Did you know the oldest Millennials are turning 40 in 2021! Over the past decade, we’ve heard a lot about how companies must adapt to the needs of Millennials. Well……I hate to break it to you, but it’s time we move on and explore the new kids in town (or the workplace)
Digital Integrators. Generation Connected. Dot.com kids. Millennial Intensified. These are just some of the creative terms used to label the newest – and largest – generation to enter the workforce: Gen Z
More than just hating on our side parts and skinny jeans, Gen Z is defined as those born between 1995 and 2009, they are now aged between 10 and 24 and make up approximately 30% of the world’s population. By 2021, Gen Z will make up approx 20% of a multigenerational workforce.
As I touched on in my 2018 blog Is The Ability to Engage & Motivate Millennials the Elusive Unicorn the “kids these days” rhetoric from older generations surrounding these conversations is just history repeating itself. For the most part, Gen Z & Millennials aren’t uniquely any more disruptive to the workforce than Gen Xers or Boomers were.
A big standout from older generations is Gen Z’s commitment to their personal values and a very true sense of self, they don’t differ from Millennials too much here. They have very strong social values, particularly around diversity and inclusion. If they don’t like what their organisation is doing, they’re not afraid to publicly say so on social media. But on the flip side they aren’t shy about giving credit where credit is due, (think all the amazing organisations who continued to pay employees who were off fighting the 2019/2020 Australian bush fires).
But in reality every generation has had a tipping point that has spurred on activism of some point; the Vietnam War; 80’s greed; 90’s revolt against – well everything (including saccharine pop music and hair band ballads); the GFC & anti Wall Street protest and now Me Too, climate change and diversity & inclusion. And each & every generation has had their elders declaring them entitled and lazy, so stop yelling at the kids to get off your lawn and let’s unpack Gen Z.
If you aren’t online they won’t find you As the most connected generation in history, Gen Z live a digital life. This doesn’t mean they are online 24/7, it means this is their first point of call to source information, in fact 70% of Gen Z & Millennials use social media as their primary job search tool. As recruitment agency Hays suggests, if your job isn’t online, Gen Z won’t find it. It’s also worthwhile ensuring you’re running a quick, honest and transparent recruitment process.
The new way of working Gen Z are predicted to work 17 jobs and have 5 careers in their lifetime, according to the demographers and researchers at McCrindle. In short, they are adapting to the age of disruption by embracing everything the “gig economy” has to offer. With contract, freelance and gig employment no longer being considered “alternative work”, as it was in the past, today 81% of Gen Z would consider joining the gig economy. As someone who works in the gig economy (and a few years north of being a Gen Z) I can testify this new way of work can offer an amazing lifestyle change, which brings me to my next point.
Work life integration Technology started blurring the lines between work and life in the mid 2000’s. But rather than fight against this shift, millennials and now Gen Z are often the ones pushing for greater workplace flexibility in order to achieve an integration rather than a balance between work and life. Out the door is the idea of ‘balance’, where work sits on one side and life on the other, and are instead happy for the two to coexist – provided their employer allows them to utilise technology to work flexibly. Cloud technology, smart phones and various collaboration tools like Zoom enable work to be done from anywhere, at any time. Of course this isn’t relevant for every industry but could there be mind shift in your workplace that allows for greater freedom & autonomy in a push to achieve greater engagement and productivity?
People need to understand why Ok, this one isn’t specific to Gen Z but it’s something I see repeatedly so worth an inclusion. A common complaint heard from all employees, regardless of age, is that they have limited understanding of how their work contributes to the success of the organisation. The strategic goals of the company are not filtered down to a team or individual level. Gen Z want a clear purpose for their role – they want to understand their organisation’s “reason for being” and how their contribution helps to achieve this.
Gen Z is also highly motivated by social issues and making a difference – in their communities, personal relationships and the workplace. Research indicates that 38% of Gen Z’s want to work for a socially or environmentally responsible organisation, and 45% want work that has meaning and purpose beyond getting paid.
Give’em feedback & give it in the moment Checking in with them a couple of times a year won’t cut it (again, this applies across the board); they want clear goals, rewards and regularly refreshed personal challenges to keep them involved in the workplace.
How to go about this? Here are some great tips applicable for any generation.
- Be intentional about the interaction. Relationships matter to Gen Z, so consider taking the time to reflect on the nature of the professional relationship you want to develop or maintain, not simply the facts and figures on the Performance Appraisal Form.
- Use active listening. Give the employee a chance to talk, and then listen. It’s a two way street.
- Lead with the positive contributions. Devote plenty of time to discussing areas where they’re performing well.
- Share practical examples. Offer specific guidance and frameworks for areas where they need to improve. No generalisations – actual examples.
- Show that you’re willing to help. Ask “How can I/we help you improve?” is a better approach than asking “How are you going to improve?”
- Stick to the facts. Avoid value judgments. Ask for clarity if you perceive they are do not understand, don’t overcomplicate things.
There’s also a critical role for employers to play in ensuring these young workers have the right skillsets, beyond just technical expertise. Just 57% of surveyed Gen Z believe their education has prepared them well for future careers.
You can complain about it, or you can do something about it.
According to Dell Technologies: “Gen Z are full of tech swagger, but they worry about having the right soft skills and experience for the workforce.” Top of the wish list are collaboration and communication skills.
Every generation has its strengths, weaknesses and quirks, let’s not forget that as we welcome new employees into our workplaces.
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