Recently at our SITE Classic event in Punta Mita, Mexico, I had the privilege of interviewing Taylor Smith, a journalist at Meetings Today and the author of its recurring column "The Z: Planning for the Industry's Next Generation."
Taylor is the same age as my son — 23 — so I was eager to continue unlocking the mysteries of this dynamic generation and get a few of my own opinions across in the process.
As with many things in life, the more you think you know, the more you realize how much you have still to learn.
Here are three things I learned from the talented Ms. Smith.
1. Gen Z will work hard, within reason
This generation is very in touch with the concepts of mental wellness and life balance. In the workplace, they might take more time off, push back on long hours, and even vocalize when they’ve had too much.
In theory we know these healthy boundaries and needed in an industry as stressful as ours, but we’re still put off when it shows up. It also doesn’t mean they aren’t committed to their work, or that they won’t deliver excellent work, they just won’t sacrifice themselves doing it.
They’re extremely confident in their abilities, and feel they can do what they were hired to do, and still have a well-balanced life.
2. They want a vision and to be inspired
They’ll do entry-level work but what gets Gen Z employees excited is a bigger, longer-term vision for their growth. They need to know there’s a roadmap professionally, and that employers are willing to believe in them enough to invest in their development.
And, they’ll stick around longer if the company and work have bigger meaning and societal impact. It needs to stand for something.
3. Respect goes both ways
If employers want younger workers to respect them, treat them as equal contributors. Even if the employee doesn’t know the industry or the job tasks, they have the ability to learn, grow and adapt and need to feel our confidence in them.
Give them the tools to succeed, invest in them with learning opportunities (membership in SITE!) and large-profile assignments. Ask them questions, and to teach you something new. When they feel this trust and mentorship, they will lean into the work even more.
In the end, these are universal themes that resonate for any age. I’m encouraged by these younger professionals who will soon dominate our workplaces. They’ll help us see things differently and keep growing, just like we did for older generations when we were their age.
Let’s go, Gen Z!