Much ink has been spilled about the millennial generation—it’s easy to forget they’re no longer the big story of the modern workforce. The new kids on the block have arrived: Generation Z, broadly defined as consisting of those born after 1995 and soon graduating from college, are looking for their first professional jobs.
This cohort has an outlook and priority list different from millennials. Hiring managers in all industries would benefit from getting to know them. According to a 2014 New York Times feature, Generation Z has an independent streak. A 2015 Census Bureau report found that nearly a third of millennials are still living with their parents, while Gen Zers are growing up in a healthier economy and less likely to stay in the nest.
“Contrary to popular belief, we don’t think that we know it all,” said Hannah Groves, 22, a member of Generation Z and recent computer science graduate, now a Web developer at Dolphin Micro, Inc. in New York City. “But we do know that we’re capable of learning. Gen Z’s are immersed in technology and used to rapidly adapting to new developments in everyday life, a skill that employers can leverage to broaden a Gen Z employee’s impact at their company.”
Meaning and practicality
This generation is ready to find meaning through its work. “I want a job that will inspire me and give me life experience,” says Dana Reilly, 19, a student at the University of Tampa in Tampa, Florida. “I don’t want my first job to shove me into a cubicle and a tight suit. I have dreams of seeing the world and influencing others’ lives.”
In addition to hoping for work that matters, this group enjoys a diverse network. Members of Generation Z are used to talking with friends all over the world via social media and have a diverse, global perspective. Upbeat and passionate, the young generation wants to take an active role in their communities. They are eager to learn and looking for meaning, but are wary about taking on too much student loan debt or agreeing to an unpaid internship.
A 2014 national survey of U.S. youth aged 16-19 conducted by Northeastern University had several interesting findings:
- 60 percent are concerned about not having enough money
- 55 percent volunteer for a charity or service organization
- 55 percent plan to live or study abroad in the future
- 64 percent are concerned about being able to get a job
- 29 percent would have to make an annual salary of $100,000 to consider themselves rich; 39 percent would need $500,000 to consider themselves rich
Having watched their parents and siblings suffer through the Great Recession, Generation Z’ers have a very practical streak. A 2015 survey from Adecco Staffing USA, the nation’s leading provider of recruitment and workforce solutions, compared Gen Z students with Millennials and found that 70 percent of students would prefer a stable job without a high level of emotional investment or passion over a job with lots of passion but no job security. Eighty-three percent of 18-24 year olds expect to make up to $55,000 annually.
Millennial Branding, a research and consulting firm, and Randstad, an HR services and staffing company, conducted a worldwide study in 2014 that focused on the workplace preferences of Generation Z. They found that a majority of individuals aged 16 to 20 prefer in-person communication over tools like instant messaging and video conferencing, and that 17 percent want to start a business of their own.
Shaping the culture
“People from Gen Z mostly care about company’s culture and they need to take part of defining that culture,” says Jordan Petrov, managing partner at Kickflip, a graphic design and digital marketing firm. “For Gen Z, who they work with is just as important as the work itself and even more important than the compensation. These individuals need a purpose beyond profits and that’s why they are attracted by smaller, more individual companies.”
American Public Media’s “Marketplace” program covered Generation Z in a November 2014 feature, and reported the cohort is confident by nature. Two-thirds expect to be better off financially than their parents and 42 percent plan to work for themselves during their careers.
Flexibility will be important to this cohort as they establish their careers, as it is to Millennials. “Some days I come in early, some days I come in late; some days I leave early and some days I leave late,” said Brandon Seymour, 28 — a Millennial — who he speaks to Gen Z issues as there is overlap in the needs and wants of the two groups. Seymour is the founder of Beymour Consulting in Boca Raton, Florida. “Ultimately, productivity is all that matters. If employees are getting their work done and meeting their employers expectations, then in and out times shouldn’t be so much of a concern.”
Savvy organizations can harness this independent drive and need for flexibility by offering training in entrepreneurship. Giving young workers some freedom to pursue passion projects within their roles will also pay dividends.
Stefan Mancevski is the co-founder of JobHero, a job search dashboard, and a member of Generation Z. “From our chats with many of our young users as they are entering the workforce, we’ve found that they want to be involved in an organization that enables them to have a positive and measurable impact from day one,” he says. “They want to learn through doing, not being talked at, and value projects and tasks that give them the opportunity to try new things.”
Sharing the vision
Many experts on Generation Z point to the importance of mentorship when it comes to training this young group. Though this generation grew up with a smartphone in hand, its members still value face-to-face interaction and genuine in-person guidance.
Dr. Shaun Davenport is assistant professor of management at High Point University in High Point, N.C. He says that members of Gen Z think of technology not as a tool, but as an extension of themselves. This fluidity is an asset to the organization, but it doesn’t mean Generation Z’ers won’t need training on the finer points of email etiquette or business communication.
When it comes to training this young group, think visually: “Members of Gen Z crave feedback and affirmation,” said Dr. Davenport. “Training needs to be broken up into short segments, and be highly visual. Gen Z prefers visual communication.”
Hiring managers should highlight the honesty and vision of the organization and company leadership to attract the best Gen Z talent according to Andrew Schrage, co-founder of MoneyCrashers.
“To effectively train Gen Z workers, an organization needs to have a mentoring program in place,” Schrage said. “Even though Gen Z is fully knowledgeable in terms of technology, they still need and desire more one-on-one training. They appreciate structure, so an organized and comprehensive training program will also be effective.”
For the aspects of training that are more formalized, interactivity is king. Ira S. Wolfe, author of Perfect Labor Storm 2.0 and Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization, believes watching and listening to a trainer without the ability to interact is ineffective. “Training also needs to be fast with immediate gratification milestones,” he said. “Gen Z won’t stay still for hours and hours of training. Training that requires interaction and collaboration and offers frequent milestones works best.”
Finally, training programs should utilize video and mobile technology. Young workers are used to accessing the information they need on their phones, and they’re also used to being able to refer to a video to review what they might have missed. If training is conducted in a classroom setting or via an online presentation, make sure someone has pressed “record.”
Energy and passion
After meeting the needs of Millennials, the prospect of pivoting again to appeal to Generation Z workers may seem tiresome. But it’s definitely worthwhile to do so. Generation Z is full of energy, passion, an intuitive grasp of technology and an earnest hope to make the world a better place. Attracting new workers from this cohort will catapult your organization into the next part of the 21st century.
Oytun Tez, lead developer at MotaWord, a translation platform based in New York City, is excited by the possibilities of a Millennial/Generation Z workforce and points to its multicultural perspective and open-mindedness as reasons for this enthusiasm. “We travel a lot, we intake so much information about anything, we have so many different friends. We are usually multitasking, multidisciplinary people who come up with unexpected solutions. We offer smart-creativity.”