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How to Bridge the Generation Gap: 5 Ways to Manage Gen Z Employees

Managing Gen Z Employees with Confidence


Gen Z
Gen Z


According to LinkedIn, “1 in 5 Gen Zers haven’t had a single conversation with someone over 50 in their workplace in the last year.”  What???  How is it possible that this very vocal generation feels awkward speaking with Baby Boomers and GenX coworkers?  The research goes on to say it is up to the older generations to make the first move and this is especially true if you are an older manager trying to lead and engage Generation Z employees.

Born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, Gen Z is characterized by their digital nativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and desire for meaningful work. However, they also bring unique preferences and communication styles that can sometimes clash with colleagues who happen to be Millennials, Gen Xers or Baby Boomers.

Gen Z
Workforce Generations

Each of these generations has characteristics typically associated with their demographic:

  • Baby Boomers: Born roughly between 1946 and 1964, are known for their strong work ethic, loyalty to employers, and hierarchical communication style.
  • Generation X: Born between the mid-1960s and early 1980s, grew up during a time of significant social and economic change. They are often characterized as independent, pragmatic, and skeptical of authority.
  • Millennials (or Generation Y): Born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s; they are technology savvy and value work-life balance, collaboration, and social responsibility.
  • While Millennials and Gen Z share some common traits like their digital fluency and desire for purpose-driven work, Gen Z exhibits distinct characteristics shaped by their unique socio-economic context and technological landscape.

As Gen Z continues to enter the workforce in larger numbers, understanding how to bridge the generation gap and effectively manage this growing component becomes crucial for organizational success. It is essential for managers to be ready for the challenges of Gen Z in the workplace and provide actionable strategies for communication, engagement, and motivation.

Understanding the Gen Z Generation

Gen Z
Managing Gen Z employees

Before diving into management strategies, let’s look at the key characteristics of Gen Z. Unlike their predecessors, Gen Z grew up in a fully digital world, where smartphones, social media, and instant connectivity are the norm. This upbringing has shaped their attitudes, preferences, and expectations in the workplace.

  • Digital Natives – Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, preferring digital communication channels over traditional methods. They prefer text over telephone calls.
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit – They exhibit a strong entrepreneurial mindset, valuing autonomy, innovation, and creative freedom.
  • Desire for Meaningful Work – Gen Z seeks purpose in their jobs, prioritizing opportunities for growth, impact, and social responsibility.
  • For the most part, Gen Z will not settle for a job at an employer where they do not believe in the company’s mission, values, products or services.


Problems with Gen Z in the Workplace

While Gen Z brings a fresh perspective and valuable skills to the table, there are several challenges that employers may encounter:

  • Short Attention Spans – Growing up in the age of information overload, Gen Z employees may have shorter attention spans, making it challenging to maintain focus on tasks. In fact, research conducted by Microsoft found that the average attention span of Gen Z individuals was only about eight seconds, four seconds less than that of millennials.
  • Instant Gratification – They are accustomed to instant feedback and rewards, leading to impatience with traditional hierarchical structures and slow career progression.
  • Preference for Flexibility – Gen Z values work-life balance and flexibility, often prioritizing experiences and personal fulfillment over traditional notions of success. They know the workforce as in-office, hybrid or remote and will expect these options.

Communicating with Gen Z in the Workplace

Effective communication lies at the heart of managing Gen Z employees. Managers can adopt the following strategies to foster better communication:

  • Leverage digital communication tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Workspace to facilitate seamless communication and collaboration.
  • Gen Z craves feedback and recognition. Offer regular, constructive feedback in real-time rather than waiting for formal performance reviews.
  • Gen Z values authenticity and transparency. Engage in open, honest communication, and be receptive to their ideas and feedback.
  • Incorporate visuals, videos, and infographics into your communication and content to capture Gen Z’s attention and convey information more effectively.
  • Be cognizant of how different generations interpret non verbal expressionsfor example, the Daily Mail reported that GenZ sees the thumbs up emoji as rude passive aggressive.

Strategies for Engagement and Motivation

To best engage and motivate Gen Z employees use a proactive approach tailored to their unique preferences and aspirations:

  • Provide access to training programs, mentorship, and skill development initiatives to support their continuous learning and professional growth.
  • Foster a collaborative work environment where Gen Z employees can exchange ideas, collaborate on projects, and contribute to decision-making processes.
  • Celebrate milestones, achievements, and contributions publicly to acknowledge their efforts and reinforce a culture of appreciation.
  • Grant Gen Z employees autonomy to take ownership of their work, make decisions, and pursue their ideas. Trust them to deliver results without micromanagement — in other words, empower them!
  • Incorporate purpose-driven initiatives and corporate social responsibility programs that resonate with Gen Z’s values and beliefs, demonstrating your commitment to making a positive impact on both the organization and the community at large.


As difficult as that may be informal breaks or brainstorming sessions or team-oriented projects will help to break down communication barriers.

Millennials and Gen Z in the Workplace

Gen Z
Gen Z


As Millennials continue to occupy managerial roles and Gen Z enters the workforce, understanding the dynamics between these two generations is essential for fostering collaboration and synergy:


  • Promote inter-generational mentorship and encourage knowledge-sharing where Millennials can mentor Gen Z employees, leveraging their experience and insights.
  • Recognize and embrace the diversity of thought that both Millennials and Gen Z bring to the table. Encourage cross-generational collaboration and innovation.
  • Foster a culture of inclusivity where individuals from different generations feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives

Effectively managing Gen Z employees requires a nuanced understanding of their preferences, communication styles, and motivations. By embracing technology, providing learning opportunities, promoting collaboration, and aligning with their values, employers can bridge the generation gap and cultivate a productive, engaged workforce. By leveraging the strengths of both Millennials and Gen Z, organizations can create a dynamic and inclusive workplace that drives innovation and success in the digital age.

No matter what generation is yours, know that this divide and the differences are not new.  The gap between generations is necessary and is what creates progress and growth.  As retired Navy Seal/Leadership Guru, Jock Willink has said, “The battlefield’s gonna change, the market’s gonna change, technology’s gonna change, the industry’s gonna change. Things are going to change. And if you don’t innovate, if you don’t adapt, you’re gonna get left behind.”  

 Use your Gen Z employees to move forward, work to bring out the best in them. And for business sake – start the conversation!


Add to your workforce with the very best talent.  We welcome a conversation to hear what skills will have an impact on your organization.  Reach out to Lloyd.

And – if you are looking for a new role where your contributions will be valued, explore opportunities on our Jobs page.

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