What does it take to manage a team of 21st century employees? Carrying a big stick around to rap them over the knuckles when they underperform or get things wrong is no longer considered to be best practice. Instead, as actress and comedian Tina Fey maintains, “being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way”.

This is especially true of Generation Z (i.e. those individuals born between 1995 and 2015), many of whom are newly qualified and entering the workforce for the first time. A recent IMD article highlights that these ‘Digital Natives’ are used to a certain level of freedom in their activities and communications and a sense of ownership in the work they do. They prefer being coached or mentored, as opposed to being dictated to, and they are more likely to work towards short term goals and benefits than anything longterm.

So, what can you do to encourage this generation to be productive team players? We recently caught up with Marelise Gilbert, Head of Operations for a Digital Agency in Cape Town, for some of her professional insights.  

Get to know your team on a human level, expect the best from them and build trust

According to Marelise, one key activity for any manager is the establishment of trusting relationships with their staff. While teams generally thrive in an environment of two-way trust, real confidence and faith in an organisation is also key for building loyalty.  As a business leader, to strengthen allegiance and bring out the best in each of your staff members, you’ll need to listen to what they have to say and understand what makes them tick.

Positive communication is the process whereby managers establish regular coaching conversations with their staff, ask better questions, and actually have an interest in growing the employee and not only ‘using’ them to delegate work to.”

Marelise highlighted that if you don’t appreciate each member’s unique blend of weaknesses and strengths, it becomes more difficult to manage staff fairly and effectively, especially within a team. She further added that knowing what motivates and drives each employee also gives you greater insights into whether or not they’re a right cultural fit for your team.

Encourage your team to make mistakes early and to learn as much as possible from them

In a trusting environment, mistakes are handled as points of growth and not as crises. To manage staff through their mistakes, let them know that you expect them to learn through their failures. In this way, ‘missing the mark’ can be turned into a positive learning curve, rather than a discouraging and demotivating event.

And, while you may feel inclined to grab back the reigns when your employees make mistakes, Marelise cautioned against this. Rather, you need to position yourself as a ‘servant leader’ and keep supporting and trusting your people, giving them enough rope and leeway to be their own bosses. Employees need to be given the autonomy to make decisions and own their roles and responsibilities. This system of self-organisation within a company is known as Holacracy.

It’s important to communicate often and communicate early

As far as Marelise is concerned, great teams are developed through regular organisational meetings and ‘huddles’:

“Daily stand-ups, weekly knowledge sharing sessions and a culture that encourages employee training and growth is not only a habit that high-performance teams adapt, but it reinforces open communication to highlight needs and any causes of conflict early and effectively.”

Provide your staff with a bigger vision to work towards

According to Marelise, organisational culture, which ties strongly into a company’s values and the reason why it exists, helps employees appreciate the value of what they are doing.  When a company’s strategic values and goals strongly resonate with their employees, it’s easy to get staff members’ full buy-in.

For people to be more effective in the workplace, they need to see that their values are aligned with those of the business – and vice versa. Regardless of whether you have staff turnover, your company culture must form the foundation from which you operate, as this will determine your values, and attract and retain the right employees, who you can then effectively build your business with.”

Image Credit: WE JUNGO