gen z
gen z

When Yoda delivered part of his memorable line, “Do or do not” from the popular

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back movie in 1980, he may as well have been forecasting the transformation Gen Z has made in being accustomed and satisfied with virtual experiences compared to the real ones. To many younger folks, the image already weighs more heavily than substance.

For the younger fringes of Gen Z, this transformation is perhaps a blessing as they had already been accustomed to VR and are now learning virtually because of the pandemic. But does getting close enough to learn without really learning the subject achieve the goal, and is it enough to make a grade rather than learn a concept?

An earlier article discussed the effect Gen Z is expected to have on marketers and our workforce in a few years as our largest demographic, as well as the values they bring. And more Gen Zers begin entering the workforce, social and emotional learning (SEL) will become particularly important to HR people. 

Empathy, effective communications, including listening, controlling emotions, developing the passion and perseverance for meaningful and long-term goals, and dealing with apprehension are all part of SEL. Leaders and HR staff need to consider these in future orientation and training sessions.

This case study demonstrates the difference that can be made. 

Hire Dynamics is a staffing and professional recruitment organization that caters to call/contact centers, administrative and offices, and supply chain/e-commerce industries. As the organization grew, its leaders noticed a change within the company and a shift in its demographic, especially with an increase in younger employees. They also heard from managers who shared they were having increasing difficulty connecting with younger employees and effectively communicating company expectations. 

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From the younger employee perspective, the staff was also experiencing challenges embracing and exhibiting the corporate values, both with supervisors and clients. With the help of a consultant, the company implemented a program that turned things around so that the firm could successfully fulfill its expansion plans.  Here are some action steps to take. 

Clear and greater transparency is necessary to connect with younger employees. Many are skeptical of brash statements that are unsupported by facts. Being candid and open will foster more relevant and deeper conversations and instill confidence and trust. 

With this new culture, it’s important that HR monitor this fresh initiative regularly. Getting feedback up and down the chain will allow adjustments to be made. Encouraging managers to better relate to and strengthen their team members’ strengths will also promote loyalty and camaraderie.

In large regional or national organizations, this same level of communication must pervade the company throughout.  Not only must this apply to branches and subsidiaries, but it must also include contractors as well as clients and customers. 

Retail operations have an added challenge. Many retail staffers are visual and even closer in touch with their emotions. Making as many image-based suggestions helps as do stories that reinforce concepts. 

Companies that are quick to recognize the changing employee landscape and create a culture that connects both Gen Z and its managers will benefit from employees who are inspired “to do” and proud to represent the brand, and managers who are motivated will stay invested. SEL will help get there.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.