Gen Z Brings a Whole New Dynamic to the Workforce
Just when you figured out the millennials, here comes a new wave of changes.
Gen Z is entering the workforce at a rapid pace, with the eldest of them now 23. A far larger group than their millennial counterparts, youth and young adults born between the mid-1990s and late 2000s have aptly been named Gen Z. Employers should be excited as a flood of talent will be joining the workforce soon -- comprising 36 percent of the workforce by 2020 -- but be aware, they have short attention spans, even shorter than millennials, and expect a lot from their employers.
With this massive influx of new talent, the workplace is once again going to experience significant change. These five tips will get you ready for the new arrivals.
1. Position yourself as a technology-based company.
These digital natives are looking to get ahead in the workplace by leveraging technology and collaboration strategies. This is evidenced by Google, Amazon, and Apple being three of the top six most desirable employers and 75 percent of high school students having indicated interest in STEM fields according to the National Society of High School Scholars. If you aren't a tech startup, it is in your interest to prepare your company by having an end-to-end software strategy or tech-enabled workplace that works across various devices. Having seamless and usable software is particularly important as 60 percent of Gen Z indicated that they won’t use an app or website if it is too slow. They also prioritize the ability to access information and people instantly, and expect cross-functional teamwork. Optimize communication through collaborative workspace software options such as Slack, a file management system like Dropbox or any other alternative. Ensure that there is company-wide training so that your current and future employees can collaborate well regardless of their age or experience.
2. Real-time development and feedback.
A Robert Half Study indicated that Gen Z’s top priority when considering prospective employers is the opportunity for growth, and identified it as an important retention tool for Gen Z employers. Gen Z are voracious learners who are eager to expand their skillsets through formal and informal development opportunities and crave frequent and consistent feedback. The annual performance review just won’t cut it. Ensure that you establish a development plan in partnership your Gen Z talent. Create a timeline, define formal learning opportunities, establish informal feedback mechanisms for ongoing two-way performance dialogue, and where possible, provide mentorship and individualized support. Development is essential because Gen Z is entering the workforce at an earlier age -- foregoing post-secondary education in many cases, meaning on-the-job training must address any skills gaps.
It is worthy to note, these gaps are different than with previous generations, and you may have to offer training for some soft skills such as interpersonal communication.
3. Focus on your employment brand and candidate experience.
Your organization’s first impression is crucial in generating high-quality applicants. They expect diversity, fair treatment and a respectful environment. Gen Z wants employers that are collaborative, honest and involved in their community, and it's important to make sure that the candidate experience convinces applicants that they do want to work at your company. Treat candidates like clients, focusing on clear communication and timely follow-up. Ensure the careers section of your website is usable and attractive, make your job description wording authentic and reflective of your culture, get a certification that reflects your values, and keep the application process simple and transparent.
4. Offer benefits that encourage a balanced lifestyle.
According to a Deloitte study, Gen Z values employment that allows them to live a balanced lifestyle even more so than Millennials, with a greater emphasis on physical, mental and social well-being. They want flexibility and control within their schedules. For example, they want to be able to go to an afternoon doctor’s appointment without feeling like it reflects poorly on their work ethic. Employers must investigate providing flexible work hours, the ability to work from home when possible, and progressive benefit plans that include a Wellness Spending Account. Shopify, for example, offers a WSA that includes eligible spending categories such as gym memberships, financial planners and house cleaning.
5. Listen well.
Gen Z was raised to be curious, they want to be part of the solution and make a difference. Ask for their input and ideas, whether obtained through survey responses or conversations. The insights garnered from engagement are what facilitate innovation. Their contribution may improve a product line, make a process more efficient, or change the culture of your organization in a meaningful way. Above all else, when an organization values curiosity, it creates a positive feedback loop which encourages further idea sharing and reinforces that employees are heard and appreciated.
Across nearly every industry and market, employers were caught flat-footed for the paradigm shift that millennial workers represented. The next decade of business will be dominated by employers who take the lessons learned from adapting to millennials and apply them to Gen Z. By engaging their curiosity, unique skills and tech-savvy minds, you can distinguish yourself as an employer of choice and create a real competitive advantage.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer
Entrepreneur, author, CEO and founder of Inspired HR. Debby was recently honoured for a 4th consecutive year as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women marking Debby's induction into Canada’s Top 100 Hall of Fame as the youngest inductee in history.