Millennials Are Old News: What Does Generation Z Want From Work?

Pay attention to how young employees respond to the professional world to make sure they have the resources they need to succeed.

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By John Rampton


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Experts have dissected millennials to death. We know what they prioritize at work, and we know they prefer experiences over possessions. As millennials turn into managers, however, company leaders must learn to contend with a new generation of employees: Generation Z.

According to Pew Research Center, Generation Z refers to anyone born after 1996. Those 22-year-olds are about to graduate, but what makes them different from those who came before?

The defining characteristics of Gen Z

Like every generation, Generation Z is filled with people who have different preferences and working styles. However, just like every generation before, most share a few commonalities.

Novorésumé's research found that, despite their reputation as technology junkies, members of Generation Z prefer human contact to digital. Perhaps they get enough social media off the clock, but they prefer to hash things out in person rather than through emails.

Where millennials are all about collaborative work environments, Gen Z members are a bit more protective of their space. Research from David and Jonah Spillman found that 69 percent of Gen Zers prefer a private workspace over a shared environment like an open office.

More than anything, Gen Zers are like the young people of every generation: excited to join the real world and eager to prove their worth. Follow these tips to manage Gen Z workers effectively:

Related: 4 Unconventional Ways to Better Market to Generation Z

1. Provide the right incentives.

As Novorésumé discovered, members of Generation Z are less motivated by money than millennials. They grew up in an online world where longstanding truths can become outdated overnight, so they want to get their hands dirty and make an immediate impact.

Communicate with Gen Z workers about how their projects affect company goals. Provide them with clear paths of advancement, and tell them what they need to do to rise in the company. With a goal in mind and results they can see, Gen Z employees will work tirelessly to make a difference.

2. Talk to them in person.

For a generation that grew up online, Generation Z finds surprising value in face-to-face conversations. Millennial Branding reports that 53 percent of Gen Z prefers face-to-face talks over IMs and video chats.

Don't mistake Generation Z's technological familiarity for preference. Invite young employees to meetings, prioritize in-person talks and make them feel like they belong to the group. Fly in remote employees a few times a year to keep connections strong and show them the company values their presence.

Related: 10 Ways to Appeal to the Next Wave of Workers: Generation Z

3. Listen to their feedback.

Young people who grew up with the internet are used to voicing honest concerns. Rather than respond to young employee opinions with something like "That's not the way we do things here," listen to their feedback and consider their points. Just like any new perspective, the view of a young worker could help the company spot inefficient processes that have become routine.

Generation Z might be the most entrepreneurial group yet. SHRM found that employers who do not openly entertain the ideas of their employees cause those employees to feel less motivated. Encourage youthful productivity by taking the opinions of young employees seriously.

4. Be clear about benefits.

Away from the controlled environment of college and parental guidance, most young employees find themselves thrust into a world of insurance and investments for which they're unprepared. Don't just dump a packet of information on new hires and let them figure it out for themselves. Instead, offer guidance through HR and benefits providers so Gen Z workers can get the answers they need.

As a generation of go-getters, Generation Z employees don't need their hands held -- just a nudge in the right direction. Have HR give them a crash course on the basics, then make sure they know who to call when they have questions.

Related: Are You Ready for Gen Z?

5. Treat them with respect.

The next generation of workers deserve all the respect their older peers receive. The U.S. Census Bureau found that half of the country's children will be part of a minority group by 2020. As the workforce becomes increasingly diverse, Generation Z will be right in the middle of it. Employers must make sure that their cultures accommodate people of different backgrounds to get the most from their teams.

With the first graduating class of Generation Z on the way, employers have just begun to see what changes and challenges this new group will bring. We will learn more about how Generation Z operates in the office as more of them join the workforce. Pay attention to how young employees respond to the professional world to make sure they have the resources they need to succeed.

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

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