Generation Z: How to Show Older Employees There’s Nothing to Fear

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When millennials entered the workforce, they rocked the foundations of most organizations. The generation was so unlike those before that it took leaders and HR professionals longer to get a handle on these new employees.

Now, Generation Z is graduating college and starting their careers. Unsurprisingly, this has many older employees worried.

In fact, the 2018 Job Seeker Nation survey from Jobvite found that 27 percent of respondents feel threatened by Generation Z. If you’re not careful, this tension will turn your company culture toxic.

To help Gen Z transition smoothly into the workforce, HR professionals need to get ahead of this situation now. You need to find ways to get all employees to collaborate in a multigenerational workplace.

Here are three tips for getting older employees to not only accept, but also embrace Generation Z in the workplace:

1. Create a mentorship program

People fear what they don’t understand. Older employees know little about their new Generation Z co-workers and are unsure of how they will impact the workplace. However, by getting to know more about this new part of the workforce, experienced employees can see there isn’t a threat.

One of the best ways to create this relationship is through a mentorship program. This lets older employees guide Gen Zers and learn everything they bring to the table. Plus, by getting invested in these young professionals’ success, mentors see they’re not in a competition. When their Gen Z mentee achieves a goal, it reflects positively on both parties.

Try to pair up employees who have similar backgrounds or goals. This way, the mentor and mentee can start their relationship on common ground. It also means the mentor will be better equipped to provide relevant advice. They can show their mentee how to avoid mistakes and obstacles they’ve already faced.

2. Incorporate Gen Z Into training

One of the reasons older employees feel threatened by Gen Z is because of their up-to-date tech skills. These young professionals are true digital natives and have enviable tech savvy. As an HR professional, it’s your job to make Gen Z’s skill set an advantage for their co-workers, as well.

Get Gen Zers involved in your company’s training program. Ask for their input about where there are holes and opportunities to better educate others about tech. It can also be helpful to have them take on a teaching role so older employees see that Gen Zers want to help them improve.

For example, many veteran employees are behind the eight ball when it comes to new social media platforms. Have a team of Gen Z employees prepare a presentation about popular sites and how to use them. Then everyone can brainstorm about better ways to use these tools to help the company succeed.  

3. Revisit career paths

Often, when a person feels threatened, it’s because they no longer feel secure in their role at the company. They’re worried that there’s no longer a future for them. So, when a younger generation enters the workforce, they think it’s only a matter of time before they’re replaced.

Show older employees that this isn’t the case. Sit down with them and have a discussion about their career path and goals. Revisiting the topic will help them see that the organization values them and wants them to stick around.

Also, never assume that an employee’s career path is the same as it was years ago. As an individual grows, their aspirations change. For instance, an employee who was once interested in management now might want to transition to a different department. Making a concrete plan to help them achieve their goals will put their minds at ease about being replaced by Generation Z.


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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.