10 Ways to Appeal to the Next Wave of Workers: Generation Z
Flexible scheduling and open feedback loops build trust with incoming employees. Companies shouldn't be surprised if older workers appreciate those changes, too.
Generation Z encompasses more than one-quarter of America's population, making this cohort larger than baby boomers or millennials. Gen Z is entering the workplace in waves, and its members come with their own set of values, preferences and abilities.
It's not hard to understand why: They grew up amidst economic and political uncertainty and have watched their millennial predecessors struggle to find jobs, pay off student loans and become financially independent. Determined to avoid these pitfalls, Gen Zers are self-motivated. Committed to make their own way in life and in their careers, they're willing to work hard to gain success. They also expect a lot in return.
Businesses that want to remain competitive and recruit talent of all ages will need to consider adopting a company culture and perks that appeal to Gen Z. Here's what you need to know to reach the next generation of workers.
1. Provide flexible schedules.
Gen Z is used to the flexibility of an online world. Shopping from your couch at midnight is as easy as IM'ing a friend who lives three time zones away. This generation won't willingly be tethered to a traditional 9-to-5 job.
The line between personal and work life is blurry at best within this malleable lifestyle. Many Gen Zers will expect work practices to adapt to them, not the other way around. In fact, some Gen Zers rank flexible work schedules at the top of their employee-benefits lists. Promoting flexible schedules will not only help companies recruit Gen Z talent but also appeal to millennials as they start their own families.
2. Skip the annual performance review.
Gen Zers desire feedback on a regular basis. This might be in part because they're accustomed to receiving real-time updates on social media or having search options instantly at their fingertips. If you're holding out for an annual performance review to give input, Gen Zers feel a bit like you're dropping a letter in the mail to let them know you're running late for dinner. It simply doesn't help them when they need it most.
Some major-league companies are listening. GE and Adobe are among those that have phased out annual performance reviews and replaced those processes with regular feedback programs. Consistent conversation will increase both retention and productivity among workers in general -- not just Gen Zers. Understanding your expectations and perspective allows them to better tailor their performance to fit the present moment.
3. Embrace a tech-centered workplace.
For Gen Z, technology is like a second skin. They use an average of five screens per day, including smartphones, TVs, laptops, desktops and tablets. Technology is at the center of their lives. After all, it enables them to participate in one of their favorite pastimes: social media.
If you want to reach Gen Zers, you must approach them on their level. Social media the perfect place to advertise job opportunities and recruit Gen Z talent. It's also where you need to engage them with your story and brand by pitching the narrative behind your company.
4. Plan for in-person interaction.
They may have grown up Facetiming, IM'ing and texting, but 53 percent of Gen Zers prefer face-to-face communication. As a practically minded generation, they see in-person communication as the best way to build collaborative and effective work relationships. Gen Zers value these connections to establish mentorship and coaching opportunities -- two aspects that lead to their ultimate successes.
5. Expect to provide more structure and direction.
Along with consistent feedback, Gen Zers also desire order, structure and predictability at work. They find it difficult to orient themselves if left with too many choices and options. A well-organized environment helps them feel focused and settled. Comprehensive training programs are an effective way to dial Gen Z into your company's structure and culture.
6. Reevaluate formal education.
Gen Zers are adept researchers. They know how to educate themselves and where to find information. If they want to learn something, 33 percent will watch lessons online, 20 percent will read textbooks on tablets, and 32 percent will work with classmates online. Many Gen Zers grew up in alternative-learning classrooms or homeschool environments.
Many more have used massive open online courses (MOOCS), gaining education at no cost. A substantial portion of Gen Zers will enter college and earn degrees, but formal education has lost its appeal. It makes little sense to Gen Zers to pay ever-climbing tuition rates and take on massive student-loan debt when they can gain knowledge and skills in other, more affordable ways.
7. Have a plan for their professional growth.
Career development is a must-have for Gen Zers. They are ambitious and crave opportunities for advancing their careers. They're also pragmatic enough to realize this won't happen if they don't build their knowledge and skills. That's one of the reasons they embrace informal coaching and mentoring opportunities alongside formal learning. Gen Zers regard both as viable pathways for career growth and regular training.
8. Set clear expectations.
Gen Zers have a strong work ethic, but they seek guidance from those around them. They want to know exactly what their boss wants from them. This desire for crystal-clear expectations stems not from a fear of making mistakes but rather from an appreciation for form and direction. Gen Zers will look to managers to be the strong mentors they need to guide them to safety if they get lost in the weeds.
9. Make them feel valued.
Although they're sometimes criticized for it, Gen Zers are accustomed to receiving praise and rewards for even small achievements. They thrive on feeling valued. Gen Zers' motivation and self-worth are intricately linked to this acknowledgement. If you want to engage Gen Zers, make sure you appreciate them as individuals as well as recognize their performance efforts.
10. Be transparent.
Gen Zers couldn't care less about the grand image you project or the celebrity endorsements you wield. Authenticity and transparency matter to them. They want to know you really are who you say you are.
Accurately portray your company, and don't misrepresent or exaggerate information. If you're honest about the good and the (potentially) bad, Gen Zers will appreciate you for it.
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