Millennials may have killed the top sheet, but Gen Zers are now pounding at the doors of your open-concept office, ready to force their need for privacy and security down your throats.
Okay, maybe not. But Gen Zers are taking over the bottom rung of the workforce ladder and will make up 31 percent of the workforce by 2025.
For the past two decades, Millennials have been the most hated, most memed generation. Yet, now it is time to consider the new kids on the block—Gen Z.
The oldest Gen Zers are turning 23 and, with shiny new diplomas in hand, are entering the workforce. While they haven't been widely studied (the youngest Gen Zers are just seven, to be fair), early research indicates they are more focused on stable employment, financial security, and self-learning than their Millennial predecessors.
As Gen Z enters the workforce, there are certain to be some growing pains. However, companies that want to remain successful need to consider the needs, experiences, and benefits this new generation brings with them.
How to Generation Z Differs & What That Means For Your Company
According to Pew Research, Generation Zers refers to those born between 1997 and 2012, though they do note that this age range may change in the future. The biggest mistake companies can make is assuming these so-called “post Millennials” share the same traits, habits, and motivations as Millennials.
The truth is, Gen Zers grew up in a different time, and that impacts everything from when they plan to buy their first house to their feelings about online privacy. (Spoiler: they are much more private than Millennials.)
How will this new generation change the workforce? Here are a few aspects to consider as you prepare
- Economic insecurity: Many Gen Zers saw their parents struggle through the Great Recession and tend to be more focused on security and savings than Millennials.
- Used to being trusted: Gen Zers are used to being trusted to make choices for themselves, which may make coaching a better choice over micro-managers.
- Mental health and wellness: Just 47 percent of Gen Zers say they are content with their lives. They tend to struggle more with anxiety and depression.
- Workplace design: Gen Zers grew up in the boom of sharing economies, and maybe more comfortable with shared office spaces rather than traditional office environments. They are comfortable using headphones, rather than office doors, to block out distractions.
How to Help Gen Z Employees Succeed in Your Company
Gen Z is poised to change the workforce, but what does that mean for your business? With a mix of traits from both Generation X who raised them and Millennials, Gen Zers are not likely to cause as big of waves as previous generations.
Overall, Generation Z seems to have a strong DIY mentality, are willing to work hard, and know that no job is guaranteed. Companies should begin making changes now if they want to stay competitive and attract top talent.
Tweak Your Company's Hiring Process
Generation Zers are independent, less formally educated, and tend to crave security rather than a huge salary (thought salary remains important.)
In order to attract this new generation, companies should spend less time looking at GPAs and experience, and instead get to know candidates through in-person meetings, where hiring teams can connect with the candidate as a person and see how they’ll fit into their culture.
Where Gen Zers look for work is changing, too. While 65 percent of Millennials look on job boards, most Gen Zers head directly to company websites.
This means companies should make sure they are putting their best digital foot forward online. Getting referrals from current employees may also be a viable recruiting solution, so consider offering incentives for referrals.
Turn Job-Hoppers into Role-Hoppers
For companies, job-hopping has been one of the most frustrating aspects of adjusting to the Millennial workforce. (Though Millennial job-hopping may be less of a thing than many would believe.)
While Gen Z shares a similar desire for change, they also prefer to have a plan and security. As a result, Gen Z may be more interested in role-hopping than company hopping.
In fact, 75 percent of Generation Z say they would be interested in a company where they could move between multiple roles.
Companies can turn job hoppers into role-hoppers by focusing on career advancement and continuing education, which can decrease the cost of hiring new workers and improve the productivity of workers.
Provide Workplace Security
Many Gen Zers grew up in families who struggled during the Great Recession and thus tend to value job security much higher than Millennials. Many watched their parents lose their jobs and struggle to make ends meet. They know that no job is guaranteed to last forever, and they value feeling a sense of security.
In order to adjust to these changing needs, businesses should make a concerted effort to offer growth opportunities that emphasize a lasting future. For example, consider bringing in consultants or HR professionals to advise and train employees on how to create a long-term job plan. What skills should they seek? How can they move up within their current company?
Rethink Professional Development
For Millennials, professional development is crucial. In fact, 87 percent said it was very important to them. Generation Zers are likely to have similar preferences, but the method that training is presented could have a massive impact.
Sixty-six percent of Generation Zers list gaming as their primary hobby. What does that mean for your business? For starters, it opens up new doors for professional development in the workplace.
Companies who leverage the popularity of online learning and gamification may find it far easier to teach employees new skills. This approach could help attract the attention of new recruits, teach them the skills they need to be effective, and keep them engaged.
However, gamification can go wrong. For example, in 2008, Disney tried to “gamify” productivity for their laundry workers. Each worker's name was displayed and color-coded to signify if they were able to keep up. Workers whose name turned red tried to speed up to catch up with their coworkers, which resulted in employees skipping breaks and an increase in injuries.
Instead, companies should aim to make gamification of professional development useful, fun, and (more importantly) optional.
Encourage Healthy Competition
Millennials grew up with the idea that the world was their oyster — they could be or do anything. This was a result of being raised by Boomers who saw their kids would have access to far more opportunities than they did.
Then, the Great Recession happened, and Millennials were left with student loans and few jobs.
Gen Z grew up during the recession and they were mostly raised by Generation Xers, who taught them there are winners and losers in life. This creates a greater sense of competition than Millenials.
This, of course, doesn't mean turning your marketing getting into a scene from The Hunger Games, but it does mean creating a healthy environment of competition could be beneficial.
Shift Communication Methods
Millennials tend to prefer to communicate by text message; however, Gen Zers go old school.
Despite being the "iPhone generation," Gen Zers actually value face-to-face communication. In fact, 72 percent of Gen Zers prefer to communicate about work in person rather than by phone, email, text, or even collaboration tools like Slack.
This is not to say Gen Zers don't love their phones. However, many Gen Zers know they are less likely to be taken seriously and prefer to communicate in person, where they can quickly clear up miscommunications and then get back to working independently.
Adjust the Collaborative Approach
One distinct difference between Gen Zers and Millennials is their attitude about collaboration. Social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, after all, were founded by Millennials around the idea of sharing thoughts, pictures, and experiences.
On the other hand, Gen Zers prefer a bit of privacy and are less active on social media platforms where sharing with a large crowd is the norm. Instead, they tend to prefer Snapchat to share content with a small group for a limited period of time.
They may also be overwhelmed by collaboration and prefer to work independently on projects, according to Dr. Corey Seemiller, an associate professor at Wright State University and author of multiple books about Gen Z.
“They don’t like the idea of sitting in a glass room and collaborating all day. They want independent time to work on projects," Seemiller shares. "Collaborative spaces are potentially [going to be] used differently."
Embrace the Side Hustle Mentality
Side hustles are not a new idea—as many as half of Millennials report having a side hustle. However, Gen Zers are likely to be more open about them than previous generations. David and Jonah Stillman, authors of Gen Z @ Work, suggest that businesses need to learn how to support their employees in their off-time endeavors.
David shares: “Now there are a lot of people who will say, ‘Hey, Jonah, if you work for me and I walk by your desk at 12 noon and I see you uploading pictures to a website selling stuff, no way.’ And that’s a fair statement until Jonah comes back with, ‘Well, then why is it okay for you to email me at 8 o’clock at night and expect an answer?’”
David and Jonah suggest helping promote and support employees' side hustles as a way to attract top talent and keep employees loyal. Non-compete clauses may also be a necessary step.
Is Your Business Ready for Gen Z?
Any time a new generation takes the stage, the media tends to be quick to criticize and paint the entire generation with the same brush. Gen Zers will likely experience similar criticism in the coming years.
Luckily for most companies, the contrast between Gen Z and Millennials isn’t as drastic as past generational shifts. However, it will require some changes in the way businesses work, manage, and incentivize their employees. Companies who want to thrive should pay close attention to privacy, development opportunities, and job security.