Hanging out at airports with Gen Z

I’m not quite sure what to make of this Vice article about “Airport Culture.” The short version: Generation Z in London have been taking the bus to the airport and using it as a hangout. It’s cheap. It’s safe. And you can people-watch or even connect with strangers–many of whom are in the middle of major life events.

Airport or mall? (Answer: Airport.)
By Ввласенко – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85863712

It is perhaps the opposite of being-hyperconnected-yet-physically-and-psychologically-alone, a danger zone that many have noticed plagues Gen Z. The pandemic has exacerbated it, if a spike in suicides is any indication. (My church’s youth group has seen a spike in attendance, and devotion, during the pandemic. Surely our spike is related to this issue.)

Beyond better understanding and helping our youth: What lessons might there be here for the future of employment?

Most of my clients are looking for good hires–or are looking to help current hires feel more engaged. So there are some overlaps between Airport Culture and my clients:

The easy one: Over the years employees have brought up both physical safety and psychological safety. An astounding number do not feel free to speak their mind. They fear retribution, retaliation or just the chore of having to justify their concerns (as opposed to first feeling heard by leadership). How is your leadership team at demonstrating they are listening to the employees?

The harder one: Employees don’t often bring up connecting with strangers–but I have learned that the inability to connect with customers and coworkers leads to a crash in engagement.

Example: Car dealerships will have a vehicle cleaned and ready to drive off the lot if customers come in on an appointment for that vehicle. But what if they switch to another car, or they do not have an appointment? Detailers then must clean up the vehicle quickly for a “spot delivery.” I know of several dealerships that wrestle with their customer service survey scores due to a lack of cleanliness at spot delivery.

But I know of one dealership that solved the problem overnight: They always introduce the detailer to the customer. “John, this is Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They are buying this car to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary! Could you please get it ready for delivery?”

It turned out that the detailer appreciated not just humanizing the customer–putting a face and a name with a vehicle–but connecting with the customer’s story. It wasn’t just a mud splatter on a car; it was a blemish on an anniversary gift.

So what process or people opportunities do you have to ensure employees can connect their work to the bigger picture?

If that seems to hippy dippy to you, I wish you could ride around with me for a week. One of the most gratifying parts of my work is getting to see employees who are excited that they and their team figured out how to excel to the next level. Let me know if I can help.