Gen Z and Millennials in the Workplace: How are Leaders Adapting to their Short Attention Span and How Will they Keep them from Leaving a Qualitative Study
Doctor of Business Administration
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Generation Z, Millennials, Attention Span, Leadership, Engagement, Retention, Development, LMX Theory
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There is a new type of employee entering the workforce that is a true digital native with allegedly the shortest attention span known as Generation Z. Coupled with millennials, they will dominate the workforce. The problem investigated is the effects of short attention spans in the workplace and how this is being magnified by the incoming Generation Z cohort and existing millennials. Companies will need to adapt to short attention spans, along with what will engage and retain these two cohorts. The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore both generations as there are no current studies with this cohort combination. The theoretical framework for this study was Generational Cohort, Selective Attention, Psychological Presence, and Social Exchange Theory coupled with Organizational Culture. The target populations were Generation Z and millennials employees in good standing and Leaders with a minimum of one year of experience currently managing them in their function. The data collection process was conducting interviews with structured and semi-structured questions. The key findings of this study were that leaders and employees alike admit that there is an issue with attention spans. Leaders have taken steps to adapt and assist in prioritizing, providing deadlines, and engaging them with enjoyable projects. Gen Z and millennials have identified what their distractors are. During the study, there was a clear differentiation between attention span and focus. These are mutually exclusive. These cohorts have an uncanny ability to focus. They get distracted audibly versus visually, they plug in to tune out noise by using earbuds, listening to music, or using noise-canceling headsets. They are most engaged when working on projects that are rewarding and impactful, meaningful work, and being challenged. They seek a protector of sorts and prefer a leader that provides guidance, has their back, coaches, and provides feedback. They need psychological safety along with an importance placed on development. The cohorts favor an inspirational leadership style. Assuming that Gen Z and millennials are fairly paid with good benefits, they will stay if they have continued learning experiences and participate in rewarding and impactful work, which is intrinsic in nature.
Diz, Maribel Rachel, "Gen Z and Millennials in the Workplace: How are Leaders Adapting to their Short Attention Span and How Will they Keep them from Leaving a Qualitative Study" (2021). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4800.
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