Remember the fretting about how to incorporate millennials into the workforce?
With their apparently work-shy ethic, their unreasonable flexible working demands and their tendency to jump ship at the slightest provocation, it was feared that they would prove unmanageable.
Well, the likelihood is that these ‘unmanageable young tearaways’ make up the majority of your workforce. A lot of them, in fact, aren’t so young anymore. They’re in their mid-thirties and moving into management positions.
And it hasn’t gone badly at all.
Turns out they weren’t work-shy, they just needed more sophisticated management techniques. The flexible working trends they brought about have benefited virtually everyone. And their greater willingness to hop between jobs has driven vast improvements in talent retention strategy.
But before we start patting each other on the back, the next generation is graduating. They’re beginning to enter the world of work and they’ll bring a whole new set of challenges with them.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Generation Z
Gen Z, post-millennials, iGen, net gen, digital natives; whatever you call them, there’s a few things we can say for certain.
To them, the world is a small, hyper-connected place. They’ve never known life without smartphones, 3G, 24-hour news, social media and on-demand content. They grew up in the throes of the 2008 financial crash, and as a result harbour a healthy respect for risk and debt. They’ve seen individuals with an idea and a grasp of technology, like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, achieve remarkable success and change the world.
Want a more detailed general synopsis of Gen Z? The ONS has just released a series of interesting studies into ‘Being 18 in 2018’.
Here are some of the traits we can expect these people to bring to the world of work.
Gen Z are hungry for success
Earlier this year, the US faith research group Barna released some fascinating research, comparing the priorities of Gen Z and millennials. It appears that Gen Z is more success-focussed than any previous generation. Gen Zers value academic and career success higher than anyone, so as employees they’re going to want to know exactly what their prospects are with your organisation and what the path to progression and success looks like.
Gen Z are entrepreneurs
Most millennials will remember their first job as a teenager, perhaps in a shop, or a café, a regular job. For Gen Z, they’re more likely to recall starting their own micro-business selling jewellery online, teaching guitar, buying and selling on eBay or running a YouTube channel.
In 2011, Gallup polled US teenagers (today’s Gen Z), and found that eight out of ten said they wanted to be their own boss. Interestingly, 45% stated that they planned to start their own business and 42% predicted that they would invent something that would change the world.
This entrepreneurial energy entering the workforce is a huge opportunity, but it must be given space and support to thrive.
Gen Z want to be mentored
Gen Z are self-starters. They’ve grown up in a world where technology gives them the tools to sort through lots of information and discover solutions on their own. As such, they won’t react well to micromanagement. They want to act on initiative, working towards clearly defined long-term objectives. But this doesn’t mean they don’t want support.
According to an Accenture survey of 2017 university graduates, working for a boss who’ll act as a mentor and coach was a top priority, second only to challenging and interesting work. And this study from management research firm Rainmaker Thinking, found Gen Z’s top ‘job factor’ was supportive leadership, followed by positive relationships at work.
Gen Z live digitally
Gen Z’s technology-rich upbringing makes them pragmatic problem solvers, but it means they have little patience for systems and processes that don’t work as well as they should. In September, the student network UNiDAYS surveyed nearly 23,000 Gen Zers about their tech habits; 97% own smartphones, and nine out of ten said they use at least ten apps every day.
Gen Z expect things to work. So for HR, the systems you provide had better offer seamless user experience, self-service, remote access and mobile optimisation.
Similarly, organisations running clunky recruitment processes and those who aren’t accessible and responsive online and on social media will lose out in the race to attract the most valuable among this age group.
Gen Z are savvy
Like millennials, Gen Z want meaning. They want to be able to connect with their employer’s stated purpose. Unlike millennials, they’ve grown up amidst the transparency of the social media age. Fake news, always-on marketing, and a steady procession of companies being called out for not living up to their own standards has made them intensely sceptical and highly attuned to brands and organisations whose actions contradict their stated values.
So if you promise a sharp online recruitment process, or a friendly, supportive working environment, Gen Z’s experience of your organisation had better live up to it. If not, prepare to read about it on Twitter and Glassdoor.
Like millennials before them, Gen Z is not going to bring about HR Armageddon. But organisations that are prepared to receive them and create an environment where they can thrive will find themselves better able to compete for their services.
To speak to one of our specialists about how we can help optimise your HR systems and processes for Gen Z, click here.