Move Over Millennials… Gen Z is Coming!
Generation Z (Gen Z) are the demographic cohort born in the mid-nineties to approximately 2010 or so (some say up to 2015). Those born in the nineties are currently in their early twenties, meaning they have recently or are beginning to join the workforce. And they’re doing so in great abundance! According to 2017 Stats Canada data, Gen Z comprise over 17% of Canada’s population. Globally, Gen Z are thought to make up 32% of the population this year, just slightly higher than Millennials at 31.5%.
Some of the defining characteristics of Gen Z include:
- They are optimistic and confident, yet realistic and pragmatic
- With a focus on financial security, they are entrepreneurial, independent and self-motivated
- They are ethical, societally/socially aware and focused on justice and integrity
- Having been exposed to technology, the internet, wifi and a vast array of apps since birth, they are true “digital natives” (a term coined by US author, Marc Prensky)
- They are social networkers and communicators; as found by Vision Critical, they’re connected 10+ hours per day and use their smartphones on average 15.4 hours per week
- They understand (and may even say “have”) more than one reality – their physical reality and their online realities (some of whom have been online via their parents since birth)
- Preferring not to label, their identities (with respect to gender, etc.) are fluid and/or indefinite
As this new generation is soon to be a strong presence in the workforce, it’s important for employers to understand what to expect, as well as how to attract, manage and retain Gen Zs. Based on their defining characteristics, below are some key approaches and guidelines to consider.
Show them the money
By that of course, we mean the total compensation package of salary, benefits and relevant perks. Much more so than Millennials, Gen Zs are more concerned about–thus motivated by–security and finances.
Be technologically sophisticated
If you have the tools and resources, and stay up to date with tech, you may attract some of the Gen Z best; David & Jonah Stillman found that 91% of Gen Zs in their study said sophisticated technology would impact their decision to work for a company.
Provide a genuinely diverse workplace
For Gen Zs, diversity (i.e. race, religion, sexual/gender orientation, etc.) is pretty much a given and they expect it to be a given in the workforce, as well.
Performance-manage to their style
Performance management has always been a struggle for workplaces, particularly when designing a one-size-fits-all approach. As Gen Zs enter the workforce, this will become further complex, as Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z all have different needs. Gen Zs prefer shorter, regular check-ins and, having an entrepreneurial mindset, want to drive their own career growth.
Give them space and trust them with autonomy
Unlike Millennials, many of who are/were all about the co-sharing space, most Gen Zs would rather have their own workspace; additionally, with a true independent spirit, most also agree that “if you want the job done right, do it yourself” (David & Jonah Stillman). Trusting employees and empowering them to do the job they were hired to do is nothing new, but perhaps more important now than ever before.
Be direct, open and honest
Gen Zs don’t want smoke and mirrors. They want the straight up goods, and despite their focus on technology, they want it face-to-face.
If your business isn’t focused on social justice, societal improvement or a purposeful cause, get behind one or support employees in doing so. David & Johah Stillman reported that nearly all (93%) indicated that working for a cause is important.
Don’t shut them down
While we still don’t buy the idea of multi-tasking, if anyone can do it (or think they can do it), it’s the Gen Zs. It’s not uncommon for them to have 4 or 5 screens open with various forms of media, communication, research, etc. It’s pretty much been this way for them since day one. While you need to ensure your employees are productive, base it on their output, rather than whether they have screens open on their desktop.
Over the last several years, we’ve seen and heard a lot about the previous generation (Millennials, of course), sadly, much of it unfavourable, bordering on discriminatory. The reality is that each generation will bring something different to the workplace. The best way to ensure a successful working relationship with each new generation is not to prepare for the worst, but rather to simply understand the key differences, know what to expect and manage accordingly. It is equally important to consider the similarities between the generations, as we ultimately have more in common than is often thought.