Now that Gen Z are now entering the workforce, employers and managers are realising the importance of adapting their communication approaches to effectively engage with this generation, writes Antoinette Oglethorpe, author of Confident Career Conversations: Empower Your Employees for Career Growth and Retention.

Unlike their predecessors, Gen Z places a higher priority on career growth and development rather than job stability. To ensure their Gen Z employees remain engaged and productive while pursuing their goals, employers must be prepared to have regular career conversations with them.

Gen Z need a predefined route with predetermined milestones

A difficulty that managers face is that Gen Z employees often seek a clear career path, similar to a GPS navigation system. They prefer to follow a predefined route with predetermined milestones. This inclination may be expected, considering that Gen Z has recently transitioned from education where clear milestones, such as exams, determine their progress by moving up to higher classes. Consequently, it is understandable that Gen Z individuals look for tangible signs of advancement, constantly asking questions like “Where is the next milestone? When will I reach the next level? Where is my career heading?”

However, the traditional concept of career progression, with its hierarchical ladder, has undergone significant changes in many organisations. If the ladder still exists, it may be less visible and more challenging to climb. In today’s world, career development is more like orienteering. Employees are responsible for determining their desired destination, understanding the environment they are in, examining the map before them, and adjusting their course as they progress.

Because of this, managers should encourage Gen Z employees to redefine career progression beyond promotions, job titles grades, and promotions. Instead, the focus should shift towards two key aspects: employability which encompasses skills, capabilities, knowledge, experiences, achievements, and personal attributes and enjoyability which refers to the personal satisfaction and fulfilment an individual derives from their work.

Effective strategies for career conversations with Gen Z employees

To have fruitful career conversations with Gen Z employees, consider the following tips:

  1. Prioritise understanding: Focus on the individuality of the Gen Z employee, their desires, and the reasons behind their aspirations. Help them cut through the noise and gain clarity about their current situation. Discuss their feelings regarding their present job and career and assist them in unburdening any negative emotions.
  2. Encourage reflection: Facilitate self-reflection for Gen Z employees. Ask them about the skills they enjoy using the most and the activities they find most enjoyable. Explore their work-related values, preferred work environment, and the type of people they enjoy collaborating with.
  3. Foster direction and clarity: Help Gen Z employees to reflect upon their true ambitions. Encourage them to define what success means to them personally. By connecting their personal values with their career aspirations, you can ignite their passion and drive their desire for development.
  4. Enhance self-awareness: Help Gen Z employees gain self-awareness by providing feedback and holding up a mirror for them to reflect upon their skills and performance. Encourage them to consider the feedback they have received from others within the organisation and identify their own strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Shift perspectives: Challenge Gen Z employees to think outside their comfort zones and consider alternative opportunities. Encourage them to explore possibilities within their current role or elsewhere in the organisation. By broadening their perspective, they can unlock new avenues for growth.
  6. Aid decision-making: Support Gen Z employees in evaluating different options and opportunities. Help them weigh the pros and cons, enabling them to make informed decisions or gain a clearer understanding of the development they require to progress.
  7. Cultivate networks and organisational understanding: Gen Z employees often require guidance in navigating organisational processes and politics. Career conversations provide an opportunity to develop an understanding of how individuals succeed within the organisation and strategise on how to raise their profile and gain visibility among key stakeholders.
  8. Encourage action: Conclude career conversations by focusing on actionable steps. Explore career development strategies that Gen Z employees can use to make progress. Encourage them to identify specific actions they can take to advance their careers.

By prioritising these factors, managers can ensure that career conversations with Gen Z employees are highly valuable both for the individual and the organisation. Approaching these conversations with a growth mindset and a genuine intent to empower employees’ career development is crucial for their effectiveness. Adequate preparation and thoughtful consideration beforehand increase the likelihood of smooth discussions that yield positive outcomes.

Antoinette Oglethorpe is author of Confident Career Conversations: Empower Your Employees for Career Growth and Retention published by Rethink Press on June 15, 2023