Leaders Guide: Understanding Gen Z and AI

The story was first published by Digiday sibling WorkLife

This article is part of WorkLife’s special edition, which examines how the jobs and careers of Generation Z professionals will be reshaped and evolve in the AI-informed era. More from the series →

While Generation Z spearheads workplace transformation, managing them can be quite the head-scratcher. Their desire to feel seen, heard and understood have consistently confounded those in positions of authority. Now, factor in the influence of generative AI, and the complexity only intensifies.

After all, this generation has grown up with technology at their fingerprints like no one else before. So when the generative AI boom hit they were among the first to embrace the technology in their organizations. 

Michael Jones, CEO of venture fund Science Inc. saw this up close over the summer when the startup studio hosted an entrepreneurship week for 40 teens at its office in Los Angeles. They were split into groups and given the challenge of creating a business plan within a week. By the end, nearly all of those groups had completed the task using AI, said Jones – that’s pitch decks, branding, product renderings and market data all procured and aggregated using AI. It meant they could fully explore their business concepts rapidly and at a minimal cost.

What’s even more impressive is that many of the very young Gen Z staffers had limited prior experience with AI. However, by the end of the event, they had become proficient users of this transformative technology. It’s a salient point for leaders: be aware of the readiness of younger talent to integrate AI into their processes and consider how this willingness can be harnessed to foster problem-solving within their organizations. 

“One way to adapt to it all is to think about reverse mentoring,” said Clare Hart, CEO at consulting firm Williams Lea. “Get the younger people who are already fluent with what’s happening to talk about it more and have them work alongside more experienced colleagues who can provide the guardrails.”

But CEOs and managers must tread carefully. 

Navigating this enthusiasm requires precise planning, open communication and a grasp of how to make generative AI work for both the company and its youngest execs. Get it right, and those leaders not only streamline AI integration for Gen Z but also pave the way for older colleagues to embrace this transformative tech.

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