employers to embrace the Eye-Opening possibility that they can - and should - mentor these young people in new and relevant ways.