Gen Z

Leading Remote Teams

With the increase in globalization and more telecommuters than ever before, leading remote teams is a skill that is increasing in necessity.   

Societal trends with Millennial’s and Gen Z are pushing more businesses towards adopting more flexible working policies allowing at least partial telecommuting.  Gen Z, in particular, doesn’t know a society without an internet.  They are very comfortable with newer technology and are seeking remote and/or flexible working arrangements.   

Leading them the same way you lead an in-person team will not retain and engage them in the long run.  A recent study with E&Y discovered that less than 50% of global professionals trust their current boss, team and organization.  Additionally, a lack of learning and progression opportunities leads to high turnover rates. 

Transitioning from an old school style of leadership will be essential in order to retain and build this new team.  Leaders of virtual teams need to be intentional in how they engage their widely dispersed teams.  They need to realize the incremental benefits of nurturing and re-engaging existing teams.   

Here are a few tips to get you started:

The highest-performing virtual teams make an effort to have face-to-face meetings with new team members within the first 90 days.

Create a team operational rhythm.  Schedule meetings for the same day, time and share agendas in advance.  Remember your 1 to 1’s and ensure that you don’t cancel them.  Cancelling leads to a lack of trust and a feeling of non-importance with your team.  Consider quick 5-minute check-ins calls daily.  A team of 6 only takes 30 minutes. 

Find opportunities for the team to engage.  Surveys have found that a lack of social interaction leads to lower productivity and a lack of engagement.  Keep an online open communication, such as a chat room, open all the time for team members to just hang out.  Declare, “break times,” ”lunch,” ”game time,” “check-in times,” etc.  It’s a modern-day version of a water cooler.

Run effective virtual team meetings.  No monologues.  Ask a lot of questions and opinions.  Validate that participants have been heard.  Call everyone by name.  Start and end on time.  Be concise.  Long, detailed information should be sent in advance.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.  In an office setting, the hallway chatter reinforces organizational and team messages.  Remote employees need to hear those same important messages repeatedly.  Share how and when you like to be contacted for the ordinary and the urgent.    

Set expectations and hold them accountable.  Share what you expect the output to look and feel like.  Determine any processes or tasks needed.  Establish milestones to track progress and create a “deliverables dashboard” visible to all on whatever collaborative hub you are using.  Check in, without micromanaging, to lend support or provide opportunities for clarification. 
Establish team norms.  Create a charter to establish behavior when participating in a virtual meeting, such as limiting background noise and side conversations, listening attentively, not dominating the conversation, talking clearly and at a reasonable pace and no side work being done during the meeting.  Also establish which communication modes to use in which circumstances, for example when to reply via email vs. picking up the phone or webcam.

Personalize the team.  You don’t have to become best friends, but you should get to know everyone professionally.  What motivates them?  What stresses them?  (Consider DiSC as one tool.) What’s going on in their personal life at the moment.  Take time during meetings to ensure some socialization and fun as well.

Here Comes Gen Z

 The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity.

~ Ayn Rand

Move over Gen Y.  Gen Z is here! 
So much has been written about Gen Y, often referred to as the Millennials, that many have forgotten about the next group of young professionals coming up in the ranks.  There is no consensus on when Gen Z starts and ends, but typically it’s between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s.  This makes the oldest in this group around 23 years old.

Who are they?
Several distinctions differentiate this newest generations from their predecessors.  Gen Z is the first generation to grow up in an internet-centric society and are highly technologically savvy.  Contrasting that, they don’t have highly developed social skills.  Some of their soft skills, such as professional written communication, have not been cultivated with their truncated messaging practices.
With Gen X and Y, it was a forgone conclusion that they would attend some college, following high school, if they had the resources to do so.  However, in one study, 47% of Gen Z said, they would consider joining the workforce right out of high school and 60% said they would be open to employers offering education in their field in lieu of a college degree.  Their preference is to learn by doing and they tend to be more career focused than the last 2 generations before them.

The competition for Gen Z talent is starting
I was surprised to read recently that Gen Z workers are expected to comprise 36% of the workforce in 2020.  That’s less than a year away!  It seems like just yesterday we were talking about Millennials joining the workforce.  This is a meaningful group for which many businesses have failed to prepare. 
With unemployment hovering around 4%, the demand for talent is still a big issue for many organizations who will need to adjust their people strategies to attract and retain this group of digital natives. 
What Gen Z wants
Contrasting with past generations such as the Silent Generation or Baby Boomers, it’s not JUST about a paycheck, but about work that is fulfilling.  They want to make an impact on your business and mission.  They want opportunities focused on providing them with career growth and if you can’t or won’t provide it, they will find a company that will. 

They’ve grown up in a post-911 world filled with news of terrorism, war and economic distress.  Having stability in the workplace is also a priority.

They expect a deliberate use of software and technology in the workplace.   They want information at their fingertips.  They’ve never known a world without a smart phone.
With all of this ‘technology’ in their background, you might be surprised to learn that most of Gen Z prefers in-person meetings.  One survey said over 90% prefer a human element to their teams.

Mentoring is coming back as a much-valued practice, as well as flexibility with work hours and wellness-oriented benefits.
Alphabet Soup
Every generation leaves their mark on society and I am excited to see the advances and positive changes this new group of leaders will bring to the workplace.  Despite the classifications and groupings, we all have so much more in common as human beings in society than any generational delineation may indicate. 

By the way, in case you’re wondering, the next group of leaders following Gen Z will be called Alphas!  If their name is any indicator of what we can anticipate, I have 2 words for you:  Get ready!

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

-Arthur Ashe