At Abb’s Muscle & Fitness everyone is younger than the owner. Many of the staff members are Gen Z, individuals born between 1997 and 2012. To manage this young team, owner Abbe Hockaday has set aside society’s prevailing views and approached them with her own brand of intergenerational acceptance and love.
They are the seeds she sows to create an environment that is more ministry than gym. Simply said, this puzzling generation challenges her to think and act at her best. Here are some tips she’s discovered to glean the most out of her Gen Z employees.
Six simple tools to guiding Gen Z gym employees.
- Make room for mistakes. Abbe Hockaday calls this “factoring a percent of error.” She assumes her young staff may make mistakes or not understand what an older worker finds obvious. For example, recently Abbe walked a staffer through the steps of writing a check for a lease payment. The pair went through three checks before dropping off the final version.
- Don’t surprise them. This Gen maintains a low tolerance for the unpredictable. Discuss public statements in private ahead of time. Abbe does this by speaking with them one-on-one about a recent accomplishment and then announcing it to the staff.
- Give clear expectations and good guidance. Abbe needed to learn to trust this younger generation after she began loosening the reins on her first gym in order to expand locations. To ensure they’d run the gym correctly, she created processes they could follow, assuring them this new pattern would soon feel normal – and intentionally ending any ensuing drama before it became toxic.
- Prioritize facetime. This Gen expects access to management and thrives on mentorship and communication. They need to know they are valued, cared about and recognized as individuals. Abbe does this by practicing active listening and then asking permission to consider their requests in private. She maintains a very intentional relationship with her employees, never acting flippant or overly personal.
- Give respect, earn respect. Gen Z are loyal to a firm if they believe in its mission and see its purpose in action. From Abbe’s perspective, the love flows both ways. She began Abb’s Muscle & Fitness as the ministry of her life. Yet, there have times where she spent 24 hours in the gym fixing a single problem. Other moments when she remained calm in the face of complex situations. She may regularly pick up a brush and clean a toilet. Nothing is beneath her. Her young staff members witness her actions and pick up on the vibe – we’re in this together. Let’s all learn from one another.
Don’t let a bad rap hold you back from hiring Gen Z employees.
Across the planet, Gen Z’ers make up about 24% of the world’s population or about 1.8 billion people under the age of 30. They are sensitive, vocal, and digitally absorbed. But look at it from their perspective. In the United States alone, our Gen Z’ers were born into 9/11, an economic meltdown, an international pandemic and a technological zeitgeist that both exposes them to vast quantities of negative information and prospectively eliminates entire industries. Let’s not even add politics or wars. Plus, it’s darn expensive out there for someone starting out. Give them a little space. Respect their mental health issues. And take the time to get to know them one-on-one. They’re the same as us. Just different – and that’s ok.
Thank you Abbe for giving us such good advice! Talk again soon!
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