Gen Z is coming. Here’s what you need to know

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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 the management positions of today’s workforce.

And it hasn’t gone badly at all.

Turns out they weren’t work-shy, they just needed more sophisticated techniques for managing them day to day. The flexible working trends they brought about have benefited virtually everyone. The characteristic of 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, baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials, meet Generation Z.

Gen Z, post-millennials, iGen, Z-ers, net gen, digital natives; whatever you call them, there’s a few things we can say for certain about their joining the workplace.

To them, the world is a small, hyper-connected place. They likely hardly remember 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. Following in the footsteps of millennials, they’ve been breaking down taboo around the topic of mental health, and how the traditional, full-time work model may not be the most beneficial for it.

Want a more detailed general synopsis of Generation Z? 

Here are some of the traits we can expect these people to bring to the world of work.

Generation Z are hungry for success

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. Generation Z value academic and career success higher than any of the previous generations, 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.

Therefore should be no fear around seeing a downturn in productivity or the difficulties that may come with being able to motivate Generation Z. In fact, you might want to consider how you plan to manage them in a way that will encourage and reward them to value growth and learning as well as simply milestone successes.

Generation Z are entrepreneurs

Most millennials will remember their first job as a teenager, perhaps in a shop, or a café, a regular job. For Generation Z, they’ve had the option to start their own micro-business selling jewellery online, teaching guitar, buying and selling on Depop, or running a YouTube channel.

In 2011, Gallup polled US teenagers (today’s Generation 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 workplace is a huge opportunity, but it must be given space and support to thrive. When you prepare yourself to manage Generation Z it’s important to bear this characteristic of theirs in mind to enhance their productivity and growth. You never know, this attitude  may leak into the rest of your workplace and give you culture a much needed refresh! 

Generation Z are inclusive and open

A significant make or break of workplace culture for Gen Z is it’s attitude to mental health, as well as diversity – as often the two go hand in hand.

As Gen Z have grown up with such a shift in the popular attitudes towards mental health, they don’t see any excuse for a workplace to lag behind in this area, especially after the pandemic cast even further light on it. Paying attention to the mental health of your workforce can come in many forms. Whether it be flexi-time to avoid stress with maintaining work life balance, offering access to counselling sessions as part of your healthcare benefits, as well as workplace diversity.

Employees from diverse backgrounds can face bias, prejudice, and microaggressions in the workplace. Gen Z will not tolerate this as a characteristic of their workplace, so having in place diversity training, DE&I, and strict no tolerance for bullying or prejudice is key.

Generation 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, in the position of an employee they won’t react well to micromanagement – so how you manage your most recent Gen Z employee is key to nurturing their natural skill? 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 – see where this also reflects the value they place on preserving their mental health in the workplace?

This means workplace culture should be a top priority for you in order to attract Gen Z talent. Surveys have found that Gen Z are less likely than their elders – such as baby boomers – to go along with long hours, overbearing bosses, or a lack of boundaries.

Learn more here about improving the employee experience of you people.

Generation 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.

Every potential Generation Z employee will expect things to work. So for HR, the systems you provide had better offer seamless user experience, self-service, remote access and mobile optimisation. Remote working is also more likely to appeal to Gen Z, and after it became significantly more mainstream during the pandemic, organisations have even less of an excuse for not being open minded to this.

Similarly, organisations running clunky or old fashioned recruitment processes and HR systems, 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.

Generation Z are savvy

Like millennials, Generation Z want meaning behind their productivity. 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. Now is the time to be re-evaluating your employer value proposition and employer branding strategy to snatch up the best skill and make sure every characteristic your company preaches is actually being championed on the inside.

Like millennials before them, a Generation Z employee is not going to bring about HR Armageddon, but as with every generation, they will bring a refreshing difference to the workplace. But organisations that are prepared with the correct processes and technique 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 system and processes for Generation Z, click here.