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13 Ways to Engage Gen Z - published by Human Capital December 2017 issue

We have for ever lived in hierarchy. We had Rajwadas, and Raja’s and Rani’s! And then the Maha Mantri, the Mantri’s and the Peshwa’s. We lived in Hierarchy. Then came the Queen from land-afar and this took the whole hierarchical bit 100 notches higher.

And then in spite of democracy for the about last 70 years, we still are deep-rooted in hierarchy.  Organisations are legal entities and yet we have similar hierarchical structures that define many aspects in an organisation from decision-making, office-cabins, cafeterias (esp. in manufacturing) and where one is allowed to Park etc. In some places even the Washrooms are hierarchical rules of entry.

Funnily, many curse these discriminations however the same people aspire promotions not for the challenge of the enhanced deliverables or for the sense of leading people, but mostly for the ‘power’ that they would enjoy in those positions.

However, as Bob Dylan professed in the 60’s in his song The Times They Are A-Changin'  especially the part featuring the lines, “Come mothers and fathers”

These lines are bang on when we look at Gen Z  (also called iGen), who have recently joined organisations or will be joining in the next few years. They are not really going to adhere to hierarchy, levels, bands nor power as comfortably as the older generations.

Chances are, if they see hierarchy, they are going to vamoose even before that word is spelled out!

Another aspect today is ‘meetings are life’ in most organisations. I have been commonly hearing Managers claiming  that for at least 3/5th of the time, they are either in meetings or calls.

And, in the Indian context, most of these meetings are held in a highly autocratic manner - usually talk, high control, and hierarchal decision-making by the Manager/Leader who has position & power over others. Thus a connect built through a generous display of public hierarchy and meetings.

The moot point, therefore, is how we can create an experience for the Gen Z, who are bound to resist hierarchy, and are yet integral in our meetings.

The answer lies in changing the very way we lead meetings - to lead them in a facilitative manner.

The word facilitation is derived from the Latin word ‘facile’ which, simply translated, ‘to make easy’
And so a facilitator therefore is someone who makes something easy for others. Therefore the Manager will have to metamorphose himself from being a leader to a facilitator tin a meeting.
Ways to Facilitate Meetings to creating an engaging experience of Gen-Z:

11. Time of the meeting – It is good to have meetings when iGens’s are at their best. Early morning meet-ups may be the worst time to have productive meetings. Research shows that Gen-Z sleeps quite late - they spend much more time on phone and on social platforms connecting with the mass and this is going to make many of our new-gens come to office with blurry eyes. ‘Early bird gets the worm’ is not an inspiring quote anymore.

22.       Throw out the Agenda: The very word agenda in itself has so much bureaucracy attached that it can freeze the brain to boredom. Call it Desired Outcome of the meeting, and simply articulate what is desired at the end of the meeting. The how’s can be co-created in the first 5 minutes of the meeting itself

33 .       “WOW’s” (Ways of Working):  This gets done once in every cohesive meeting group. It’s important for Gen Z to know how will the group decide to work in the meeting. How do we bring up difference of opinions without getting into arguments? How the group can bring back focus to the DO when there is diversion? What are the digital etiquettes to be followed? How does follow-up happen? Who takes responsibility of what? How can they contribute without feeling mocked at when they come up with outlandish ideas? How will basic questions asked be treated by the experienced members in the group?.

44.       Neutral Facilitator:  A good idea is to actually have a member designated as a facilitator. This takes away the pressure from the Leader to facilitate. One may have to upskill facilitation abilities of every member to be able to have a different facilitator every meeting. If that’s not possible then the Leader needs to be as neutral as they can. Avoid controlling the meeting - learn to speak last.

55.       Small teams within the meeting group: If the group size is more than 5 then to encourage Gen Z to speak-up comfortably, make small teams of 3 so that they can first individually reflect, then contribute in the small team, and then using a process collate or prioritize the thoughts as a team for the consumption of the whole group. Keeping on mixing up these small teams so that diversity and new formations will also engage the members.

66.       Integrating the late-comers:  Invariably there will be Gen Z who will walk in late for the meeting. Rather than being a teacher and de-energizing the atmosphere at that point of time, the Facilitator should just ask one of the team members or the group members to bring the person up-to-speed. This also leads to sum-ups that actually helps the group converge the thoughts that came up till that point of time. If the need is to make the Gen Z understand the ill-effects of late-coming is felt, then the Leader needs to manage it separately as a 1-to-1 feedback.

77.       The Divergence and the Convergence Tools:  Build awareness of facilitation tools that make people participate, collaborate, co-create and then converge for decisions to move ahead.  Resources such as International Association of Facilitators Methods Database, other amazing free resources need to be checked out (International Association of Facilitators Methods database), (amazing free resources),

8.       Meeting Materials:  Often a meeting CAN’T be facilitated because of non-arrangement of materials that support facilitation. Arrange for materials such as Post-It Notes, Flipcharts, Sticky Wall, Coloured paper, Chisel Markers (cheaper than white-board markers), Abro white-paper tapes to affix charts without damaging the walls etc. Moving away from PPT driven or Blah-Blah (Just-Talk) meetings will be important from the perspective of engaging the new gens.

9.       Embarrassing pin-points:  Avoid asking specific questions to specific members pin-pointedly for e.g. saying that “You are an Engineer from ____ (Alma Matter), you should surely have some thoughts/ideas around this. Don’t you?” This can be really embarrassing to the iGen and would deflate them easily.

10.   Pause:  Pause is uncomfortable. When Leaders ask for ideas and then if there is a pregnant pause in the group, the Leader tends to answer. Let the pregnancy go its full term or beyond – no ‘caesarean’ here!

111.   Experience: Beware the ‘pious altar’ of experience – many thoughts & ideas have been slaughtered here. The idea may sound done-it before however the time now could be fertile for it to nurture. Bring it up as one of the points of WOW’s.

112.   Believe in Collective Wisdom:  It’s important that the Leader believes in Facilitation; have   a belief in Group Wisdom. This would really engage and make the Gen Z feel wanted and contributing in an organisation.

113.   Appreciation­ – Cynicism is a default-drive in a hierarchical set-up. A Leader needs to appreciate people and now more so than ever. For the Gen Z who live their world with the number of “Likes” on Facebook and/or Instagram, not getting a Like from their Boss will be demotivating. Maybe the Leaders will have to carry ‘Like labels/stickers’ that can be handed over to the Gen Z. And meetings are public forums to hand these over with pomp!.

While the previous generations were highly motivated with promotions and hierarchical positions of power, Gen Z may not be. More inspiring for them would be; being contributors, being heard, valued, respected and acknowledged. It Is best for leaders to transform now, and HR will have to facilitate this metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly.

Ajit K. Kamath CPF, is the Principal Enabler at WizTalks, primarily working out of India. He has been in the field of Lecturing, Training & Facilitation for 23 years, and now in Executive Coaching.
He can be contacted on or on,

Tweeter: @AjitWiz


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