Millennials are no longer the new kids on the block – the time is fast approaching for Generation Z, which loosely includes those born between 1996 and 2010. As the first members of Generation Z graduate from universities across the country and others skip college and go straight into the workforce, the challenge for employers will be finding ways to attract the best and the brightest among them. They’re likely to find that while these two young generations share many similarities, there are some important differences, too.
One of the first differences is that Gen Z values formal education less than millennials, spooked in part by the prospect of student loans. Many Gen Z’ers prefer to learn by jumping in, figuring things out and picking up skills as they go with online research and YouTube tutorials. These young adults also are gearing up to become the prime marketing demographic, now that the first of them are launching careers or looking for jobs. This next “disruptor generation” is still a bit of a mystery, which means having a few on the payroll can pose a big advantage for companies that want to win them over as customers.
Gen Z at Work
Just as businesses have begun to transform the workplace to fit with the style of millennial workers, a few more adjustments should be allowed to accommodate incoming Gen Z talent. Inc. magazine estimates that 75 percent of Generation Z craves a job that changes from time to time, where they can play different roles within the same company. Here are some other defining characteristics of Gen Zers:
They are motivated by security from the get-go, so providing a stable work environment is important for motivated employers hoping to attract this younger crowd.
They probably will be more competitive than their predecessors, according to Forbes — a situation which has pluses and minuses, depending on how it plays out in the workplace.
This new generation is independent and entrepreneurial; some reports show that more than 55 percent want to start a business.
Millennials prefer communicating via email or text over talking face-to-face, but that doesn’t work for Generation Zers, who (having seen their older siblings endlessly scolded for their reliance on technology) generally prefer to speak in person.
They’re even more tech-savvy. Millennials grew up in a world with landlines and dial-up internet, but Generation Z has been used to high-speed connectivity and convenience since birth. They’re likely to become frustrated in a workplace that doesn’t live up to the standards of digital natives.
Gen Z Values
Generation Z is highly competitive, much more so than millennials. And although they value salary and advancement opportunities, they are less likely to finish college before entering the job market. Several other Gen Z values also diverge from those of previous generations:
- Privacy. Part of their lifelong experience with technology has exposed Gen Z to its ubiquity and intrusiveness; they know “the internet is always watching” and are more careful of their information as a result. The challenge for employers will be promoting an open culture by first winning their trust.
- Multi-tasking. Gen Z kids take multitasking to the level of an art form. If millennials prefer two screens at once, always-on Generation Z kids need five. This, unfortunately, affects their offscreen attention span. A few adjustments to office policies might be required to ensure that everyone remains productive and respectful of company time.
- Technology. Generation Z is, of course, even more technology-dependent than millennials. Employers may need to watch for excessive use of social media if not enough work is getting done.
- Hyper-awareness. A symptom of the points above, Gen Z minds are bouncing in multiple dimensions at once. Don’t be surprised when they start scanning the room and checking their phones while simultaneously holding a conversation with you. This hyperattention can be a good thing for employers when that trait is combined with a detail-oriented personality and harnessed into productivity and innovative thinking.
Gen Z Work Spaces
Modernized offices that use new smart tech options and offer collaborative spaces can help employers recruit Gen Z employees, just as it helped them hire millennials.
- Updated office spaces should incorporate an open-concept design with work tables instead of cubicles, as well as the latest tech to keep Gen Z employees connected and productive. However, millennials and Gen Z (as well as workers from every other generation) need natural lighting and a comfortable workplace to be at their best. Dark cubicles that stifle creativity are fast becoming a thing of the past.
- Incorporating IoT technology in the workplace — for example, in the form of smart sitting/standing desks — can keep employees more active by reminding them to get up and walk around or at least change positions.
- Sophisticated chairs that meld to the body and offer ergonomic support, plus voice-controlled apps that saving typing effort can help avoid repetitive-stress motion injuries.
- Amazon’s Alexa for Business one day soon will change the workplace by managing calendars, file management, correspondence, and conferencing upon voice request.
Gen Z Connects to Millennial Business Owners
Generation Z is made up of global citizens connected to peers worldwide with little regard for international borders. This sense of interconnectedness also helps Gen Z members relate effectively to the growing number of millennial business owners.
Modern businesses can benefit from tuning in to Instagram, Facebook, and other social media channels where millennial business owners — and customers — spend their time. Hiring Generation Z members introduces technically adept employees who know how to speak the lingo of the millennial demographic (less easily understood by Gen Xers and baby boomers).
All consumers want to deal with businesses that understand them and “speak their language” — and, for both Generations Y and Z, the common language is tech. Millennial clients prefer companies that leverage the shrewd use of technology to give them a personalized customer experience. Gen Z account managers can help move a company in the right direction toward that end.
Generation Z promises to usher in a workplace that’s more connected and tech-aware than ever before. These young workers can offer employers special insights to help them make positive decisions for hiring, technology implementation, marketing, and customer experience, and position businesses to move into the future.