It’s time to start investing in the next generation of workers

via Tampa Bay Business Journal Leadership Trust.

Young people are often given a bad rap. They have been mocked and generalized in click-bait articles pretending that their penchant for avocado toast is ruining their hopes of homeownership. But the truth is simple: They are the foundation of what our economy will look like in the coming decades. We can decide to ignore it, or we can help train them with the tools they need to learn and grow.

In business, being a leader includes the responsibility of building others up and helping them succeed. My goal as a CEO is to be a leader who shows the younger generations what it takes to build, grow and go through hard times with a business. I invest time and effort in doing that with my employees every day, and I find that it returns great benefits.

Before we jump in, let’s clarify: There are currently two generations of young people who have entered the workforce: millennials, which includes those born between 1981 and 1996 (aged 25 to 40, currently) and Generation Z (also known as Gen Z), which includes those born after 1996 and through 2012, according to studies conducted by Pew Research Center. Though these two groups of young professionals share some similarities, they also have differences. Much has been written about millennials over the last few decades, but less is known about Gen Z, who will begin entering the workforce in droves in the coming years.

Here are a few facts about Generation Z: They are adaptable, flexible and eager to learn. They are more ethnically, racially and culturally diverse than any generation before them. They are also on track to become the best-educated generation yet. As digital natives, they are savvy with technology. According to a study by McKinsey, Gen Z believes in the importance of having different points of view, and they thrive in environments that foster camaraderie and inclusivity. As the newest consumers, their outlook on business can be fresher, which can bring invaluable insight to supervisors.

These are all qualities that make for a rich, interesting and creative group. I would know — over 75% of our growing team at West Coast Medical Resources is under 40. Whether your team is made up of young millennials, Gen Zers or a combination, here are my top three tips for shaping the next generation of workers:

1. Foster an environment where they will feel comfortable asking questions. They need to know that curiosity is a great skill and that there are no stupid questions. How else would they learn?

2. Lead by example. Too often, young people are faced with managers who ask them to “do as I say, not as I do.” There is no better way to grow than to duplicate what another person is doing, learning from their successes and their failures. It also shows them you have been in their shoes before, know their job and its difficulties and are ready to offer your guidance when they hit obstacles.

3. Truly and genuinely earn their trust. They are human beings who need to know they can count on you to tell them the truth and be fair. If you expect transparency from them, you must agree to produce transparency for them as well.

I am committing the necessary energy and resources toward including this younger crowd in our successful succession plan. Are you?