Internships

Gen Z: Coming to an Internship Near You

Gen Z: Coming to an Internship Near You
Image credit: ITU Pictures | Flickr

Generation Z, a group loosely defined as those born after 1995, spans the globe at two billion strong and makes up 25 percent of the American population. Shaped by social media, technology and the deepest recession since the Great Depression, this generation is lauded as more educated, connected and sophisticated than any generation that has come before.

Their defining traits of being self-motivated, entrepreneurial-minded and outward-focused are, in essence, a blend of the best traits held by preceding generations. This is an ambitious generation that has placed a profound importance and personal responsibility on preparing for their career while in college or even earlier, with 80 percent of current high school students from a 2014 High School Careers report sharing interest in pursuing an internship while they’re still in high school.

With anxious ambition to make a difference in the word and workforce, the oldest of this generation are starting to enter the workplace as college interns. As such, companies looking to recruit and retain top Generation Z talent can use these tips to create internship programs that closely with their values and entrepreneurial spirit.

Related: 6 Steps to Writing Your Own Definition of Success

Think of them as intrapreneurs

Today, there are more than 20 million non-employer businesses in America and even more starting up every day. With entrepreneurial rates well above the dot.com bubble of 15 years ago, the resurgence in the entrepreneurial spirit only grows with each new generation, given their access to an unlimited supply of information, resources and mentors via the Internet at a younger age.

This idea holds true for Gen Z. With a staggering 61 percent of current U.S. high school students admitting they want to be entrepreneurs rather than employees, this generation has a strong desire to not only start their own company but also invent something that will change the world.

During their internship, empower them to do a little of both as “intrapreneurs.” As any business leader knows, adding more intrapreneurs to the roster is crucial for any company to survive, stay relevant and achieve long-term growth. An “intrapreneurship” is the perfect way to attract, develop and maintain Gen Zs’ entrepreneurial zeal within your company.

Let them work on projects that make a difference during their intrapreneurship. Develop initiatives that allow them to cross-team with peers to deliver projects directly tied to the success of the company, like solving a department revenue challenge, building a new product or idea from the ground up or identifying new areas of growth. Innovation will be your reward for supporting and building an interdisciplinary team of entrepreneurial-minded Gen Zs who are focused on driving meaningful business consequences.

Use the right tools at the right time

Empowering Gen Zs to produce meaningful innovation starts with providing the right structure and tools to support their work style, communication needs and continued learning preferences. Here’s a cheat sheet on how to best support intrapreneurial teamwork.

Related: 3 Tips to Help You Build the Best Team in 2015

  • Design online work into the equation. As the first digitally innate generation, Gen Z multitasks across at least five screens daily and 46 percent are connected online more than 10 hours each day. They are almost always “plugged in” and 77 percent rely on technology to help them accomplish goals, both personally and professionally. Tapping into their hyperconnected behavior, use cloud-based, mobile-friendly project management applications and workspaces like AsanaBasecamp and Google Drive to complete projects. Additionally, use their preference to work online as a recruiting tactic by offering digital internships that allow them to work remotely using video conferencing technology.
  •  Blend video with in-person communication. Gen Zs have an entirely different set of online habits than previous generations, especially when it comes to how they communicate. While technology has helped them communicate with speed, 53 percent prefer in-person discussion over tools like instant messaging and email. That’s why it’s essential to find ways to foster group learning, in-person training sessions and regular touch-bases over coffee and the like. But equally important to know is that when Gen Z does communicate using technology, video reigns as the superior choice. This group consumes video content like no other generation before, with 93 percent of Gen Zs visiting YouTube at least once a week. When you can’t meet in person, video is the next best medium to communicate. Whether it’s a quick brainstorm chat or a virtual meeting, taking advantage of video over the phone can work wonders in helping Gen Z feel comfortable and get more out of their intrapreneurship.
  • Online learning is important to success. As the first generation brought up with massive open online courses and other online learning options, it’s no surprise that 43 percent of teens prefer a digital approach to learning and find it easiest to learn from the Internet.

Pay them or make it meaningful

Fearing that Social Security and other similar government retirement programs will be depleted by the time they retire, and the ever-increasing worry about paying off student debt makes this generation much more money conscious than Millennials.

They are deeply interested in saving money. As such, this generation is more likely to accept a paid or stipend internship over one that’s unpaid. However, if a paid internship isn’t an option for your company, employers will need to emphasize other enticing aspects of an internship that resonate with this unique generation.

For example, 34 percent of Gen Z are motivated the most by opportunities for advancement while 23 percent are motivated the most by meaningful work. Therefore, clearly defining a path that Gen Zs can take to attain a job within your company or sharing insight on the rate at which interns are hired is an attractive benefit to highlight.

Gen Zs are also highly motivated by the chance to give back, as roughly one in four volunteer and 60 percent want to have an impact on the world. Pique their interest by highlighting company-wide charitable programs or volunteer projects to which they can lead or become involved.

Adjusting the workplace to bring the best out of a new, different generation like Gen Z is no easy task. But by spending some time to understand how they live, what they value and which ways they communicate can help set up your future workforce for success. Following these simple steps is a great place to get started in the New Year.

Related: You're Never Too Old for an Internship