Eric Handler headshot Written by: Eric Handler

Helping Millennials and Gen Z Become Leaders at Work

There’s a misconception about Millennials and now Gen Zers entering the workforce—they are often seen as “job hoppers” who are detached from the organization they work for and willing and likely to jump at the first opportunity to leave for new a position.

There is some data to back this up, too. A Gallup report revealed that “21% of millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year,” and this was “more than three times the number of non-millennials.” Similarly, Gen Z has also been changing jobs at a rate of 134% higher than before the pandemic

It’s easy to see why a business leader or CEO might look at this and then quickly dismiss some of these employees. But these are employees who will turn into the next generation of leaders at work. They can’t be ignored, and so the impetus is on leadership right now to help guide them to become leaders worth following for the next generation of the workforce and beyond. 

Do younger generations have an attitude of apathy?

You could see these numbers and make the connection that these workers aren’t looking to grow in their current environment, they aren’t looking for leadership opportunities, they are apathetic and don’t have the same work ethic as prior generations.

However, that would only be looking at it from one viewpoint. Instead, consider the following:

  1. Gen Z started their careers in a fractured work environment. 

In 2020, the rug was pulled out from underneath us—many companies that emphasized a workplace culture that encouraged people to be in-person had to make the shift to Zoom calls and Slack messages vs. face-to-face interactions. That put a strain on the new workforce looking to get a footing in their new career.

  1. Hybrid or fully remote offices can make it difficult to build connections.

To piggyback the first point here, it can be hard to build connections with someone without having regular face-to-face conversations, eating lunch together, talking about interests outside of work, etc., and so Millennials and Gen Zers looking for connections weren’t able to make it. That directed them to look for it elsewhere at another company. Without building connections, it’s hard for people to ask for leadership learning opportunities and hard for leaders to identify leadership potential in their employees.

  1. We’re all dealing with information overload.

There are so many resources available and your team may not know where to get them from, what you would recommend and what is most valuable to help them get ahead in the workplace. Without offering employees opportunities for growth, they will branch out and look for it elsewhere. It may not be that they aren’t interested in leadership opportunities, it might just be that don’t know to access them. 

Group of 6 Millennials and Gen Z sitting around an office table talking about leadership at work

How to help them become new leaders

If you’re looking to gain insight into the younger generation of employees and find opportunities to train leaders, here are some things you should start putting a focus on: 

  1. Encourage new ideas at work.

Gen-Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history. Systemic issues and social movements have shaped who they are and what they stand for in the workplace and society. Both Gen-Z and Millennials are some of the most entrepreneurial and technologically savvy individuals working today. You should encourage them to bring new ideas to the table at work and show them that you’re committed to a workplace that is constantly innovating. This means inviting them into strategic meetings and then asking for their opinions. It helps foster a creative environment and helps them develop confidence, which is key for leaders.

  1. Create an open dialogue with your employees.

These are individuals who are not afraid to share what they believe is important in the workplace. Leaders need to create an open dialogue for employees, ask for feedback and then be reactive. Make room in your busy schedule to connect with younger employees and aspiring leaders and coach them up to become new leaders and instill in them the qualities of a leader worth following. 

  1. Be open to learning from them.

Even as a leader with years of experience under your belt, you can still learn from your employees. A leader can learn a lot from those they lead. This means leveraging the younger generation’s understanding of new technologies. Learning from them shows a willingness to create an open dialogue and shows these younger employees that you value them and their opinions. 

Taking these steps helps you, as a leader, identify those people at work that have the desire to take on more responsibility, and it allows you to show them you are confident in their abilities. This will go a long way toward training the younger generation to lead.