Millennials are no longer the new kids on the block. The oldest members of this often-analyzed, and sometimes fretted about, generation of workers are now in their mid-30s, and have successfully integrated into the workforce.
But just as we’ve all learned to work together, there’s a new generation coming of age. Meet Generation Z — young adults born roughly between the mid ʼ90s and 2010s.
What exactly will they be like? What kind of impact will they have on the workplace? Think of members of Gen Z as millennials on steroids. Like their predecessors, Gen Zers value and expect independence, creativity, freedom to work when and where they want, diversity and, of course, technology. But, while millennials introduced many of these expectations to the workforce, Gen Zers now demand them, and they won’t settle for anything less.
Armed with high standards, Gen Zers are sure to shake up the workplace. But they also bring a unique set of skills and talents that promises to energize the business world. Understanding what makes this generation tick can help you better manage, engage and motivate Gen Z employees.
A startup mentality
Gen Zers are independent, creative and much more entrepreneurial in how they approach work. Watching their parents struggle to make ends meet during the 2008 recession, and growing up during the evolution of startup culture and the gig economy (think Uber), likely inspired their initiative. As a result, Gen Zers are less focused on traditional career milestones such as graduating from a four-year college, getting a degree and going to work. They may start a few small businesses in high school, then get a job, and then get a degree online.
Freedom to work … or play
Millennials pushed for breaking free from the confines of the eight-hour workday in the office, and blending work and life. They wanted the option to go for a run during the work day, or work from home. Gen Zers blur the barriers between work and life even further. They have little patience for working set hours in an office for the sake of “face time,” instead preferring to be measured on their productivity. To them, work can be completed just as easily at 9 p.m. at home instead of 9 a.m. in the office.
Desire for diversity
Gen Z is generally considered to be our most diverse generation. The U.S. Census Bureau forecasts that more than half of American children will belong to a minority group by 2020. So, for Gen Zers, diversity is the norm, not a workforce goal or trend. They are used to interacting with individuals of different races, genders and sexual orientation. And they themselves may be a mix of several different ethnicities. Gen Zers also see the world from a much more global perspective and consider themselves to be members of a global community. They expect businesses to reflect their experience and worldview.
Technology is written into Gen Zers’ DNA. This generation doesn’t remember a time when they didn’t have access to high-speed internet. They’ve always been able to instantly download the latest hit song, and they’ve never had to stop at a gas station to ask for directions. Gen Zers don’t just want technology, they need it. In fact, an estimated 40 percent of Gen Zers admit to being digital device addicts. But they don’t see their dependence as a big deal, because they’re great at multitasking.
In short, Gen Zers have high expectations for work and how it fits into their lives. Here’s how to meet them halfway.
1. Offer new ways to lead
Now’s the time to take another look at your company’s processes and procedures, before the flood of Gen Zers begins in earnest. Job titles don’t motivate most Gen Zers – they’re not really interested in climbing the corporate ladder. That doesn’t mean they reject leadership. On the contrary, Gen Zers want a stake in a company’s growth or success.
A good way to grant them that is to give your top Gen Z employees ownership of a project or initiative they can implement from start to finish. This generation has great ideas. Work on funneling their creativity to the benefit of your organization. Otherwise, your Gen Z employees will likely jump ship.
2. Get real about perks
It takes more than a state-of-the-art game room or fully stocked snack bar to sell Gen Z workers on a company. Sure, they’re nice perks, but impersonal. Instead, find out what matters to each individual job seeker. For some, that may be freedom to work from home. Others may want more time off for vacation, or to pursue a passion. And don’t skimp on compensation and benefits. Financial security is paramount to this generation, who came of age in the wake of the 2008 recession.
3. Emphasize different ways to connect and communicate
Gen Zers are a social bunch — both online and IRL (in real life). They want to connect. While they’re comfortable communicating digitally, it’s also important to create opportunities for face-to-face interaction. These could be scheduled social events, strategy sessions, project meetings or regular status updates. Business leaders could also incorporate informal meeting spaces throughout the work environment. One-on-one conversations are especially important when handling serious issues. Many Gen Zers may be more accustomed to handling conflict via text messaging, so you may have to give them an extra nudge in this direction.
The bottom line
Generation Z has high expectations for the workplace, but business leaders should also expect much from them. Gen Zers possess an ample supply of drive, creativity and ingenuity to fuel your company’s growth and success. The challenge will be keeping them as interested in your organization as you are in them. But, with the right approach and strategy in place, you’re sure to make Gen Z an integral part of your well-rounded workforce.
To learn more strategies for retaining employees, download our free magazine, The Insperity Guide to Employee Engagement.