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Here Comes Gen Z: What Employers Need to Know

By Laura Gayle, Business Woman Guide

Gen Z is growing up. Generally categorized as those born between 1995 and 2010, the oldest of the group have either already started working or are just graduating from college and looking for work. It won’t be long before the rest of the generation joins them, bringing new traits, preferences, and ideas to the workforce.

It seems like just yesterday that employers were advised to adapt to millennials (and many are still trying to adjust). Now they have to consider the preferences of Gen Z, as well. While Gen Z and millennials do share many traits, there also are definite differences. Here’s what you need to know so you can prepare for the next wave of talent wading into your candidate pool.

Differences Between Millennials and Gen Z

Employers might find it easy, at least on first glance, to lump millennials and Gen Z into the same category when it comes to work values and preferences. Since the youngest millennials are close in age to the oldest Gen Z’ers and usually at similar places in life events, this perhaps isn’t surprising. But while these generations of workers may share similarities, it’s important to recognize that older millennials, especially, can be very different from their Gen Z counterparts.

  • Connectedness – Millennials love their tech, but Gen Z has grown up in a perpetually connected state of mind. Companies that invest in the latest tech options to facilitate productivity and communication will find Gen Z adapts pretty effortlessly.
  • Competitive vs. Collaborative – Millennials are team players and love collaboration (remember: they’re the “Everyone gets a participation trophy!” generation). Gen Z, on the other hand, while collaborative, is more independent and competitive. They like to push themselves independently to see what they can accomplish on their own.
  • Entrepreneurial Tendencies – Gen Z has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and tends to be more independent when it comes to work. Their methods include seeking out mentors, becoming social media influencers, or using online platforms to earn money. As the gig economy becomes even more prominent, these innovative thinkers will be out there grabbing at opportunities.
  • College Education vs. Informal Education – Gen Z has heard all about the massive debt millennials accrued by pursuing higher education. They want to avoid that trap, and statistics are already indicating they are less likely to enroll in or graduate from college. Make no mistake, though: They aren’t sitting idle. They are seeking unconventional ways to learn through mentors, training opportunities, and online resources. Consider sending your Gen Z employees to conferences or trade shows to get some practical experience.
  • Salary and Security – The Great Recession occurred during Gen Z’s childhood and left a strong impression. Because of this, they place a high value on an acceptable salary and work that supports their values. If they don’t reach their goals at work, they aren’t shy about job-hopping if a better opportunity comes their way. Statistics suggest Gen Z’ers are 3x more likely to switch jobs than other generations.

Employers that are able to recognize the differences between millennials and Gen Zers will find they have a much easier time managing them all under the same company umbrella. There may be some balancing acts involved, but once they understand what makes these younger generations tick, it’ll become easier.

Similarities Between Millennials and Gen Z

While it’s true there are numerous fundamental differences that comprise the millennial and Gen Z divide, they do still share many tendencies, too. Here are some of the most common similarities they share:

  • Pro-Automation – While millennials often lean toward technological solutions, Gen Z  members live their lives around them. From filing their taxes to having groceries delivered, Gen Z manages life via apps and smartphones. As the first true digital native generation, automation is their go-to solution.
  • Career Customization – For the most part, millennials watched our world transform into the universe of personalized online experiences that it’s become, and the expectations created by that phenomenon have followed them to the workplace. Gen Z’s expectations followed suit. Gen Z especially expects workplaces to conform to their needs — or they’ll seek employment elsewhere — but workers in both generations want to be able to customize their career journeys.
  • Schedule Flexibility – Both millennials and Gen Z are attracted to the options of working remotely and flexible scheduling. Employers should recognize that remote work is becoming the dominant way of the workplace: Not only does this flexibility motivate both generations, making them typically far more productive, but it also frees them up to stretch their paychecks by relocating to work from less expensive areas. Many workers are finding it’s cheaper to rent in Omaha than in Chicago.
  • Modern Office Spaces – Both generations prefer modern, open office spaces with lots of natural light and other healthful design options. Unless you want to see your productivity levels sink like lead, you definitely don’t want to stick your millennials and Gen Z’ers in cubicles.

These are only a handful of similarities between the two generations, but there are many more values and preferences they share.

5 Important Takeaways

To successfully manage Gen Z, you’ll likely need to make an effort to update your physical workspace as well as your company culture. Here are 5 tips:

  • Give them a challenge. Gen Z wants to push themselves, as they love to compete.
  • Offer either formal or informal mentoring. Gen Z wants to learn things they can’t find on their smartphones, so employers offering them access to professional development opportunities will make this generation happy.
  • Integrate technology. AI and IoT are huge, and their implementation is only going to continue to grow. Injecting automated tech into daily workflow tasks and physical office spaces will help Gen Z be more productive.
  • Offer independent projects. As noted, Gen Z loves a challenge and, for the most part, work well in collaboration. However, to keep them engaged, it’s a wise strategy to routinely offer them projects they can tackle on their own.
  • Financial rewards. Understand that Gen Z is focused on bringing home the bacon. Millennials were fine with cool perks and other forms of rewards, but Gen Z fears what happens during recessions and wants to be financially secure. When considering rewards, look at raises or bonuses to motivate them.

Gen Z workers are driven by opportunities and want to help shape their company culture. When onboarding Gen Z talent, it’s a good idea to try to understand what makes them tick. Doing so will result in less employee turnover and higher levels of productivity, and can help pave the path for the next generation of leaders.

Categories: Productivity,Professional Development.