The world of work is changing. And what is changing among others is the generations that we have in workplace. Now slowly but inevitably, I’m discovering that I’m starting to belong to the older generations in the workplace. But it also makes me very curious about what are the younger generations like. What makes them like this? How do they approach certain things?
Today, we will be talking about a specific aspect, maybe a little bit unexpected aspect of generation Z, the youngest generation in our job market. I’m having Marta Leszczyńska as my guest. And I’m going to ask many questions about Marta’s experience with GenZers.
In this episode you will learn:
- What is Gen Z
- What is technological shame
- Tech shame at work
- Technological competence of GenZ
- How GenZers learn new skills
- How to address tech shame in company
- Hints for HR and leaders
Three main conclusions which I’m taking from this conversation are :
- Don’t assume that being a member of a certain generation automatically would mean anything.
- If the Gen Zers are newcomers in your company, do welcome and embrace them just as you were a newcomer a few years back.
- Check what you can learn from Gen Zers. I think there is always something to learn from the newcomers in the field as well.
When you listen to this conversation, please think about who else might be happy to know what we are talking about and share with this person later on. I really care to be reaching the right people with my content, so thank you very much for this in advance.
I wish you fun and discovery!
If you need to educate leaders in how to create psychological safety in your remote teams, or if you would like to increase inclusive leadership practices, or resilience of your employees – please contact us at ETTA www.ettagoglobal.com.
- Article in Polish: Gen Z nie umie w komputer. Z czego wynika technologiczny wstyd?
- Podcast ASA 003: Psychological Safety in a Virtual Team – 4 Steps to Mastery
- Podcast ASA 005: Part Time Manager. The Future of Work.
What is Gen Z?
Gen Z are the young people. It’s currently the youngest generation that is starting their professional career. Those are people who were born between 1995 and 2015. In some sources, you might find a bit different dates. But in general, we assume those are the time frames they were born in. Those are people who just finished their studies or they are still in high school. Some of them are starting their careers, they are joining companies, where they are the youngest. And in few years, they will be the one of the biggest generations on the job market.
What is technological shame?
We might say that the tech shame is a fear of being not knowledgeable enough regarding technology.
This is absolutely new thing on the market when it comes to generations, because it did not touch too much the previous generations. And it is definitely something that we see in younger, especially in Gen Z. Mostly because we assume that they are fluent with technology. If we have a person who is working in a company for already 20, 30 years, that person might be around 60 years old. Automatically, we’re assuming that this person will not be fluent with technology, which is still a bias. But on the other hand, we assume that young peoples, those Gen Zers, they are sitting in front of the computer, and they just know what to do. Because they were born in a time when computers were in every home.
Tech shame at work
This is a thing which can be extremely stressful for young people. Sometimes they tend to write in their CVs that they are fluent with, for instance, Excel, whereas they know just a bit of it. They are not very familiar with macros. They are not familiar with a lot of different functionalities of Excel. But they had it during some classes in high school. And they assume they know it. But, in fact, they do not know what are the real possibilities when it comes to Excel.
Sometimes, they are also ashamed that they are not familiar with a very specific tool. That comes from older generations. Sometimes we are reacting like “Oh, you don’t know how to connect the printer to your computer?” And we’re just extremely surprised that they are not able to do that. Whereas, if you look few years back, when we were in their age, well, we were also not able to connect the computer to the printer. But we assume that they will know it. Although they haven’t got even the proper chance to learn it somewhere.
The new generation is very fluent with all the phone applications and the tablet applications. So everything that is inside an app, their phone, their mobile devices, they are very familiar with. They are less familiar with applications that are on their computers. Currently, in many cases, Gen Zers do not have their own computers. Or they share it with someone else and use it only for their studies.
Whatever they would like to do, they are doing on their mobile phones.
And applications for mobiles are way easier to use and less advanced than those applications which are on the computers. So that’s a huge difference.
Definition of tech shame
Summarizing, technological shame is about being ashamed to confirm: I don’t know how to do it, I don’t know how to do the Excel, the PowerPoint, or whatever it would be, because of the underlying assumption that the environment is expecting me to be fluent. So I imagine this might be even a kind of a double barrier. Not only are the young people newcomers into the business area, into the world of working. But also they are additionally afraid or blocked to confirm that they don’t know how to deal with something and ask for help.
GenZers across countries
Every person can be different. In my company, currently around 75% of employees are not from Poland. So we have a huge clash of not only the generational differences, but also the differences depending on the country and the culture that people are from. But when we look at Gen Zers, I would say that this is a generation which is quite similar. I mean, people are quite similar to each other.
The globalization helped a lot. They are watching the same movies, checking the same YouTube channels. Everything is more global. They have a better access to different courses, to knowledge, to whatever they can google.
When I look at people who are joining our company, I see that they would like to present themselves from the best possible angle. They are trying their best. They are putting really lot of effort. Many of them are still studying. So they are combining university together with work. And when they are facing a challenge, when it’s related to the technology, in many cases they are afraid to admit, for example: “I’m studying mechanical engineering, and I do have an issue with logging into my computer”.
Technological competence in CV
They are marking that, for instance, they are fluent with a specific program. Their CVs can be more graphical ones. So they are using dots or stars to show how fluent they are with the specific tool. But going back to what we said previously, when they do not know what are the real possibilities of the program, then they think that whatever they had during their studies or maybe in high school, it’s the top of what that program can do.
So they are writing that they are fluent with PowerPoint, with Word, with Excel. Sometimes, yes, they’re writing that the level is intermediate, but still their skills are on the basic level. Because they never had the chance to use more than 10% of possibilities that are in those applications or those programs. And that’s why in many cases, they just rated their skills higher than it is in the reality.
Learning new skills
Schools don’t prepare to work
In many cases, schools are not preparing young people to be able to work. We also needed to Google or to do the research to learn how to do something. And that’s what younger generations are doing. Sometimes they are just finding those tiny things that they are missing, searching for their knowledge gaps. And they see what they are missing, and they are trying to Google it. And in most of the cases, they are quite successful. Because, let’s be honest, most probably at least one person in the world had the same issue that you are currently having.
Using Internet to learn
So they are very open for browsing through the Internet, searching for the solutions. And less able to ask others, maybe colleagues. I think this is related to the tech shame. In many cases, they prefer to Google something, to check for the answers by themselves, before they will ask someone else. And I think it’s partly connected with the fact that they would like to be independent. But on the other hand, they might be afraid that someone will look at them and say “You seriously don’t know how to do it? But why? You should be so fluent with the technology.” So I would say that might be an issue.
Learning from colleagues
I can see a little disadvantage about that as well. Because the connection might not be so good with a colleague. Because when a more experienced colleague shares some ideas or gives some solutions to young new colleague, then it’s also building new relationship, helping them to get to know each other. On the other hand, I also understand why young people prefer to check something or ask chat GTP. Mostly because of the tech shame. They are just ashamed that they do not know something. And in many cases, when we are working remotely, it’s easier to check something online than to try to set up a meeting with someone. Also those Gen Zers know that’s okay: “I first need to deal with some issue by myself. And when I am stuck, I will try to ask someone else.”
How to address tech shame in company
Do not assume anything
Personally, I don’t assume that if someone is young, he or she will be fluent with technology. I try to not assume anything. I also not assume that a person who is, let’s say, 50 plus will not be happy with using new technologies. We can be heavily surprised by people. And that’s the first thing.
I think that should be a ground rule for all the leaders to not assume anything.
Create basic programs
While we are creating the training sessions, we are designing them in a way that we are covering also the basic things. With logging into the systems, with showing how to do the basic troubleshootings. Because this is an outcome of not assuming that they know it. We are still learning.
Everyone started in a some place. And we still remember how it was to start a very first job when people are very stressed. And using those systems while everything is so complex. That is why we would like to approach our newhires without assuming that they have some knowledge. We just assume that if you do, okay, let’s move farther. We’ll have more time to chitchat. But if you don’t, “no worries, I remember when I was on your place, I had the same issue”. I think that is bringing a huge difference for us and also for our employees. We just give them time and possibility to ask questions and not to be afraid to do it.
I think the advantage here is the fact that when it comes to trainers, most of my trainers are people who are late Gen Zers, or young Millennials, and they get along together. They understand each other and understand also the challenges that they are going through.
Hints for HR and leaders
Let them be themselves
I would say only one thing that can make our cooperation extremely successful, which is:
let them be themselves and don’t judge.
Whenever you will have a person that is admitting that has no idea how to do something, answer: “okay, let me just show you how to do it”. Or “okay, I will ask John to help you with it because I’m running for another meeting. Will that be okay with you?” And it will be okay. So the most important thing is not to laugh, not to make them ashamed of the fact that they do not know something.
So in general, just be open. Try to avoid all the biases that you might have, which are related to the age. And listen to people. Just listen and answer. Do not say “oh, I’m surprised that you do not know that”. Say “okay, let’s think how we can help you with that issue”. And the more you will be open, the more you will show that openness for different behaviors, the more they will trust you and will be more open for you.
That’s the thing that builds long term relationships.
And in such case, if they feel comfortable with a company, if they feel comfortable with their manager, they will stay there. Because for them, the atmosphere inside the team is more important than money they can get from another company.