How do you lead a team of Millennials and Gen Zs?
I’m a millennial and I lead a team that’s mostly Millennials and Gen Zs at SEO Hacker—though I think we do have a couple of Gen Xers. Why is this topic important? Here’s the deal.
A lot of companies today say that the worst generations to have in your organization are Millennials and Gen Zs because of how entitled, rowdy, and unloyal they are. In terms of their career stint, they spend just one to two years, and then they hop from job to job. They’re also very opinionated and vocal about what they believe in.
Now, this does sound like they make for a very tough team. But at SEO Hacker, we don’t find this to be true.
Here is how we have been able to make SEO Hacker a very, very good place for Millennials and Gen Zs.
Again, me being a Millennial myself at 33 years old, I also wanted a company that is suited to how I personally work. So here are some of the things that I applied and find work the best for the SEO Hacker team and me.
The first point in how to handle and grow and lead Millennials and Gen Zs is to make sure that you have a desired future with them, and that you share that with them.
You see, Millennials and Gen Zs grew up with parents who keep telling us that we can do whatever we want. We also grew up with movies that were very aspirational, very idealistic, featuring all these heroes and heroines—and that created a very different upbringing for Millennials and Gen Zs.
We grew up and woke up in the marketplace, in the workspace, thinking that we can help shape the world or change it to be a better place.
We actually believe that to our core, compared to Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, where they’re very practical. For these previous generations, the world is what it is. Things are just what they are. To them, their goal is to fit in, and do their job. Their mentality is to keep your head low and things will work out okay.
Millennials and Gen Zs are not like that at all.
So as a leader, what I do is I make sure to cast the vision with my people. And, whenever I have evaluations with them where I can speak to them as a team or as individuals, I make sure to ask people:
What’s your desired future? What are your goals? What’s your vision for yourself here at SEO Hacker? How do you see yourself in the future? Do you see yourself leading a team? Do you see yourself growing in this position, in this area of the business?
I always make sure to ask these questions, because having a desired future is very important for Millennials and Gen Z individuals.
I also make sure to remind them about the vision of the company as a whole. This is why at SEO Hacker, we make it a point to recite our mission and vision statements every week—because it’s so easy to forget what the company stands for.
You also have to share this vision with the rest of your team, with the rest of your Millennials and Gen Zs in the team so that they know this particular point is where you aim to go. Then they consider, how do themselves, their vision, and their dreams fit into that bigger vision of the company?
It’s so important because if you don’t share this, they’re going to be looking at their own dreams and visions. And they’re going to leave that direction you’ve charted for the company, and they’re going to be segueing from it, and they’re going to be left out.
So, you want to be inclusive of every Millennial and every Gen Z-er that you have.
So, I’m going to be tying this to our second point: get only Millennials and Gen Z-ers that are actually aligned with your culture.
When people are aligned with your culture, from the moment that they enter your organization and become a part of your team, it’s going to be so easy for them to buy into your vision, and to lock their vision and their dreams with yours—because they fit in the culture.
They feel like they’re at home. And finding a home in the marketplace today is an extremely difficult thing to do.
So you can do this by making sure you hire slowly and fire fast. What I mean by that is you intentionally weed out people during the hiring process.
At SEO Hacker, we hire a lot of people. We open the positions and get a lot of people applying for that position because we have a very long and very robust hiring process.
And, we end up eliminating about 95% of the applicants, only accepting somewhere around 5%. That is how careful we are with letting new people into our organization.
We make sure to choose the ones who are, of course, competent—that’s a given. All companies seek to hire competent people. Who would ever want to hire incompetent individuals? But on top of that, we look into whether they fit well into our culture or not. Because, again, if they fit well into your culture, they’re also going to buy into your vision.
The third point for today that you need to practice if you’re going to be leading a team of Millennials and Gen Z-ers effectively, is that you have to learn more about them. You have to invest time with them. Look at them as individuals—as people.
You should be doing this from the get-go, a.k.a., the interview process. For me, I make sure that there are notes that are left by my HR, the team leader, my CIO, and by my GM. These notes are very important to me because that is where I know this individual has this parent working here, has that parent working there, or the parent is an OFW or this parent has passed away.
That is how I know that they have X number of siblings if their siblings are working in this country and their siblings are working in this or that industry. That’s where I know where they graduated college, and whether they did well or not.
That’s how I know what other people think about them, and what their reference numbers have said about them. That’s how I know that we did check up on whether this individual has a lot of good people surrounding them, and these people are saying good things about them.
So, I get to know the person coming into my team at the very beginning of our relationship. During just hiring process, I will have learned so many things about this individual already.
And, over the course of our working relationship, I make it a point to learn more about the individuals working with me whenever we meet, whenever we have one on one conversations, and whenever we have evaluations.
I ask them how they are. I asked them how their family is doing. I asked them if there is anything I can do for them. How are their dreams going along? Are they moving toward their dream life? How do I play into that?
Treat people as individuals, not as cogs in a big machine. And this is going to tie up with my fourth point, which is to be authentic.
As a leader, if you’re a Gen Xer or a Baby Boomer, you don’t need to be someone who’s cool for other people. You don’t need to be someone else to pretend that you’re part of the team, part of the crowd. You don’t need to show them that you’re an “in” person and convince them they should include you.
Don’t pretend—Just be authentic. Be who you are.
Millennials and Gen Ziers can smell a fake a mile away. They just have that internal discernment and ability to know when someone’s faking it, and that is the last thing you’re going to be wanting to do.
Because, the moment that they smell you faking it, you’re going to lose all authority, as well as your credibility. They’re going to trust you a lot less, and they’re going to respect you a lot less as their leader.
And lastly, my fifth point—which may be my most important one today—is to teach them. Teach your Millennials. Teach your Gen Z-ers. Teach them intentionally.
Remember: this is the gaming generation.
To explain: I’m a Millennial. I grew up with the fact that there were things like a family computer and Super Nintendo, and I would game a lot of my days away. This means learning—especially self-taught learning and leadership and good soft skills—has been thrown out the window for the most part of the life of a Millennial and a Gen Z-er.
To add to that point, a lot of Millennials and Gen Z-ers come from broken families or dysfunctional families. We do have the saying that every family has a problem. But, there are a rare few individuals who win the jackpot when it comes to family. They have really good parents and really good siblings. They grow up very well.
But more often than not—maybe 90% of people in our world today, especially Millennials and Gen Z-ers—come from troubled families.
So, what you can do is teach them. Intentionally teaching them what you know is something that would largely impact their life.
You, as a leader, have the opportunity to learn from other people, from books, podcasts, this YouTube video, mentors, and webinars or seminars. You end up learning a lot, and you grow yourself—so pass that value onto your Millennials and Gen Z-ers in the team.
They will thank you for it, they will look up to you for it, and you will be one of the authorities of their lives.
Leading Millennials and Gen Zs is not difficult, nor is it complicated. All you need to do is be yourself, and be intentional about teaching them and helping them. Be a father, a mother to them. Care about them, and love them and you will earn their loyalty, their trust, and respect, and they will be able to help you along the way.
Now, I have to give a disclaimer here: Not all Millennials and Gen Zs will react in the way that you expect. There are going to be some people that are going to be difficult for you. They’re not going to be who you expect them to be. They’re not going to be grateful no matter what you do for them, what good you do in their life. Their sense of gratitude would be very shallow.
I previously wrote about it here in my blog, and you might want to check that out. What I wrote there was that some people will have a shallow depth of gratitude, and you can’t do anything about that.
But, how you’re going to know if you got a good Millennial and a good Gen Z that you can lead and groom, and eventually hand over the reins of your business or of your team to is by continuing to try. You have to keep loving them. You have to keep being authentic.
If you’ve become tired and throw in the towel and say, “I have been burned too many times by these people who are so difficult, by these people who are not grateful for what I’ve been able to do for them and give to their lives.” If you throw in the towel and give up, then at the end of it all, you’re going to lose, because there are still good people in this world. There are good Millennials and there are good Gen Z-ers, and you won’t want to give up on them.
I hope you learned from this post, and before I wrap things up, I do have a challenge for you.
The challenge is: If you are a person who is leading Millennials and Gen Z-ers in your team, take the time during your next workweek to teach them three new things that you learned from my podcasts, another podcast, a webinar, or from a mentor.
Teach them three new things that will add value to their life.