Why is it important that organizations and leaders begin thinking about Generation Z now? With the leading edge entering the workplace, now is the time to be proactive. Companies with a firm understanding of this generation’s expectations and preferences will be better equipped to attract the most talented people and maximize their potential. To create a pipeline of talent, some employers are even offering Gen Z high schoolers versions of internships normally reserved for college students.
What Do We Know About Gen Z?
Members of Gen Z are self-aware, self-reliant, innovative, and goal-oriented. Unlike Millennials, Gen Z’ers don’t remember a time before social media. They interact with friends and family online and make major purchases with their smartphones. Adept at web-based research, they use YouTube and Khan Academy to self-educate and place a high priority on how fast they can find the right information. This is the DIY generation, partly because the internet provides unprecedented opportunities for self-education.
Generation Z is projected to be more ambitious, hard-working, competitive, and independent than Millennials. Unexpected economic and political events like September 11 and the Great Recession have shaped their worldview. As a result, they search for alternatives to traditional institutions. They want to be judged on their own merits and showcase their individual talent. They desire more face-to-face communication and want to be mentored in an environment where they can advance quickly. Gen Z employees, like their Millennial elders, want feedback on an ongoing basis including frequent performance appraisals, encouragement, and career counseling. They will respond favorably to sincere interest in their job satisfaction and career growth.
Generation Z’ers want to make a difference in a job that makes a positive impact. They want to make a decent living with a stable employer. More diverse than Millennials, Gen Z will have a profound impact across generations and cultures in the workplace. Employers will need to learn to see the world through their diverse eyes if they want to win their loyalty. They favor liberal viewpoints in race, gender identity, and sexuality. Socially and technologically empowered, they are arriving on the scene at a critical moment in history.
In addition to competitive salary and benefits, proactive employee development will be critical for successfully managing the Gen Z employee. This DIY generation feels that other generations have over-complicated the workplace. With an entrepreneurial spirit, this generation will look for ways to streamline processes and procedures.
Get Comfortable with Creativity
Managing entrepreneurial, creative talent is something many traditional managers are neither comfortable with nor adept at. This means traditional command-and-control management will be even less effective with this group. Focusing on understanding individual motivation (e.g., desire for flexibility, recognition, and meaning) will get better results. It means leaders and managers should avoid micromanaging and instead build an environment where creative individuals can take chances and innovate without fear of recrimination.
Three-fourths of Gen Z’ers say they are willing to start at the bottom and work their way to the top. More than 60 percent say they are willing to stay at a company for 10 years, suggesting a return to employee loyalty after the job-hopping tendencies of Millennials. Companies with a firm understanding of the expectations and preferences of the emerging generation will attract talent, maximize potential, and alleviate the inevitable cross-generational challenges.