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Leading Gen Z in K12 Leading Gen Z in K12

Leading Gen Z in K12

by Lindsey Canny
Lindsey Canny Lindsey Canny Edtech Thought Leader
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Who is Gen Z? They are the young people, born between 1997 and 2013. They are the wild cards, the world changers, and more than all of that, they are the newest members of the US workforce. 

Get ready, because they aren’t just a younger version of Millennials (believe me—we are terminally uncool to much of Gen Z). This generation is here to break the mold, so make sure your district is set up to help them succeed professionally. 

Find the “why”

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in any field when it comes to Gen Z workers is the fact that they generally have zero interest in workplace policy just for policy’s sake. When they come across rules and practices that don’t make sense to them, they will be more likely to demand an answer better than “That’s just how it’s done.”

It’s time to start taking hard looks at practices and rules that are in place, and to try to find the “why” behind them—and not just a party-line answer. For example, if the “why” behind a district no-jeans policy is just that “it’s unprofessional,” that answer probably won’t cut it any longer. Figure out what specific benefits these types of policies bring to the staff, and if no fresh ideas are coming, it might be time to ditch the outdated rule. Better yet, tap into the unexpected resource of Gen Z workers to help decide how to update policies to improve work conditions and morale at their level.


Keep the fire alive

That utter lack of interest in policy for policy’s sake? It also extends to micromanagement and overprescribed job duties. Two of the greatest resources this Gen has working for them are their wild creativity and their fiery passion. Plopping a massive rulebook, job manual, or curriculum on a Gen Z employee with the expectation that they be followed without modification or deviation is a sure way to extinguish their fire. 

Once Gen Z employees are on your team, inform your leadership style with the wisdom of the band 38 Special:
Hold on loosely
But don’t let go.
If you cling too tightly
You’re gonna lose control.

Find out right away what ideas or goals are on their dream lists for their jobs. Gen Z is primed to GROW, so figure out which direction their dreams are shining, and use your position of leadership to help enact those dreams with minimal interference. An idealistic generation looking to change the world will jump at the chance to have a boss that is entirely on board with that happening in their district.


Captivate with authentic culture

46 percent of workers in 2022 say their top priority in the workplace, aside from pay, is positive culture. If there’s any one thing that can truly captivate the interest of a Z employee, it will be a workplace with a strong culture built on respect, inclusion, and equity. The catch, however, is that this must genuinely be the foundation of the district’s culture, and not empty talk or performative action.

So how can your district ensure that your culture will catch and keep a potential hire’s attention? Make it visible! Your school website and socials should make it clear that culture is a priority to your district, with stories, photos, and press that showcase how your district is more action than talk.


Embrace the change

It’s easy to put up resistance when facing a shakeup of the status quo. But when a younger workforce comes in ready to start shaking up the way things have always been, leaders would do well to resist the urge to maintain rather than grow.


After all, these are the leaders you’ll be mentoring and preparing to take over the mission and vision of the district. These are the leaders shaping the minds of the next generation—as time marches on, don’t be trampled underfoot! Grab a drum and keep the beat. 


Lindsey Canny Lindsey Canny Edtech Thought Leader
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