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Mentoring a New Generation – Get Ready for Gen Z

POSTED 01/13/2016
By Corrie Pelc

Many of today’s businesses are juggling four different generational groups of employees  — traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X and Generation Y/millennials. Now there’s a fifth group for them to start preparing for, if they don’t already have them in their current workforce: Generation Z.

According to Doug Anderson, co-founder and managing partner for media and education company Bisnow Ventures, LLC — which runs a program called GEN*Z that helps Gen Z college students explore their futures — Generation Z is defined as those born after 1995, making the oldest members about 20 years old.

“The older members of Generation Z are just starting to kind of hit the workforce now,” Anderson says. “They’re either entering the workforce or they’re beginning to look for internships and to think about their professional paths.”

Though they may not be a large percentage of the workforce right now, in a few years that will definitely be changing. In fact, it is estimated that Gen Z employees will hit the 30 million mark by 2019.

Since this new generational group will be at the very start of their careers, being able to include them in workplace mentoring might be the very thing they need to succeed. To help ease them in, here’s a look at what we know Gen Z will be bringing to the corporate table and some advice on adding them to your workplace mentoring program.

What Do They Want?

A study published in September 2014 by Gen Y research and consulting firm Millennial Branding, and by HR services and staffing company Randstad, looked at what Generation Z members are looking for in a job, compared to Generation Y. The study encompassed 1,000 people from 10 different countries, including the United States.

One of the main characteristics of Gen Z is that its members have a more entrepreneurial spirit compared to Generation Y. Anderson said these entrepreneurial skills are not just about wanting to start their own business, but rather people who have a very flexible and adaptable skill set, and then are able to package those skills and present them to potential employers.

“Those will the ones who are going to really succeed in finding (their) first jobs and getting their careers off to a start, as opposed to previous generations where a lot of emphasis was on getting into corporate training programs, government training programs, and a lot of the stuff would be taught to you on the job,” Anderson said. “That’s not an option for this generation — they’re going to need to be a lot more flexible and able to sell themselves earlier.”

The Randstad/Millennial Branding study also found only 28% of Gen Z surveyed stated money would motivate them to stay at a job longer and work harder. Rather, opportunities for advancement ranked higher when asked what would keep them at a job.

When it came to what type of jobs they were looking for, the study found Gen Z employees are mainly looking for a corporate office space, with being able to work from home also high on their list. When it comes to their boss, Gen Z holds honesty above all else, followed by a solid vision and good communication skills.

And the study found that overall Gen Z workers are not necessarily looking to change jobs as much as Gen Y. Although both generational groups said they did expect to change jobs over the course of their careers, Gen Z was looking to only work for four different companies, which is one less than Gen Y’s five.

Mentoring Gen Z

With this knowledge about Gen Z, is including these young professionals into a workplace mentoring program a good idea?

Anderson says yes and he’s seen an increase in companies recognizing the importance of giving young employees the opportunity to learn from each other on what it takes to be successful in different corporate environments and company cultures.

“The old playbooks are being rewritten and for every company there is a different emphasis on skills and on knowledge and things that are going to make you successful there,” he said. “For new people to learn from the generation ahead of them is a critical piece of that.”

Additionally, Anderson believes workplace mentoring programs can help teach Gen Z employees some of the soft, critical skills they probably do not have yet, such as basic interpersonal communication, public speaking, and the ability to network and understand the value in developing relationships.

“These are things that are just not taught on college campuses, but I think they wind up being the most important differentiators between successful young employees and those that have a hard time in company environments,” he said.

Jagged Edge Media JAcom Consultants