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Welcome to the Workforce Generation Z!

September 4, 2019

Laura L. Rubenstein

It’s not often that we take business advice from a 16-year-old, but Josh Miller is fascinating. A high school junior in Minnesota, he works for a research and management consulting firm called XYZ University as director of Gen Z studies. He has written articles, done speaking tours around the country, and appears to have a strong grasp on the personality, needs, and motivations of those who were born between 1996 and 2009.

Generation Z (a.k.a. Gen Z, the iGeneration, Gen Tech, Gen Wii, and Net Gen to name a few) is 57 million strong, consisting of 25% of the U.S. population, which makes them a larger cohort than Baby Boomers or Millennials. Born after the events of 9/11 and raised by members of Generation X, Gen Z is intimately familiar with shelter-in-place drills, active shooter trainings, and foreign and domestic terrorism.

Despite all of this, Josh Miller says his generation is full of creative entrepreneurs, inspired to change the world. Fifty-Eight percent want to own a business one day and 14% already do, according to XYZ University.

Why Should Employers Care?

Employers should listen to Miller because starting in 2020, Generation Z will make up 36% of the U.S. workforce. Miller writes in his recent blog that Gen Z understands the “need to work hard to be successful and that we may have to compete with our peers to work our way up a corporate ladder. We are very realistic and many of us know from an early age what career we want to pursue.” In fact, almost 50% of Gen Z knows what career they want to pursue and have been fortunate to access opportunities through organizations like Junior Achievement where students learn about business. Miller and XYZ University have some suggestions about how to prepare and what to expect.

Generation Z Prefers Face-To-Face Communication.

Miller reports that contrary to popular belief, 43% of Gen Z prefers face-to-face communication. “Nothing keeps us off our phones as much as an intriguing conversation. The reason we seem to be on our phone so much is that the content on it is often more exciting and valuable than the surrounding environment. However, when we communicate about something that matters to us, we seek authenticity and honesty. This is best achieved in-person,” says Miller.

Studies show that about one third of Gen Z members spend as many as 4 hours a day watching videos online. They view instructional DIY projects and learn step-by-step procedures which they rewind and fast forward as they perform the same task alongside the video screen. The majority of Generation Z (55%) say they prefer to learn new skills by doing.

In order to appeal to Gen Z, organizations need to understand that the technological aspect of learning is something that needs to be embraced, not rejected. The reality is that many Companies have made significant investments in technology to leverage their time and resources. Company leaders should consider whether to re-evaluate their use of technology for interviewing, training and other retention programs. On-line tutorials and other learning-based training may be better received by Gen Z via in person or videoconference.

Generation Z Craves Structure.

Unlike the Generation X latch-key generation that fended for themselves or rode their bikes without helmets after school, many Gen Z members have been enrolled in after-school and summer programs their entire lives. Whether it means sports, theatre class, camp, tutoring, or other instruction, Gen Z is used to having a structured, supervised life. Consequently, they are used to a seasonal schedule and know regular goals, challenges and methodologies to measure their success.
Companies should be prepared with mentors for their new workers from day one. This should not be just someone to show them how to use the copier on day one, but someone who can help them manage their daily schedule, make introductions and check in about meeting deadlines. Job descriptions may need more clarity and supervisor should set and track goals on a regular basis and provide constructive comments.

Generation Z Needs Instant Feedback.

This generation also seems to always know the score, and the details behind the score. They are accustomed to competitive education environments where they get immediate test scores through online grading portals and know where they rank. Miller writes, “in the past, students sometimes had to wait weeks or longer to receive a test grade in the mail. Now, we get frustrated if we can’t access our scores within hours of finishing an exam.”

Managers should be constantly communicating expectations for success to Gen Z employees. Setting several short-term and long-term goals and deadlines to help employees stay on track is recommended. Gen Z should also know they have a voice and leaders are listening. Managers should find opportunities for them to create, lead, contribute and learn. This cohort has an incredible ability to bring together information, process it, and implement action.

Gen Z Seeks Career Stability.

Generation Z is expected to place significant emphasis on financial security and flexibility. They are viewed as more frugal and averse to taking on debt. Unlike the stereotypical Millennial, Generation Zers have been characterized as realists and pragmatists who view work primarily as a way to make a living rather than as a source of meaning and purpose in their lives. In fact, the XYZ University study revealed that 2 in 3 Generation Zers preferred a job that offered financial stability over one they enjoyed.

The good news is that Gen Z members are more likely than Millennials to avoid job-hopping. But to woo and retain this cohort, employers should consider offering paid internships, flexible career paths, and tuition assistance.

Employers– it’s time again to pivot. Just as we were all just adapting to Millennials, here come the Gen Zers to challenge us again. Let’s be ready and welcome them with open arms.

(This article was previously published in The Daily Record and reprinted with permission.)

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