Between advances in technology, the rise of the knowledge worker, and a workforce comprised of four very different generations, the workplace of today is more unique and diverse than ever before. Generational differences have been a hot topic amongst workplace managers for quite some time now, as there seems to be an ever widening gap between the skill sets of the different workers. And, with Generation Z prepping to enter the workforce, management teams are delving even deeper on this subject matter.
I know you’re probably thinking “But, we just learned how to handle Gen X in the workplace; now there’s a whole new group of people to define and motivate?” The great news is, like the others, Gen Z brings their own set of skills and experience to the table, offering us an opportunity for a well-rounded workforce. Enterprises who play their cards right will have a diverse group of employees who, when working together, stand to dominate in their industry.
So, how do we motivate and engage Gen Z? How do we attract the leaders of their generation and, more importantly, how do we retain them? Let’s start by first defining them, and then we’ll get into the best-fit management practices.
Who Are Generation Z?
Gen Z, also know as iGen, was born between 1990-1999. They are the first truly digital and global generation, never knowing a world that wasn’t “plugged in” to some capacity. Most of them have never known a life without smart phones! Sounds cushy, right?
Well, this generation has experienced its fair share of struggles as well. They entered their formative years during an economic downturn, witnessing friends and family lose jobs and homes. Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at Future Workplace cites “economic pressure, parental pressure, and peer pressure as three forces driving Gen Z.” He goes on to explain “They're forced into this model where you have to get work experience as early as you can in life. Members of Gen Z saw how a poor economy affected Millennials, and have begun to get professional internship experience as early as high school.” We are all a product of our experiences, and what this generation has learned is that nothing in life is guaranteed. To be successful in today’s business landscape, a college degree is no longer enough - you have to work hard, gain all the experience and knowledge you can, and pave your own path through innovation and self motivation.
6 Things You Should Do to Attract Generation Z in the Workplace
By 2020, Generation Z is expected to comprise approximately 20% of the workforce. That means we have four years to prepare the workplace and management teams. Fortunately, much of what they are looking to gain out of their employers are traits many enterprises have already adopted.
Transparent & Authentic Workplace Culture
What Gen Z values most in a leader is honesty and integrity. Their goal is to enter a career in which they can thrive; and they aren’t afraid to look around until the perfect fit comes along. To attract and retain the top talent of this generation, hiring managers must take an active and engaged role in the hiring process. Don’t just show them smoke and mirrors; be open and honest about the organization, its mission, and how your business will fit in to their lives both short and long-term. When interviewing candidates, remember that they are interviewing you as much as you are them. Highlight examples of both personal and corporate integrity, as these are attributes they are looking for most in an employer.
Making a Positive Difference
Much like the Millennials, Gen Z want to leave their mark on society. They want to know they’ve made a difference in this world, more so than climbing the corporate ladder. Many organizations are now realizing the value of giving back to the community, dedicating both time and money to local outreach programs. They’ve made it their mission to develop campus recycling programs and encourage employees to volunteer their time whenever possible. This generation entering the workforce is looking for an enterprise that can demonstrate genuine ties to social responsibility and their community.
Room for Growth
Having really seen the impact an economic downturn can have on the populace, the iGen community is looking for security in the workplace. They are seeking that perfect fit and will only align themselves with an organization that can show them there are potential growth opportunities in the workplace. At a time where many enterprises face high churn rates, this should be a welcome and fresh perspective.
Remain Up-to-Date on Technology
Generation Z has never known a world without technology. They are constantly connected and welcome the use of technology to accomplish work tasks and collaborate with colleagues. Any enterprise that isn’t on the cutting edge of technology will likely lose these candidates to the competition.
Making Connections Beyond Technology
While many are foregoing entrepreneurial jobs for positions at large, stable companies, they do have an entrepreneurial spirit, which leads to innovation. They thrive on making personal connections, bother personally and professionally, through face-to-face interaction. The iGen welcomes feedback from colleagues, but wants to know that their opinion is valued as well. This goes back to that authenticity and transparency we spoke of earlier.
Many of this generation have been taught that you are not handed anything on a silver spoon; you have to work your way to the top. They also understand that knowledge and success go hand-in-hand and want to learn as much as they can on their path to success. Organizations with mentorship and continuing education programs will gain today’s top talent.
Because they’ve grown up during the time of emoticons and secondhand language, many Gen Zers are lacking professional writing skills. Managers will need to spend time coaching them on proper communication and help them polish up on their writing skills.
While the diversity of our current (and future) workforce is viewed by some as a negative, it is, in reality, a positive. Each generation brings to the table a completely different set of skills than the next. While older employees find it difficult to embrace technology and innovation, they have the wisdom that comes with years of experience, professionally and personally. What the younger generations lack experience, they make up for in their awareness of new technologies; an attribute that is paramount to the modern business’ success. By pairing these strengths, organizations have an opportunity to build a workforce that is unstoppable, given they take the time to learn from each other. It is our job as workplace managers to foster those relationships in order to reap the benefits.