Digging Deeper into Gen Z: 5 Tips for Effectively Engaging the Youngest Independent Professionals

By MBO Partners | August 11, 2023

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Key Points

In some ways, Gen Z stands apart from previous generations at the same life stage.

The way you manage Gen Z can either alienate or motivate.

When engaging Gen Z independent professionals, you may need to rethink your approach and the way things are operating.

When considering Gen Z, it is valuable to distinguish between life stages and generational attributes to pinpoint what’s truly unique about the youngest workers. Some of the media about Gen Z is actually age-specific, not generation-specific. In other words, every generation has a similar set of beliefs, outlooks, and perspectives when they are in their 20s. Gen Z express the same sort of “discovering the world” thoughts and observations as previous generations at similar ages. But Gen Z does stand apart from previous generations in some ways. In order to effectively engage them as a manager, you may need to shift your approach or rethink team composition and operation.

Gen Z Independent Professionals: A Review

Our 2022 State of Independence report offers some high level insights in the youngest generation of workers. In 2022, Gen Z comprised 15% (9.69 million) of the 64.6 million independent workers in the US. They represent 17% of the independent digital nomad population and make up 27% of the Creator Economy.

Workplace priorities of independent professionals reflect some of the fundamental goals of Gen Z, whether as independents or employees. Flexibility, autonomy, control, and work/life balance, all cited as important by survey respondents, are also pointed to in media focused specifically on Gen Z.

Gen Z independents share key life goals with other generations of independent professionals, including helping others, spending enough time with family, a purposeful life, and a fulfilling life. Where they may differ is in their expectations and strategies around achieving these goals. This difference is important for their clients to understand, as the way they manage their Gen Z independents can either alienate or motivate.

5 Tips to Effectively Engage Gen Z Independent Professionals

1. Spark their natural curiosity and creativity

Engage your Gen Z independents in roles with room for imagination and originality in the results they produce. Amplify their creativity in the teams they participate with, even if it “colors outside the lines” of normal operations. You might see unexpected and very positive results!

2. Pay attention to how they express their entrepreneurial spirit

Many members of this generation started their own businesses as teenagers (or even younger). As a result, they are seasoned entrepreneurs. Notice how they work, the tools they use, modes of communication, and their approaches to problem-solving. There might be sources for improvements in productivity and processes in their entrepreneurial expression.

3. Establish simple, no-nonsense two-way communication

Gen Z workers have limited patience for corporate-speak and close to zero tolerance for traditional “boss-worker” communication patterns. They are attracted to open, two-way communication where they can respond and provide input and gain deeper understanding of the goals and reasons for actions and projects.

4. Give them a chance to pitch ideas and offer feedback to you

Your Gen Z independents probably have fresh perspectives and valuable insights. Make a point to hear them out. And take them seriously.

5. Respect their ambition

Forget the characterizations of Gen Z as lazy and indolent. Gen Z in general, and independent professionals in particular, are highly ambitious. They will engage with clients who align with their career plans and who help them achieve professional and personal goals. Take the time to find out what these plans and goals are and support them through work assignments and professional development opportunities.


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