Engaging and Enabling Gen Z with Alicja Arts

Jordan talks with Alicja Arts about the different generations in the workforce and how each one has its quirks.
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Show notes

“Regardless of the generation, you need to feel that you are rewarded.”

Really, are millennials, Gen X, and even Gen Z all that different?

Alicja Arts, Head of Sales Operations at sennder, would argue that each generation has its quirks, and when it comes to Gen Z, she’s learned that she has to approach enablement a little differently.

Alicja shares suggestions for enablement with RevOps Therapist and CEO and founder of Greaser Consulting, Jordan Greaser.

And keeping Gen Z engaged? Now that could be a whole other discussion, but it’s covered a little in this episode as well.

Jordan  00:00

Hello, this is Jordan, the owner and CEO of Greaser Consulting. On this episode, we’ve got Alicja on with us. She is based in Amsterdam, has worked all over the world. And we’re talking about Gen Z enablement. I think at the beginning, I even said, “Oh, we’re not going to talk about engagement; we’re only going to talk about enablement.” And somewhere halfway through, we started talking about engagement anyway; we just can’t get away with how do we get this whole generation engaged, excited and ready to roll. And I think she brings up some really good concepts around buy-in, ownership, bringing folks along for the journey. So if you are hiring, retaining, enabling, engaging, whatever with Gen Z, you’re going to enjoy this session. Lean in, have fun, and here we go. 

Intro Jingle

Say you want some clarity in sales and marketing and SEP? Well, we have just the remedy: Our podcast, RevOps Therapy. Yeah.

Jordan  01:04

Hello, this is Jordan, and my guest today is going to introduce herself. Go ahead.

Alicja  01:08

Hey everyone. I’m Alicja Arts, been around in the sales and RevOps for 14 years. I started initially as a sales rep in a bigger corporation. And then very quickly moved more into analytics roles, and then really sales ops managers in different companies. And right now working in a scale-up, very dynamic logistics, digital platform, mostly based in Europe. So really, over the last 14 years, the evolution from purely sales, and then based on the companies that I’ve worked in, looking at sales and RevOps, different challenges and, and aspects helped me to also grow and learn a bit. So, very happy to be here and exchange a little about some of those challenges.

Jordan  02:12

Where are you based today? I seem to remember an interesting story with you that you kind of live like everywhere or something.

Alicja  02:18

So I’m based in Amsterdam. I did live in five different countries. So I’m Polish-French. Born in Poland, spent majority of my life in France, studied in Barcelona, lived a little bit in California, and now married to a Dutchman. So, living in Amsterdam.

Jordan  02:44

So, what, what you’re saying is we’ve got not only a tech connoisseur but also a woman of the world today.

Alicja  02:50

Yes. But you know, funny thing is that 10 years ago, that was super special, and everybody was like, wow, and you speak so many languages, and you travel the world. Now, when you work with those young people who just are like that, the real, the generation of the young professionals I’m working today with, they are all mixed; they’ve all already lived on three continents; they all speak at least three languages. So I’m not that special anymore.

Jordan  03:20

So now you’re… now these, these young folks are coming around, and you’re just one of the crowd.

Alicja  03:25

Absolutely. I’m being a little bit left behind sometimes feels like.

Jordan  03:32

Well, speaking of the young crowd, I know today we’re really tackling the idea of just Gen Z enablement. And actually, I had to, as we were getting ready for today, and we were talking through the topic, I even asked you, “Do you mean engagement or enablement?” And the reason why I’m especially excited about this is because you didn’t say engagement, because just about every article I read now is “how do you get Gen Z to be interested to work for you, interested work for you.” But what we’re actually talking about today, or what you brought forward, and I know engagement’s part of it, is how do you actually enable this generation to get ready to go that’s so different that just sort of behaves differently? So I don’t know. Is there anything just right out of the gate, as you think about Gen Z enablement, that has just been fundamentally different than the generations that have come before that you can think of?

Alicja  04:24

Yeah, I think that’s already what makes a difference between maybe engagement and enablement is the initial perspective. Very often, the young professionals, when they come fresh out of school, even fancy universities and now they are probably in the situation in the high tech where the market is quite dynamic, and we all want to attract them. But because I worked for the first 10 years of my career as a people manager, with very senior profiles. So really 25 years of experience, very often in that same industry, often only two or three jobs, so very loyal to a corporation, and those, they have completely different values. So it was very much important for them as much as for the company to stay loyal to continue that long-term relationship. Once… I assume that once they already got the job and the company where I am, I’m sort of in the position of, not to say power, but it’s like, okay, now we’re going to focus on the goals that we have, and I am here to enable you, to train you to coach you to provide you with the tools, but you have to follow the process because it’s what the company asks you to do, and not the other way around when you’re dictating your conditions that you’ve already done in the interview process. Now, I’m going to present you what we’re working on, as in this is what the company needs you to accomplish. So maybe this is why I don’t see it as, initially, yes, that’s a challenge to attract, but then you’re already in. And now let me tell you, what are the rules of the game, and how can we best play together?

Jordan  06:22

I’m thinking about my first experience as a, like my first tech company I worked for. It was super early stage, the folks before me were given a playbook. And I mean, it’s just a Google Doc playbook. And it was like, step one, step two, step three, step four, click here, click here. And all it was was they were given a playbook. This was day one after orientation of how do you get paid; they were immediately just put in the seats and said “go follow up playbook.” My class was the second class that came through. In that class, we had a much better experience; we had a one-week boot camp, where they literally opened up the playbook. I’m kind of joking a little bit about the better experience, and they trained us on the playbook, but it was still sort of just like reading down through it. But we had at least a chance to ask questions. And so as that company got bigger and bigger, then that evolved into, oh, we had breakout sessions. And then we had tools like MindTickle to do teach-backs and all of that. But it was just sort of seems like a completely different era now that you could even get away with just handing somebody a playbook and saying go figure it out. Like how different is engaging with, because I know this is what you do all day long, that Gen Z generation that’s coming in, like, how differently do you have to think about that first week, second week, month, etc?

Alicja  07:48

Absolutely. So, so at the beginning of when I joined sennder, that was still very much still into scale-up phase, and it still is, but I am particularly proud of the progress that we’ve done with the enablement part because we put a lot of structure into it. Previously, especially the commercial hires, they were, they finished the academy, the general academy like everybody else, but then it was a little bit like what you said left, let go to fly and start working. So we really capitalized on that initial capturing of their attention. And we decided to extend that academy, but then specifically for the commercial aspects. So a little bit longer, deep dive into the role. And even after that, we decided to implement and 90-day success plan. My manager, he actually always jokes that it makes him think of this program on TV you have in the US, 90 Days to Get Married. But this one is more, you have that 90 days really to, to feel comfortable. And that whole program is also to help the managers of that individual to really off-charge, off-load them a little bit of those daily things that they will ask you a million questions on a daily basis. Here, we centrally provide them already so many trainings; we put them in touch with other people to do the shadowing. So really learn on the job. We implement some mentorship along the way; we do those regular check-ins with them. And then, at the end of those 90 days, we assume that they’ve by now had all the tools needed to really be successful in the role that they’re going to start.

Jordan  09:48

Do you train, like a, like a millennial hire, or a Gen X hire, or a Gen Z hire? Do you train them differently? Are they all running through this program the same way?

Alicja  10:02

They would run the same program, where it changes is because not every month, you have as many people joining. So probably you might give a little bit more attention and do some more one on ones, if there is a little bit more time left, because the group is smaller. And then those regular check-ins would also be then a bit more customized. So if someone really thinks that they need more assistance, then we would spend a little bit more time with them. But I wouldn’t say it’s based on age or any other criteria. It’s more about how they would like to engage with us additionally.

Jordan  10:45

Well, do you find that Gen Z engages differently in general? Or is it kind of the same, you know, you’re running this program and they’re sort of picking it up at the same pace?

Alicja  10:54

I think at the beginning, it’s actually amazing. So Gen Z, to me, compared to the other, the bit older, generation…

Jordan  11:02

Be careful, I’m a millennial, don’t sell us out.

Alicja  11:05

No worries. But this enthusiasm, the eagerness, energy, curiosity is actually very helpful. The flip side, though, is that it doesn’t last because their attention span is, you know, like toddlers. So at the beginning, you really need to catch them in that phase, when they are super enthusiastic; when they want to learn, their brains are like sponges. The problem is more in the long term, how to maintain that engagement. Because what comes, at least from my experience with those young professionals, is this impatience. And an impatience, really, that goes in more in a more conceptual way as in career growth, but also on the daily tasks. Every time, you know, like around four or five months in, I randomly catch up with new hires. And I ask them, “How are you doing? Is everything fine?” So it’s always, “Yeah, it’s great. I mean, job is great!” But you know, once in a while there is a guy who would tell me recently, “I feel like I’m stagnating and not growing.” And then it’s really hard for me to, you know, not to judge or laugh, because I’m, “dude, you’ve been here for four months.” So most of us need to work for at least forty years before we can retire; it’s really harsh to say that you’re already stagnating and not really growing in the career. While most of the time, four months is what it takes to even be fully on-boarded. So then, I’m just thinking, “okay, well, you need to give it a bit longer.” Not to mention that some people already leave after a year because they are antsy to already switch careers, learn something else; they, you know, try a different path. And, and same goes on the daily tasks. Sometimes, you know, someone reaches out and says, “I need you to tell me how to do it. This is you know, someone needs to update.” And then you just need to put them a little bit on hold. Sorry. And then ask, “What are you trying to achieve? Why are you trying to achieve?” And then explain the whole process without skipping steps.

Jordan  13:26

So I’ve, I’ve heard of companies here that have, you know, trying to tackle this Gen Z, sort of, short attention span that you’re talking about, and the concept of enabling them to do their job well, but them not sticking around long enough to be fully enabled? Because to your point, they feel like they’re not growing, or oh, this isn’t interesting anymore. Short attention span, right? And so I’ve heard of companies doing like, they call micro promotions, where it’s the same job but slightly more responsibility and slightly more pay. And instead of, let’s just say traditional path: you’re an SDR, maybe you’re a senior SDR, then maybe you’re a team lead, and then maybe you’re a manager, and then maybe you’re a director, like that seems like a lot of steps already. They’ll throw in like SMB SDR. Now you’re a commercial SDR. Now you’re an enterprise SDR. Now, you’re a senior SDR. Now you’re a team lead. Now you’re an associate manager. Now you’re a manager. Now you’re a senior manager. Now you’re a junior director. So they create all these different levels in between, with slightly different responsibilities just to kind of keep the eagerness to keep being enabled. Like, do you think that is absolutely absurd? Or it’s just kind of a necessary now?

Alicja  14:46

So, problem is that I observe actually a side effect of that. We also have now a practice where we could be promoted every six months to just keep that whole career growth more dynamic. But what that creates in those impatient minds is that I have to be promoted in six months and every six months, I actually expect a promotion. And if that doesn’t happen, I’m going to be disappointed, demotivated, or if someone else approaches me, I will leave. So I think that it’s very steep road sort of, when you create an opportunity, and very quickly, it’s being turned as an expectation. But, you know, that comes back to this whole impatience, right? And, and the fact that it’s really hard to, you know, it’s even sort of a burden to be always trying to entertain, and trying to keep them motivated and interesting, because, you know, funnily, the Gen Z, actually states that they are more purpose-driven, more greater-good-driven than money or status as our colleagues in other generations. Or so they say, because I personally believe that everyone says that money is not the focus. And that’s only when you have enough. When you need it, of course, everybody is thriving for more. So then the idea is, of course, of trying to present those tasks or processes, not so much as a duty or obligation, but something that they can really talk to, something that they feel it’s important, and therefore see the purpose. But then, another challenge that comes in is that when we allow people, of course, to have their opinions, and we want to get the buy-in, rather than give those top-down directions when you have 10 individuals, you’re going to have 10 opinions. So then you’re suddenly facing the problem of alignment because you cannot make everybody happy. And people will have different opinions, right?

Jordan  17:14

It’s, it’s funny what you said about, you know, this is the generation that says we’re purpose-driven. I don’t want to beat too hard on Gen Z, and money doesn’t matter, but I read a study… this was like a week ago now. It was from, I think it’s called, “Money Wise,” or something, that how they asked the question, and this is a US dollar; I think it was US only: “How much does each generation need to feel financially healthy, like an annual salary?” And so with baby boomers, baby boomers said, “Hey, we need $78,000 to be healthy.” Gen X said, “Oh, I need to make $110,000.” Millennials said Oh, “$133.” Gen Z said, “I need $171,000 a year in order to feel financially healthy.” And so, you know, Gen Z is what 21-22, just getting into the workforce and saying, “Hey, I expect to make $171 If I’m going to be healthy here.” And so just a little spot of irony is what you’re saying the folks that are saying, more purpose-driven, also are saying they need the highest paychecks. And so you’re talking a lot about expectation-setting and all of that. And on the one hand, it’s like, well sure, we want to provide all these things for you. But on the other hand, I don’t know if the phrase is like you need to pay your dues. But also like you need a little reality check on like, here’s how the business world works, and here’s what it takes to get there. Like, do you find yourself on a pretty consistent basis needing to do these sorts of reality checks? Or are you like, “Hey, this is just the way it is. And so either take it or leave it,” like how do you manage these expectations that seem so dramatically different?

Alicja  19:00

Yes, so I don’t have such a challenge when it comes to people that I manage directly, because it’s very easy for me to do that reality check. It’s a sort of direct relationship. But I do find the challenging in the matrix organization, when you’re training people that don’t, who don’t report to you directly. So you’re only trying to do your best and hoping that they will engage, get the best out of your training and then put it in a good use. So here is where sometimes I use maybe the experience or my seniority to kind of, you know, do what I always said I won’t to do because it’s elder people did that to me back in the days.

Jordan  19:44

Uh oh, uh oh! I can’t wait to hear what this is gonna be like.

Alicja  19:48

You know, when… one day when you have your company, then you can say all you want and do how you want it. Till that day, you’re gonna listen. In a nicer way, it’s true, indeed that right now we talk a lot about mental health and also the whole work-life balance. That’s something that became very important in the recent years, even to Americans, right? It was already sort of standard here in Europe. But I think right now, global population realizes that life is not only about work and making money; you also need to have the health that goes with it, time to spend it, and then just enjoy whatever you’re doing. And very often, when you’re enjoying what you’re doing, that even gives you better results. So sure, the company shouldn’t get in the way with all of those objectives. But I sometimes question whether they truly understand that it is still a contract where you work for someone. And there is indeed a job description and list of duties, and it’s not “Make A Wish Foundation” where the company needs to provide you with all the comforts or otherwise, I’m leaving. And I think that this is not only, let’s say, for the work-related; it’s also I think, just the more general in life. I feel like the younger generations right now, they, they question a lot, you know, three times a day, whether this job, this relationship truly makes me happy, rather than accepting part of responsibility in creating that happiness within what you already have. So not looking for issues, why, you know, this guy, or this manager doesn’t do a great job. You know, take the things the way they are, and then yourself contribute the best to make it a good job, or the best out of it.

Jordan  21:49

But how do you… how do we like, it’s sort of the age old thing, right? Like, each generation sort of looks at the next generation and goes, “Come on, like, you need to get over yourself and you need to…” you know, and you just kind of get into this, like, “Ha, back in my day” mentality, right? Which isn’t necessarily… there’s values in each generation that are admirable; there’s, there’s things in each generation that like, oh, we probably could do without, right? Like, as is a really broad scope I know, each person has their own life, whatever. But generationally, we have these trends. And so how do we, as the older generation now, not that we’re that millennials aren’t the oldest generation workforce by any standpoint, but how do we bring along the next generation in a way that’s like, healthy, happy, enabling, you know, whatever, but also can sort of push this responsibility issue. Which, you know, Gen X, or baby boomers would be looking down to millennials saying, “Oh, yeah, I’ve tried to figure that out for you, folks.” You know what I mean? But how, like, how do we be, I guess, good corporate citizens here and like helping guide and not just criticize?

Alicja  23:01

So the only thing that really proven effective, from my experience, is to put people in the driver’s seat. So not really tell this is how it should be done. But ask how would you do it and actually let them do it. Because only by making your own mistakes, they might realize, okay, that didn’t work. And then either they will try again until it works, or they will say, okay, you know what, now I’m ready to listen to you because clearly, that failed. And that also creates a little bit more engagement, because they feel like, “okay, well, now I get this extra responsibility and all they trust me. Oh, what if I make a mistake?” And some people will say, “Well, okay, well, we make mistakes to learn.” And some other will actually say, “Well, I, you know, I’d rather now, I don’t feel that confident. So please help me, tell me, guide me a little bit more.” So really, that was the only thing that I feel really works, when you ask their opinion, when they complain about system, why, you know, our Salesforce has so many clicks, and why do I have to do it? I always say, “Well, you know what? Perfect, then you tell me, how should we do it? Now, I will just tell you, these are the limitations, these are the challenges; by the way, you need to agree also with your colleagues, because we cannot have five different versions of that same process, obviously.” And suddenly, they realize, “Ah, that’s not as easy as I thought.”

Jordan  24:32

Yeah, well, I think you’re hitting on an important thing. I, I think in the past, I don’t know how… I’ve actually found that different places I’ve been in Europe has been more consultative to begin with, but certainly in the American market. In the past, “It’s your job, just go do it.” Like that’s kind of the response. I’m not saying it was everybody and I’m not even saying that’s necessarily bad sometimes. But the general theme has been like, “Hey, you, you signed up,” to your point you made earlier, “this is your contract, this is your job, we’re not paying you to ask questions, we’re paying you to do the job, just go do the job.” Whereas I think there’s a little more empathy today, probably by necessity. As much as I’d like to pat ourselves on the back and say, we’ve evolved, and we’re doing great, it’s probably out of necessity, to say, “Hey,” instead of just saying, “this is your job, go do it. Let’s talk through it for a little bit,” and let people process and think through. And I think that’s what you’re kind of hitting on is, instead of just mandating and sort of bringing folks along for the journey.

Alicja  25:35

Absolutely. And I think that the… as everything in life, it’s a balance. So it’s really a mix of a little bit of discipline, and the top-down approach, with giving a little bit of freedom, because I think that the ruling by fear, it’s extremely effective. And I must say, I tested on young kids: works, it just doesn’t last, because sooner or later, they will start testing and they will feel that you’re not gonna go through with all those threats. Because they will feel the limits. And I think it’s just the same with humans, on any level. Eventually, they won’t be afraid of you anymore, because they would have enough. And at some point, they will just push it to the point where you also see who kind of is in the power in that moment, while with the buy-in approach with trying to collaborate really as equal partners, that’s just a little bit more sustainable. So it might take longer, and there might be more bumps on the way, but at least I think that people stay engaged for, for a longer period of time.

Jordan  26:50

Is it reasonable to expect with Gen Z coming in that we could ever get back to a world where folks are, like, loyal to the company again? And again, I don’t want to like oversell this, like “Oh, go give all the power to the corporation.” But just we’ve swung so far the other direction for a while of like, employee empowerment, which again, I’m not like beating on too much here, that then the companies can feel sort of hamstrung, that they don’t really know, “Well, what can we say? Can we ask people to come back? And can we, you know, ask ABC effects? Are they all just going to quit?” Like, is there a world here where we can get a little bit more balance of like mutual respect of, okay, you’re going to work here for more than six months, and you’re also going to do some of the things you don’t like to do, and maybe we’ll try to facilitate that growth and learning and whatever else said that you, you would want to be loyal to us?

Alicja  27:45

Yeah, I think that this is absolutely possible. And many companies already achieved that by providing an extremely good conditions. So the people themselves not only out of appreciation, but they only just compare their options, and they feel, I am really happy, and I have time for my life outside of work. But here, I think it’s really the education, or working on the mentality in parallel. Because again, our mindset, I think, by, by default just is a bit greedy, and always wants more. So what you already have, and if you had it for a while, you just take it for granted. And then you want more. So it is really important that people maybe in, in as a part of personal development, they go a little bit more into all the “Buddha learning,” a little bit more into the present moment, and realize what is really important, and what makes them happy, and what do we truly need to be happy, and not always going after that dopamine hits? What’s next? Because I think, you know, recently I also started looking at people’s biography. And as we grow old, most people tend to say that when they look back at their life, they would have done things a little bit differently, because suddenly, their priorities changed. And they don’t have the same values today as they had when they were young. And they would typically spend, choose to spend more time, with things that they really, really liked rather than hard work and make money because you never know how much time you have left. So I think if that mindset of appreciation, and being reasonable, goes in hand in hand with good companies with all the benefits that they offer and have this give and take relationship, then it’s absolutely a possible scenario.

Jordan  30:00

Well, that is a really good place to stop. We’re right at time. And I like the idea of just, you know, being present, treating people well, and you talk about, there’s probably a whole other session to do with you here of, you know, what are the benefits? Actually, let’s, let’s ask this real quick, if you could answer this quickly. As you’ve worked with Gen Z, you keep coming back to companies that, you know, have good benefits and, like, what are two or three benefits that like Gen Z is like, if you’re doing this, you… everything is right in a Gen Z’s mind?

Alicja  30:45

Flexibility. It’s, but in all definitions, so remote work, whether I want to travel or do I want to work from home, or some people, they still want to come to the office every day when you’re young and single, and you want to be part of a community, but also flexibility on organizing your work, working hours, who I work with, how I do my projects. So I think that that flexibility is really, really key and important to many people. And then the second one, which, you know, it’s still kind of coming, regardless of the generation, you need to feel that you are rewarded. And I don’t mean variable recognition, or high five or thank you every day from your manager. That’s certainly important. But I mean, you do need to get a package, whether it’s a compensation plan, whether there are other benefits, that it’s just decent and comparable. Otherwise, it is very easy to take them away and attract to a different company that will throw more money on them, right?

Jordan  32:01

So flexibility and a real reward system.

Alicja  32:06

Yep. I would say those two, yeah.

Jordan  32:10

All right. For our listeners today, make sure when you’re working with Gen Z, be flexible. Give them some good rewards. And we appreciate you listening in today. If anybody wants to get ahold of you, how do they get a hold of you?

Alicja  32:24

I think the best way would be LinkedIn. That’s probably where I check the most and I’m most active. So Alicja Arts on LinkedIn, if you want to just reach out.

Jordan  32:37

Thanks for joining today, and we’ll see everybody next time. Thank you. Bye,


Hot dog. That was a great episode. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about Greaser Consulting or any information you heard on today’s episode, visit us online at www.greaserconsulting.com. Be sure to click the Follow button and the bell icon to be notified on the latest here at RevOps Therapy. Thanks and see you real soon.

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