Here Comes Generation Z: What Businesses Need to Know Now to Prepare for the Next Generation of Workers
Much has been written over the years about the millennial generation, but now it’s time for a new generation to make itself known in the workplace: generation Z.
What is generation Z?
Is this generation, born between 1995-2012, just millennial 2.0?
No, says David Stillman, a generation X and millennial generation expert who has penned a new book, "Gen Z @ Work.”
“Thinking that this new generation is just like millennials is a mistake many people are making,” Stillman says. “HR needs to get to know this generation, what makes them unique and what shapes them.”
Stillman says the leading edge of this generation, which is estimated to be nearly 73 million Americans, is currently entering the workforce.
“I think the first thing HR has to do with this generation is anticipate where they’re going to click with this generation and where they’re going to clash. In other words, what can you accommodate and what do you need to explain to them and talk to them about?” he says.
What generation Z wants from their employer
Stillman, who wrote the book with his generation Z son Jonah, did two national surveys of the generation in partnership with the Institute for Corporate Productivity. Asking 15 to 21-year-olds about workplace attitudes, the results show:
- 40% say working Wi-Fi is more important than working bathrooms.
- 35% say they would rather share socks than an office space.
- 71% say they believe the phrase “if you want it done right, then do it yourself.”
- 75% are interested in fulfilling multiple roles within one company.
- 75% are willing to start at the bottom and work their way up.
- 61% say they are willing to work at a company for more than 10 years.
- 56% prefer writing their own job description over using a generic one.
- 91% say technological sophistication will impact their interest in an employer.
The authors explain that this generation was raised by generation X, often characterized as more skeptical and less likely to believe that everyone can be a winner. Further, generation Z grew up during the Great Recession, which the authors say makes these young workers more pragmatic, independent and in “survival mode” when they look at future careers.
For those already planning to recruit from the older members of this generation as they graduate college and are entering the workforce, new research conducted by iCMS found:
- The business/finance and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries are the most popular ones graduating seniors want to work in.
- Most expect to earn about $8,000 more a year than the current average for entry-level employees.
Managing the youngest generation of employees
The survey also finds that 84% of generation Z prefers face-to-face communication. Stillman says this arises from their desire for “honest” communication as they’ve seen “so many organizations and leaders called into question.”
And because this generation has grown up in the digital age, they’re comfortable with learning on the fly and finding answers to any questions through the internet or their peers.
They also don’t fear failure, Stillman says.
“One of the biggest things for this generation is FOMO or fear of missing out. So they would rather try and fail than not try at all,” he says.
Still, this is where employers may have to set some parameters for this generation. “Managers may need to explain to them that there’s a big difference in acting on a fad and acting on a true trend,” Stillman says. “They have to explain to them that FOMO may cause you to spend money you don’t need to spend.”
Stillman adds that to attract and retain these workers, businesses will need to look at offering more “customized” job titles and job descriptions, as this generation has grown up with their unique needs often being met by various online retailers. In addition, many of these young workers will want the freedom to pursue their “hobbies” as business interests outside of their regular full-time gigs.
“This is probably the hottest topic around this generation,” Stillman says. “Don’t expect them to only work exclusively for you from 9 to 5. They get emails from their employers after those hours so they expect to have a work/life blend where they can focus on the things that interest them when they want. You will need to concentrate on their performance, not on how they’re getting work done.”
Gen Z and entrepreneurialism
Monster, along with global research firm TNS, conducted a survey of more than 2,000 working and non-working people from various generations. The results show that 42% of gen Z’ers want to have their own business, which is 10 percentage points higher than all other working generations.
“Recognizing gen Z’s entrepreneurial obsession, you might want to offer your future employees more opportunity to ‘own’ their work to keep these hard workers on the payroll as long as you can,” Monster reports.
In a Center for Generational Kinetics study, 77% of 14 to 21-year-olds say they earn their own spending money through freelance work, a part-time job or earned allowance. The survey further says that this generation’s “fiscally and conservative behavior is making them part of businesses and our economy even at their young age.”
In the same vein, the Monster survey also shows that 76 percent of generation Z believe they are responsible for driving their own career, and while compensation is important, they want to care about the work they do. Additionally, 70 % of them described health insurance as their top workplace “must-have.”
“It’ll be important for you to help keep gen Z engaged in the mission of what you’re doing if you want to keep them engaged in the job,” Monster reports.
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