By Jim Annis, CEO
Generation Z is a force to be reckoned with. They were born between 1994 and 2010 and — if you assume a college path — they began hitting the workplace last year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Gen Z makes up 25 percent of our population, outnumbering millennials and baby boomers. According to Robert Half, by 2020 Gen Z will comprise 20 percent of the workforce. So how do we ready the workforce for them? How do we ready them for the workforce?
Unlike their Gen Y predecessors, today’s Gen Z college students rated “opportunity for career growth” as the most important expectation of their first job (36 percent), followed by fulfilling work (19 percent) and stability (19 percent). Friendly work environments and schedules demanded by Gen Y are low on Gen Z’s priority list. It’s a back-to-basics approach. Anything you offer Gen Z employees to help reach important career goals (i.e., job shadowing, mentoring and continuing education) will be welcomed.
Get ready for a switch: Gen Z wants to have genuine conversations and connections with higher-ups because they have higher expectations of relationship with their bosses. Social media has a place, but it is not the preferred communication with you. On the other hand, reduced face-to-face with co-workers can cause conflicts at work. Think about how easy it is to “unfriend” when a conflict presents itself. Management and mentoring regarding conflict resolution and presenting options for open and honest verbal dialogue will be key to their peer-to-peer success. In terms of work environment and design, you can create “refuge” work spaces available for distraction-free time which can double as a quick casual meeting area for employee-manager coaching.
Gen Z mirrors their Gen X “parents” in that they are project-oriented and ready to run with whatever is given to them – with a twist. They prefer extensive feedback and input from supervisors and upper management; however, do not mistake this for the typical micromanagement needed for Gen Y. You’ll need to shift gears and let the reins go a bit to keep them engaged and loyal.
And what about loyalty and longevity? Keeping A-level talent is already tough with competition in the marketplace today. For human resources professionals and management doing strategic planning, the job-hopping of Gen Z will be a major barrier for retention. Eighty-three percent of today’s students believe that three years or less is the appropriate amount of time to spend at their first job. Over 27 percent of students believe staying at your first job for a year or less is preferred. Tactics to mitigate this tendency include effective and frequent training and professional development opportunities. The goal is to help Gen Z employees find a niche within the company to meet their security and advancement needs.
I know, I know. Just when you thought you had management of Gen Y somewhat under control, we’re now putting a spin on the ball as we pass it to you. Like anything, the only thing constant is change. We believe that like any generation, Gen Z’s positive contributions to the workplace will be significant. To quote one of my favorites, John Wooden: “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” Embrace the best of Gen Z and manage the rest.
Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.