Essential Tips to Engage Generation Z in the Workplace

Managing Generation Z in the workplace can be tricky. However, with unique qualities that they bring to the table, a sense of globalism and a love for tech, the power of this youthful generation can be harnessed fully.

10 years ago, the buzzword in employment circles was the ‘Millennials’. This group consisting of folks born after 1980 was made up of individuals born during the turn of the PC revolution, when the space age had already become a reality, and globalization was knocking at the doorsteps of most countries. As a career advisor working for one of the largest staffing agencies in the UK in 2008, I was told to prepare for the needs of this generation, to whom I belong, which somehow had gotten in sync with all the rapid technological innovations of the 2000’s era, from the rise of the internet, the dot com bubble, the birth of social media and AI. I personally thought that employers wouldn’t be able to manage this group due to their inability to adapt to the rigidities of the workplace, an aversion to management and a knack for technology that couldn’t be matched by any Gen X’er or Baby-Boomer like most of my colleagues.

The next generation hungry to enter the workplace is Generation Z

Fast forward to 2018 and a new group is cropping up; Gen Z.  This group made up of individuals born after 1997 is about to unleash its full potential on the global workforce. This group, currently in their early 20s and still forming only a paltry 2% of the current workforce may be dismissed by most as selfie-obsessed, social media freaks who live in colorful delusion far away from the realities of the world we live in. The truth couldn’t be any further from this. It is estimated that this group is currently about 30% of the global population and by the year 2020, will form an estimated 15% of the global workforce.

Beyond being tech-savvy, which was the key attribute of Millennials, this group also brings a sense of global ambition to the table. As the first group fully born inside the technological and internet age, nothing is impossible for this group and nothing will stand in the way of its ambition. They have their own sense of instability in an increasingly tumultuous global dispensation, with financial meltdowns, recessions, and political turmoil and instability. With an almost perfect grasp of technology, complete exposure to global trends and a strong desire for self-growth from an early age, employers cannot afford to ignore this group any longer.

These capabilities of Generation Z, if harnessed correctly can transform your company into a powerhouse, but your organization needs to adapt its corporate culture to the varied needs of this group and meet it half-way as individuals in this group move into the workforce.

As a manager, consider the following techniques if you want to take full advantage of the multiple benefits that this group brings to the table:

Review Your Workplace Flexibility 

While most Millennials dreamt of going into Fortune 500 companies with a strict corporate culture and a sense of organizational identity, Generation Z is looking for greater freedom to create and be inspired. 30 years ago everyone dreamt of working for a corporation such as Xerox, or UPS. In 2018, Gen Z is more interested in creating their own unique content and will work for start-ups that give them opportunities to innovate.

It’s reasonable to expect that serious-minded folks will take their careers seriously and want to make the best of themselves. Given this sober, practical orientation, managers would do well to keep development opportunities front and center. As an old advertising saying goes, “Americans want to succeed, not merely survive.” So too with Gen Z.

This group is looking for opportunities to create and work even remotely, and with technology at their fingertips, they can stay connected without ever stepping foot in the office. Tying down these individuals to a desk with a regular 9-5 that doesn’t afford them the opportunity to test new things will probably not be too enticing.

This group is frequently attracted towards gigs and part-time work because they need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This is one of the key reasons why post-Millennials have a high job-turnover compared to all other groups.

Workplace flexibility also means reviewing some of the bottlenecks in communication that exist especially with old, established companies. Correspondence should be quick and efficient.

Workplace culture should also be reviewed, as this group is quite sensitive to such issues as LGBT rights, gender-based harassment, and other issues that affect the modern workplace. At our agency, we encourage companies to have meetings with new staff where they can raise issues, which they are uncomfortable with in company policy.

Invest in Career Development for Generation Z

From an early age and with the exposure to technology, Generation Z’ers already have a strong sense of direction and what career path they want to follow. This generation prides itself on having a strong sense of direction and what they need to do to achieve those ambitions. They are hardworking and don’t slack as most might think.

37% of respondents in our survey noted that health care benefits were the most important benefit, closely followed by a mentorship program (33%)

A good number of these individuals are self-taught, making use of the tons of technology all around them such as Webinars, YouTube, Podcasts and MOOC platforms to advance themselves early in their careers. Career development is an important part of this group and they are ready to work extra time to not only make extra cash but to advance quickly in the jobs they like. This group doesn’t like spending time on meaningless tasks which don’t add any value to their career progression. In fact, 29% of this group claim that they would pick purpose over a great salary any day. Most are self-motivated and desire to venture into business at some point. If your organization wants to attract and retain the best possible talent from this group, you should be prepared to have a definite career development path for them. A Generation Z’er will come into the workplace with clear expectations and if you don’t keep your end of the bargain, they most certainly will jump ship.

Some companies invest in management trainee programs for outstanding staff below a certain age and this motivates them in their career development.

Want to Attract This Technology Generation? Embrace Technology

This is a generation that was born with technology, lives, eats and breathes technology. They are adept at employing tech in even the simplest activities and will certainly not be adaptable in an organization that can’t keep up with trends, or can’t expedite procedures. Tech savvy doesn’t begin to describe this group; these are the ultimative technology natives. Technology is almost part of their nature. Your company should prepare itself for the future by investing in technological changes and innovations, not only to streamline operations but to ensure that this group is fully engaged whilst they are employed.

A study on GenZ by Wikia finds that teen users are connected nearly all waking hours of the day and report being more “actively connected” now than even 3 months ago

A study by Wikia states that 72% of post-Millennials feel that they can achieve anything and perform all their functions through technology.

Social Media is a Basic Need

Still, on technology, this group loves to be connected. According to a Goldman Sachs report, Generation Z spends about 10 hours online each day and loves to stay connected. News and its derivatives are now a basic function in most social sites. Facebook and Twitter have invested billions to transform themselves into authoritative news sources. The need to feel connected, not just to friends but to the rest of the world through social media is real for Generation Z.

Source: Census Bureau, Pew Research Center, Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research generation z
Source: Census Bureau, Pew Research Center, Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research

Videos are going viral faster than ever before, with millions of likes, shares, and retweets in just a few hours.

Resumes are no longer conventional. Companies can mine them from sites such as LinkedIn through AT bots and the world for this group is increasingly revolving around social media. While the need to stay connected is real, it doesn’t make this group any less productive, at least not for most.

Addiction to social media is real but can be mitigated, and companies hoping to attract the best talent from Generation Z need to find a way to harness this.

Motivate Generation Z Employees by Rewarding Their Efforts

While some may feel that this group shouldn’t be rewarded or compensated for their efforts in monetary terms and that “exposure” might be sufficient reward, do this at your own peril. Pay and terms of employment are still the biggest motivator for this group. Don’t be tempted to think that this group doesn’t care about Health Insurance and Travel Allowances because they do.

The ‘new kids’ in the workplace differ from previous generations and present major implications for workplace design

This group has also been exposed to some of the most difficult times of the 21st century, with several recessions and bubble bursts. A good number is going to be overwhelmed with student debt by the time they leave college. Thus, money is always somewhere near the top of their agenda. They also have increased spending power, with about $44B on average in the US alone in 2017.

This group will certainly demonstrate a strong work ethic and flashes of brilliance if you reward them appropriately and commensurate with the work they put in.

Working with Generation Z Requires You to Have a Higher Purpose

One of the marked Generation Z personality traits is an acute sense of self-awareness and identity, and they like being associated with causes that make a social impact other than just profit. This group exhibits a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ), and prides itself on being the first real globalists. It is no wonder that most of them have a preference for start-ups that are not only making money but embrace a social construct in their identity.

They are a self-conscious generation that wants to be in the know at every moment. If it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen.

Generation Z will work overtime, stretch their limits and learn new skills if you provide them with a motivation for what they are doing. Gone are the days when folks used to look for work simply for the sense of security that any job provides. This group will take up working for lower wages if it means they can be involved in a social movement or transformation of any kind. That isn’t to imply that they are not motivated by good pay, but this isn’t their only motivation.

Businesses looking to attract persons from Generation Z into their workforce need to redefine their ideals, positioning their brands as running some sort of societal contribution both within and beyond their office. These individuals are enthusiastic, and they are motivated by the greater good. Companies which can harvest this trait successfully will find more success in the future than ones oblivious to this.

Enable Them to be Their Own Personal Brand

Corporate culture is important, but for this group, an ability to stand out and let their personality roam free is a big incentive when choosing where to work. This is a group that would pick working entry level full time jobs which give them the freedom to be themselves over rigid managerial positions any day.

A 2014 study, “Generation Z Goes to College” found that Gen Z students self-identify as being loyal, compassionate, thoughtful, open-minded, responsible, and determined. But how they see their Generation Z peers is different from their own self-identity, viewing them as competitive, spontaneous, adventuresome, and curious—all characteristics that they do not see readily in themselves.

Being creators naturally and seeing their creativity brought to life quickly due to technology means that post-Millennials want to stand out and be appreciated for what makes them different. With a strong global exposure and a love for the arts, this group is intent on building their own personal brands or transforming that of their employer into one that can be recognized globally. It is no wonder that a good majority aim at building their own unique start-ups and brands immediately or after a few years working.

From Entry-Level Worker to a Full Career

Managing Generation Z in the workplace can seem like quite the monumental task, and older managers may not know how to deal with this incoming group. However, as with the groups that preceded them, the traits of Generation Z can be harnessed for the benefit of their future employers. By transforming the opportunities you present to them into viable career paths, and helping this group nurture and develop its own talents and motivations, the transformation that your own organization will witness will far surpass the monetary benefit from these future work arrangements.

Generational summaries contain a mix of data and insights, and some will resonate more than others. But there’s one thing I can say about Generation Z with complete certainty. You’ll be hearing a lot more about them in the days and years ahead.

Generation Z in the workforce will be the norm in the next decade and companies which don’t adequately prepare for this future risk being completely outdated.

Alice Berg is a blogger and a career advisor at Skillroads, who helps people to find their own way in life, gives career advice and guidance, helps young people to prepare for their careers. You can find Alice on Twitter.

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We at CakeHR, an HR software company, stay on top of the latest HR trends as it is important for us to know what are the challenges and opportunities our customers are focusing on, so they can leave the management of HR data and day-to-day errands to CakeHR.

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