The Beyond Labels miniseries helps shed a light on diverse talent within the workforce. We looked at topics such as gender diversity, young leaders and neurodiversity, in the hopes of bringing more awareness to leaders in the tech space. On the first episode we were joined by Maryna Barysheva, the COO at LKI Consulting, to talk about managing Gen Z talent. She shared her experiences of managing Gen Z talent as a young leader, the best ways to attract Gen Z candidates and the different values that they have when it comes to work. Read on to hear her insights. 

How does Gen Z differ from previous generations in terms of their work and expectations?

Gen Z’s grew up around technology, so they’re the most tech-proficient generation, hands down. They have a different way of thinking and generating ideas because they grew up surrounded by so many technologists and so much media – they were always immersed in this creative world. 

If I’m looking at their career prospects, they want to advance quickly. Sometimes that becomes an obstacle when people want to jump through hoops and grow really fast, but sometimes that’s a big value add, because they’re willing to go the extra mile to achieve those goals. Other Gen Z people prefer autonomy. They can be self starters who generate their own ideas, which leads to creativity. The feeling of ownership is really important for us. 

Gen Z can be a bit more rebellious because they have a strong sense of social justice. Corporate structures don’t inspire them and they don’t want to be restricted by certain boundaries early on, and where they really shine is in making their own decisions, setting their goals, creating KPIs… I’ve had Gen Z employees come to me with their goals and whole plans for how they’re going to reach them. Generally, they have more control over their work, and also more accountability for what they do. 

That accountability also translates in the space that we create for them. They need to have a space where they can express their opinion and disagree, which is very healthy. We’re moving away from the traditional workspace hierarchy. Now, in many agencies, most of them have the freedom and the opportunity to express themselves. They have a little bit more inner confidence, which for me as a manager is a nice benefit.

What are the challenges that companies have in attracting and retaining Gen Z employees?

One of the biggest challenges has to do with people’s impatience. It’s quite difficult to capture the attention of the Gen Z, because they get bombarded with so many different messages online. Things like ‘Be your own boss’, ‘You can be a freelancer’, and ‘You only have to work a few hours’ are all great messages, but when someone’s perspective of working as part of a team can get really disturbed. 

Another challenge comes with Gen Z’s emotional resilience and their big focus on mental health. If you want to retain younger employees, you need to invest in their mindset early on by supporting how they approach stress and the way they take care of themselves. I’ll give an example: one of the first things that I do within my onboarding period is make a new employee tell me what their hobbies are and when they are going to be practising them. It’s easy to come into a new job, get stuck into the work and forget about taking care of yourself. By the end of a three month period, people get burnt out, they’re really unhappy and they leave. We want to avoid that, so we build some hopes for our new team members and remind them and empower them to take care of themselves too. I think that the retention rate would be much higher if other companies did that too. 

When it comes to attracting people, I personally moved away from the traditional interview format. I’ve moved into having a conversation, telling some of our stories about how we do things and sharing experiences, because it feels more authentic and transparent. Then I dig deeper into the person’s motivation. If we see that the candidate is amazing, their skill set is there and they have the right attitude, but we’re not the environment that will work for them long-term, we’re very honest about offering them alternative options, whether that’s being a freelancer with us or considering another role, because I see absolutely no point in attracting talent that will not be retained long term.

What are the best management techniques and styles you’ve seen for your generation?

I think honestly there is no one size fits all management technique. I tend to go more with the coaching style when it comes to younger employees, so I try to answer as few questions as possible and encourage them to think about and find the solution on their own. We have an agreement that they can come to me with a few solutions and I will help them pick the best one, but I’m not here to be a teacher for them. My job is to mentor them on how to reach the solutions on their own. 

The one thing I would recommend quite generally is to not micromanage people. I made this mistake on my own, and maybe some younger execs will also relate to this. You take a management job early on, so you feel a great responsibility and the pressure to deliver. Then you see that other people in your team are about to make mistakes, so the natural instinct is to run and prevent the mistake and stop them falling. But the more you prevent this, the less people learn. Sometimes I know that there will be a failure, but I let people fail in a controlled environment when they’re learning from it. Some managers forget how they learned and how many times they failed, what challenges they went through, etc, and they assume that their people will automatically just know things. That’s not the case, you have to let your people learn. 

To hear more from Maryna, tune into Episode 1 of Beyond Labels here

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