Get ready for some fresh faces in the office. Whether they’ve just graduated from college or are still working toward their high school diplomas, Generation Z, the second wave of the millennials, is preparing to launch their careers. By 2020, these professionals will make up more than 20 percent of the workforce, and employers can benefit from understanding more about this group and the way they view work.
Born between 1990 and 1999, Gen Zers don’t remember a world before Wi-Fi, smartphones and Google. They’re at ease Snapchatting and Instagramming, while Facebook is nearly a relic to them. But the differences they bring to the workplace aren't limited to technology.
Gen Zers are the most diverse generation yet and live in a time of great social change. They've grown up with the first African-American president in U.S. history, yet for them he's simply Mr. President. They have also grown up with bruising experiences. They were in grade school when the devastation of 9/11 occurred. Many also saw their parents struggle with significant financial uncertainty during the last decade's Great Recession.
A Generation of Passion, Ambition and Dedication
Having grown up during an era of great economic and geopolitical turmoil, Gen Zers seek financial and professional stability. They also have been taught by their parents and teachers to follow their passions first, and will seek career opportunities that align with their personal goals and belief systems.
When professional staffing firm Robert Half partnered with Enactus, a nonprofit organization that seeks to inspire entrepreneurialism in students, to conduct a survey of more than 770 college and university students between the ages of 18 and 25, they learned that Gen Zers most highly value career growth, passion for the job and the ability to contribute to society when evaluating professional prospects. They want to make a tangible and meaningful impact, and they expect to work hard to do it. Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed expect to work harder than previous generations to have a satisfying and lasting career.
Robert Half senior executive director Paul McDonald said, “College graduates entering the workforce today probably more closely mirror baby boomers than Gen Y. They've witnessed a lot of uncertainty growing up and know they must be able to work hard and weather change to be successful.”?
While most of those surveyed sought employment in mid- to large-sized organizations, 20 percent said they would like to start their own business, and this entrepreneurial spirit will likely be evident across the board. Creativity is another strength this generation brings to the table. Because of this trait, Gen Zers will always look for ways to change, improve and improvise, which naturally sets them up to innovate within traditional organizations, bringing new perspectives and ideas.
Preparing Generation Z for the Workplace
Like any demographic starting work for the first time, Gen Zers will need guidance and mentorship in order to succeed in the workplace.
In his book, "Bridging the Soft Skills Gap,” Bruce Tulgan says some of the areas where Gen Z has the most opportunity for development include conducting regular self-assessment, taking personal responsibility, keeping a positive attitude, and being mentally and physically prepared to come to work.
The most successful managers will create an environment in which employees can mature, gain trust within the workplace and take on more responsibility. For Gen Z, this will mean a particular focus in helping them adapt to the more structured norms and values of the workplace versus a classroom or message board.
How to Attract and Retain Generation Z Workers
Despite being digitally savvy, Gen Zers crave authentic interaction with their colleagues, and many are committed to working a regular 9-5 schedule rather than logging in from the local coffee shop.
“While employers may think these young adults will want to telecommute and interact with colleagues through technology, what many of them say they really want is a traditional office setting where they can connect with their bosses and coworkers in person,” McDonald noted.
When asked what kind of work environment they prefer, 64 percent of Gen Z employees responded that they would like to collaborate with a small group in an office. Generally, they prefer to work with mid-sized companies instead of large firms.
Larger companies can still foster this intimate and collegial environment, though. Smaller teams and departments can help Gen Zers feel more included and connected to their work. Some companies have set up after-hours groups to encourage a close-knit atmosphere. Others pair younger workers with mentors to guide and encourage them.
Generation Z has the makings of a dedicated and creative workforce, but this group is only loyal to the extent that their workplace aligns with their personal goals and beliefs and provides them with opportunities for growth, learning and close collaboration. They want to know what a company has to offer them long-term, and employers should be ready to answer their challenge.