As a proud, card-carrying Millennial, I'll defend my generation anytime someone uses the tired stereotype of our being lazy, entitled-acting, or soft. In my experience, this group who graduated into the worst economic slump in modern history has managed to wage a path as best they could. No thanks to the haters.

The oldest Millennials are now nearly 40 years old. They're already at the highest levels of leadership, and in some instances running entire organizations. En masse, they've been less entrepreneurial than previous generations, but they have brought you Airbnb, Spotify, Mashable, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook.

If the discussion in your organization is still about what to do with Millennials, then you're either a) way too late to the game or b) just grouping anybody younger than you into one homogeneous blob. 

Instead of focusing on this group, you should turn your attention to Gen-Z. Born in or after 1996, the eldest in this group of digital natives are now starting on their career paths. Invest in them and you invest in the future of your organization. 

Here's how:

1. Communicate your "why"

Gen-Z is more cause-focused than even the preceding group. This doesn't mean they all want to work for the next big nonprofit, solving the world's most challenging social issues. They do, however, want to know how the work they do on a daily basis makes a difference beyond your organization.

Building the vision of your organization and the impact you have into your ongoing development activities will provide a sense of transcendentalism that works as a powerful motivator for this group.

2. Inspire innovation

At first glance, Gen-Z appears to be more entrepreneurial than my generation. Having been born into a world with markedly lower barriers to entry for starting a business, and with the technology to do so, they don't see power structures or processes as a good reason not to be inventive.

Provide them with the room to experiment and allow them the opportunity to fail, and at worst they'll learn a valuable lesson. At best, you'll discover a cheaper, faster, or better way to do something.

3. Encourage self-sufficiency

The internet and all its glory is the extension of the mind for this generation. Their phones are merely a way to access a treasure trove of knowledge. When faced with a challenge or a knowledge gap, the first thing they'll do is look for the most viewed tutorial or most peer-shared article.

They'll tackle work the same way. Don't know how to make a pivot table in Excel? They'll watch a YouTube video. Need to give a presentation but not sure how? They'll search on Google for it. And so with their development, you should support self-sufficiency, knowing that the way you did things isn't necessarily the only or even the right way to do so.

Having spent most of my adult life listening to how awful my generation is, I'm going to do the opposite with Gen-Z. These folks are going to change the world, and you can either be a supportive part of it or be a bystander. I'd suggest you hop on board.

Published on: Jul 11, 2019
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.