According to the Pew Research Center, more than 1 in 3 of the laborers currently in the workforce are millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996), making them the largest working generation. But not for long. The year 2016 marked the first year that Gen Zers (those born between 1997 and 2010) entered the workforce, and with 61 million of them in existence, it won’t be long until they handily take over as the largest working generation ever.
Gen Zers are cut from a different cloth than millennials. Most of them haven’t lived a day without a smartphone in their hand, spent many of their formative years watching their parents deal with the effects of a recession, and have no memory of events like 9/11 outside of a history book. Needless to say, Gen Zers will be completely different from millennials as employees and will be looking for totally different things in companies they’re seeking to work with.
If established companies want to continue to grow and attract top talent, they would be wise to consider the ways Gen Z workers are different from millennials and seek to make changes that will maintain their status as places of desirable employment.
1. Workplace Culture
Most millennials came of working age right at the beginning of the recession. With businesses cutting back, jobs were disappearing and landing a full-time position meant facing some serious competition. All that companies had to do was place a “Wanted” ad and they’d have hundreds of qualified employees to choose from.
Today, Gen Zers have much more options when it comes to where they work and whom they work for. A simple “Wanted” ad is no longer enough to find qualified applicants. Instead, potential Gen Z employees are taking a much deeper look at the overall workplace culture of a company. They want to see that the brand’s values align with their own. They want to be enticed by a fun place to work, by a flexible schedule, and paid time off. They want to make a meaningful impact and not just be a part of a greater whole.
It’s in a company’s best interest to identify and highlight the things that set them apart as a place to work and to be vocal and open about those things in order to attract Gen Z employees.
Members of Generation Z also seek a different type of leadership from and relationship with their bosses. While millennials are more comfortable with the traditional manager/employee relationship, Gen Zers would rather have a mentor. In fact, Glassdoor reported that Gen Z graduates were ranking “a supervisor who will mentor and coach” second only to “interesting and challenging work.” They’re seeking to develop a personal relationship with managers, and prefer “goal setting” and loose direction to direct marching orders.
Generation Z employees also require more regular feedback from those above them. Having grown up in a culture where feedback is given almost instantly (in the form of likes and comments), Gen Zers prefer systems that include frequent feedback than those that only offer it on an annual basis like performance reviews. Companies would benefit from developing ways to offer ongoing feedback now so that by the time more Gen Z employees enter the workforce they’re already well-established and effective.
3. Collaboration vs. Delegation
Nearly 75 percent of Generation Z high school students and 65 percent of Generation Z college students want to start a business someday. Additionally, almost half of Gen Zers work as freelancers. This sort of entrepreneurial spirit means that those entering the workforce are less inclined to take jobs that peg them as grunt workers, or don’t allow them time to pursue their own ventures. Gen Z employees will expect agility from the companies they choose to work for. They want their work to both matter — to be influential in growing a brand or driving a mission — and to have time outside of working hours to grow their own personal brands and missions.
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