Gen Z is known as the fastest-growing workforce in America right now. And although many employers might feel daunted by the influx of new workers who bring with them alternative thinking and work habits, new research and expert direction can help call center managers prepare now to create a welcoming environment.
My company recently conducted a study to find out what Gen Z expects at work, and using our findings, I have developed five tips to help call centers succeed with Gen Z workers:
1. Create a Culture of Regular Communication
Growing up with smartphones and messaging apps, Gen Zers have developed an expectation for frequent and even instant communication. Our study found that almost half of Gen Z workers expect feedback at least weekly, and nearly all expect regular communication in some way. With that in mind, the best place for a call center manager to start building trust and loyalty is by establishing a pattern of regular communication—both positive and negative.
This communication can be versatile—it could be in a quick swing by their desk, in an email or in a regularly scheduled one-on-one. Give them a chance to ask questions and share their thoughts. Make check-in conversations a dialogue, helping your employee identify problems and solutions for themselves. Above all, sincerity goes a long way with Gen Z.
2. Play to Their Entrepreneurial Strengths
We’re seeing that Gen Z is one of the most competitive and entrepreneurial generations ever. Although they are joining the workforce with less work experience than generations before them, 88% say they are willing to work harder and longer hours to meet their goals. Call centers can use this competitive spirit to their advantage. Perhaps you create an internal competition alongside a motivating incentive program; or you publicly call out and reward reps for hitting personal bests in various metrics. Engage your customer service reps in greater responsibility and leadership opportunities to challenge them. Then, bring it full circle with clear communication and recognition around how their work directly impacts the department or company.
Ensuring that Gen Z feels impactful at work will evoke their entrepreneurial spirit as well. “Corporate America” could easily take a backseat for Gen Z workers who grew up witnessing peers launch companies and personal brands on YouTube, Instagram, Kickstarter and more. The way call centers large and small will attract strong, innovative workers is by giving them an entrepreneurial experience. Show your Gen Z employees that they can be just as creative, learn just as much, still be “their own boss” in many things, and be passionate about the work they do. Our study found that 75% of Gen Z workers expect promotions within 12 months of working at a company. Instead of looking at this through the traditional approach to promotions, consider advancing them as entrepreneurs. Give them more responsibility and accountability, put them in charge of projects and let them run with their own ideas to exercise that can-do spirit.
3. Steer Clear of Fear
Our findings show that the number one thing guaranteed to make a Gen Zer quit their job is a boss who manages through fear. Is your call center victim to this? Are managers primarily concerned with awards and accolades? Are they addicted to micromanaging employees and controlling every aspect of production? Have they created a culture of “friend vs. foe” where employees are put against each other? If so, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Next to fear-based management, 20% of Gen Zers said they would be compelled to leave a company if a boss didn’t give credit where credit was due or has unrealistic expectations. Interestingly, both aspects are strongly correlated with fear-based or dictator-like management. So, with 75% of voluntary turnover attributed to poor employee-manager relationships, it’s no question that managers could drastically impact company culture by making simple adjustments to their leadership style.
4. Develop Decision-makers
The vast majority of Gen Z want to be managers someday, and they know having strong technical skills alone won’t be enough to succeed. Two of Gen Z’s top concerns at work is not being “good enough” for their job and not being able to make decisions. Oftentimes, low confidence finds employees in their comfort zone—technical skills, in this case—and shying away from uncomfortable situations where soft skills are developed. Managers will need to take a leading role in developing Gen Z’s confidence and encouraging them to step away from their screens for some interpersonal, face-to-face development.
Start first by building their confidence. Use their strong technical skills to bolster and develop their soft skills. For example, 77% of Gen Zers said they are willing to mentor older co-workers that might be more unfamiliar with technology. Once your employees start to feel more confident in their contribution and abilities at work, they will naturally be more open to stepping into roles that develop soft skills such as decision-making, strategic thinking and coaching.
The ability to make decisions quickly and effectively is one of the primary indicators of success. Create a culture of coaching and communication that uses a shared language and goals that can guide your employees through the decision process. At InsideOut, we help Fortune 1000 companies establish a program of coaching based on the GROW model. It enables participants to develop focus around their goals, identify blind spots, create alternatives, craft and choose a plan, and take action and ownership. These soft skills enhance an individual’s ability to solve problems, identify solutions on their own, and more effectively receive and implement feedback from others.
5. “Coach” Them to Success
More than 75% of our survey respondents said that their boss’s ability to coach is important to them—with even a quarter saying that coaching is the most important thing a manager can do. And with many of Gen Z workers looking to hold management positions at some point in their career, they are looking for bosses who can effectively set that example and get them there.
What does a coach look like? We often think a good manager equates with a good teacher—constant information download and training. However, a coach prioritizes personal development and discovery. A coach will sit down with a “coachee” and help them identify problems, solutions and next steps. The employee is given freedom paired with a few boundaries to discover the best solutions and steps to achieve the goal. As a result, the employee learns to not only work with a coach and develop personal accountability at work, but they start to coach themselves. We see better decision-makers, strategic thinkers and self-driven employees when companies create a culture of coaching at every level.
All Signs Point to Positive Changes
While Gen Z comes with its own thinking and expectations for work, in the grand scheme of things, their desires are pointing to positive changes in the workplace. They are asking for coaches, entrepreneurial opportunities and accountability to make an impact to your bottom line. Make the most of this up-and-coming generation by preparing now. Any transition is tricky, but with the right research and advice, you’ll be able to recruit top Gen Z talent, empower that talent to thrive in your company, and set them up for success throughout the rest of their career.