Move over, Millennials: A new generation is about to shake up offices near you. Generation Z is getting ready to enter the workforce, with the oldest members between the ages of 18 or 23, depending on your definition (Bloomberg and the Census Bureau say the first Gen Z’ers were born in 2001, while others such as Pew Research dates its beginning to 1996).
How will Generation Z transform workplace culture? While it’s still early, here are some insights into how this age group thinks, the way they work and what they expect from employers.
They’re money-conscious: Generation Z grew up seeing their parents struggle during the Great Recession and, like millennials, many are graduating with high levels of college debt. No wonder financial security is top of mind. In a recent survey, more than one-third of Gen Z respondents plan to start saving for retirement in their 20s—and 12 percent have already started! Offering solid benefits packages—including retirement plans and health insurance—will be key to attracting Gen Z employees. Offer college loan repayment assistance and you’ll really win their loyalty.
They’re digital natives: This is the first generation that has always known smartphones, social media, and the internet. They’re comfortable with all types of technology and expect your business to be up-to-date with the latest tech tools. Gen Z will have little patience for practices that waste time or natural resources (paper). If you’re not quite there it’s a good opportunity to take advantage of their know-how to up your business’s technology game.
They struggle with soft skills: Gen Z can text in their sleep and know the meaning of every emoji, but common business interactions such as writing and responding to emails or making phone calls or having face-to-face discussions may be new territory. Gen Z employees tend to interact online more often than IRL – in real life. They’re less likely to have held jobs in their teens than previous generations because more were in college (or doing extracurriculars to get into college) at that time. You may need to provide some training to get entry-level Gen Z workers up to speed on their soft skills.
They work hard. They may not come fully polished on day one, but the Gen Z demographic grew up competing for everything from social media status to college admission. As a result, they’re a driven bunch, willing to try new things and learn new skills. Seven in 10 members of Generation Z say it’s more important to be curious and open-minded than to have specific skill sets. Don’t be afraid to challenge Gen Z employees with “stretch goals.”
They need support. They’re eager to take on challenges, but Gen Z isn’t overconfident or cocky. In fact, this generation suffers from high levels of anxiety. One-third of Gen Z say mentorship is the most important benefit a workplace can offer, and 65 percent say they need frequent feedback from employers to stay in their jobs. Use frequent check-ins to boost their confidence and help them grow into their roles.
They’re collaborative loners. Anxiety, social or otherwise, means Generation Z employees do some of their best work solo. However, they also express a desire for human interaction as part of teams. An office space that incorporates both private workspaces and communal areas will support Gen Z’s need for both solitude and collaboration.
They value authenticity. Even more than millennials, Gen Z expects the workplace to embrace their authentic selves and support causes they care about. As the most ethnically diverse generation in American history, it’s no wonder “equality” is the number-one cause they care about. Your workplace needs to welcome all types of people in order for Gen Z to be their best.
I’m not a big fan of lumping people into categories. (When Generation X entered the workforce, they were derided as “slackers;” millennials were mocked as entitled. Both of those demographics have turned out pretty well.) The best way to make the most of Gen Z employees: Treat them like unique human beings.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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