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10 Tips For Working With Gen Z Interns

Finding and recruiting new talent can be daunting, time consuming, and expensive. As you may already know, Ampersand combats this problem by screening highly motivated, skilled candidates and training them before strategically placing them in an internship with our business partners. 

But how do you successfully communicate with and manage your Gen Z interns once you have recruited them? 

First, let's start by looking at some general stats about Gen Z:

If this is your first exposure to Gen Z in the workplace, it will not be your last! Gen Z (1997-2012) is the most populous generation since the Baby Boomers and will make up about 25% of the workforce in a few years. It behooves all organizations to understand this generation and how they view work.

  • They are the most diverse population in history and are on track to be the most well-educated too (48% are non-Caucasian). Expect them to bring new, fresh perspectives to your organization
  • They crave face-to-face interaction, and worry technology is weakening their ability to maintain strong interpersonal relationships and develop good people skills, which is why they prefer to hear from their managers daily
  • Given the events that have shaped their lives (Covid, post 9/11, Great Recession), they are pragmatic and driven by security, ranking salary and benefits as the most important factor when taking a job
  • 62% want to own their own business one day, which means they take responsibility for their work, value self-improvement, skill development, and working independently

Gen Z cares about a company's mission, work culture, and opportunity for growth. Here are 15 tips for working efficiently with Gen Z interns.
  1. Create a clear work schedule. At Ampersand, interns provide their overall availability within the first day of interning, but establishing a set routine will make life easier for you both. For example, they may be available 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. CT but likely won’t be online for that whole time. Let them know the specific hours that are most useful to you for them to be online and request that they check in with you when they begin and end their workday.
  2. Communicate deadlines clearly. Being as clear as possible in your expectations is best. “If you can get to this as soon as possible” isn’t as useful as stating “This is due by noon on Monday and let’s get on Zoom at 12:30pm to review the deliverable.”
  3. Consider recording how-to videos. Whether its a recurring task or one of high importance with detailed instructions, offering a recording showing every step will minimize error and maximize your time and your communication.
  4. Shift Their Perspective from “I” to “We” It is a natural shift as early professionals transition into the work world and see that their manager is focused on the company’s success, rather than their individual success. As our curriculum and coaching works through this pivot, you can help them by sharing how their individual tasks are contributing to team and department goals. Nothing is more motivating in the workplace than that sense of ownership.
  5. Encourage engagement. To help your intern feel comfortable speaking up, try asking questions and plant the idea of how you’d like the work done, such as “What do you think about doing it this way? I’m open to other ideas, if you have any.” They may not take you up on it at first, but as their confidence grows, they’re more likely to contribute. As an added bonus, they might improve upon an existing process!
  6. Listen before making suggestions. When they guide you through a project, listen to it all the way through. Don’t focus too much on the little details but first address from a high level, then dive into the nitty gritty. Try to focus on clarifying questions in order to understand their direction properly before going into suggestions.
  7. Document frequently. Get in the habit of writing quick notes based on what they continuously do well, what areas they have improved, and what areas need guidance. Having a well-rounded understanding will make your intern much more receptive to your suggestions and reviews.
  8. Ask insightful questions. Learn from them, just as they learned from you, and ask them reflective questions. Here are a few sample questions you may want to ask: What are my/our strengths and weaknesses as a manager? Do you feel welcome to come to us with questions and bring new ideas to the table? What have you learned about our industry that you didn’t already know? Is there anything you learned about the company that surprised you? How substantial or impactful do you think your projects are? Is there anything you want to work on that you haven’t had a chance to?
  9. Put the feedback to work. Their answers can help you determine areas for improvement in order to gain and give more value, not only during your next Ampersand internship experience, but also with any new employees entering your company. As you’ve probably seen, managing an entry-level employee sometimes requires a different set of skills and management styles than managing a more experienced professional. Take advantage of this opportunity to refine your skills and processes to help you attract and retain new talent in the future.
  10. Expect mistakes. Your intern is human, after all, and this is most likely one of their first professional experiences. They’re going to make mistakes and will probably feel embarrassed when they do. When this happens, validate their effort, let them know it’s okay, maybe share a story of one of your early mistakes, and then work with them to put a plan in place to avoid making the same mistake twice.

As Gen Z searches for a career with passion and meaning, make sure you’re making your work environment one where they feel empowered to show their strengths while acquiring new and valuable experiences.

If you’re wondering how to get the most out of Gen Z professionals in your business, join our panel discussion on Thursday, August 26 @ 12 p.m. CST via Zoom, as we discuss:

  • The unique characteristics of Gen Z and why they're the key to accelerating your growth
  • Best practices for managing, motivating, and engaging this new generation of talent
  • Experiences for utilizing aspiring young talent and tips for success

The conversation will be moderated by Carrie Colbert, CEO and Founder of Curate Capital, and a lineup of speakers leading efforts to help Gen Z succeed in the workforce.