How to empower line managers to better understand and engage Gen Z

May 29, 2024 | Development, Home Featured, How-to

It’s important that line managers are equipped with the knowledge and tools to support early talent. Shoshanna Davis at Fairy Job Mother offers advice.

The impact of your first manager shapes your career forever, so why do we invest thousands into the development of Gen Z starters but often forget about the development and support of arguably the most critical factor to their success: their managers?

To set apprentices and graduates up for success at work, the people managing them must be set up for success too! Experienced and less experienced line managers included.

Why is this so important now?

Managing a graduate or apprentice in 2024 is different from managing a graduate and apprentice pre-Covid and is largely different from managing more experienced employees.

The pandemic, social media, technology, and the cost-of-living crisis have created a unique combination of challenges for Gen Z that are showing up at work.

It’s vital that managers are equipped with the skills and knowledge to understand, empathise with, and deal with these.

It’s also important that they are aware of the potential generational differences between them and their graduates or apprentices regarding attitudes towards work, work-life balance, and career goals.

Here are four tips to help early careers teams empower their line managers to understand and engage Gen Z:

1. Create training with strong messaging and clear learning outcomes

Clear and consistent messaging and learning outcomes before, during, and after delivery are key for ensuring time-poor line managers are engaged from the get-go.

Clear communication that the training has been developed to help them, speak to the challenges they’re facing, make their lives easier, and ultimately be a development opportunity for them is key.

If you’re unsure of what your messaging should look like, ask your managers to truly gauge their pain points and what they need and want support on.

2. Cover the right topics and go beyond the admin

According to the latest ISE Student Development Survey, 85% of employers said they provide training for graduate managers, and 60% said they provide training for apprentice managers.

The most common training topics covered equality, diversity and inclusion training, including unconscious bias (80%), dealing with performance (80%), and induction and onboarding (78%).

But these topics don’t speak to the everyday challenges and generational differences managers face around lack of communication and motivation, anxiety and ‘wanting to walk before they can run’. They appear to cover the basics or ‘admin’ associated with managing a young person, rather than delving into who Gen Z actually are, how mental health, cost-of-living and social media challenges are showing up at work and how managers can empathise and support them.

Creating a small pilot programme to test topics, feedback and content resonance before spreading wider is beneficial.

3. Provide further resources and checkpoints to make the learning stick

We all know learning isn’t a ‘one and done’ thing and everyone has different learning styles and preferences.

It’s important to include a variety of resources that managers can review in their own time or when needed in addition to in-person or virtual training sessions.

Conversation starters, videos summarising key themes and checklists are great options. Further training and checkpoints are also recommended throughout the year/programme to ensure managers feel supported throughout not just at the start.

4. Make it fun and engaging!

Humans aren’t receptive to boring content and training – it’s not just Gen Z. If you’ve delivered training that didn’t resonate or where managers weren’t engaged, ask yourself – was the training delivered in a way that was actually interesting to them or was it another boring meeting?

Experimenting with different content types throughout training sessions, including videos, games/quizzes, break-out rooms, support groups, and even asking questions throughout and encouraging the use of a chat function for discussion or calling out in person, are simple but effective ways to create a fun atmosphere so that managers feel engaged and supported.

You may also be interested in…

Is happiness the key to high performance?

How to build behaviours that ensure young people flourish at work

Using failure as a tool for growth

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