Employee Retention, Engagement, Hiring & Recruiting, HR

Generation Z: Understanding the Next Generation of Workers

If you’re sick of hearing the term “Millennials,” you’re in luck! Millennials make up a majority of the workforce, and employers and HR professionals have been talking about them for years. Now that the oldest Millennial will be 37 years old, it’s time to focus on a new generation of workers who will be, or are, entering the workforce: Generation Z, which can be defined as those who were born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s.

gen z

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As the 2017–2018 school year comes to a close, many Gen Z students will be stepping out into the workforce for the very first time with a summer job or internship. According to Ryan Jenkins, who presented the webinar Gen Z Entering the Workforce: How to Attract Talent, Maximize Potential, and Overcome Cross-Generational Challenges, Gen Z workers are vastly different from their Millennial counterparts, and because of this, HR professionals and hiring managers need to keep this in mind when attracting and retaining the next generation of workers.

In 2017, there were five generations in the workforce, and as technology and medicine advance, at some point in the not-too-distant future, you can expect to work with up to seven different generations of workers. According to Jenkins, understanding Gen Z will help to build a more cohesive workforce, as 62% of Gen Zs say they anticipate having a workplace issue with the older generations of workers. In order to avoid future conflicts, it is imperative to understand how this new generation of workers works. So, what sets this generation apart from the others? Simply put: technology.

Digital Natives

Generation Z was born with technology at its fingertips. Unlike Millennials, who witnessed the birth of the Internet, Gen Z has been accustomed to accessing everything and anything instantly with the touch of a button or the swipe of a finger. Jenkins explained recent research that drives this point further:

  • 59% of Gen Zs say they have purchased something through a mobile app.
  • Over 50% of Gen Zs say it’s easier or more convenient for them to talk digitally vs. face to face.
  • 77% of Gen Zs say they’ve relied on technology to help them achieve a personal/professional goal.
  • 85% of Gen Zs say they’ve used social media to learn about a new product or service.

Not only are these stats important to keep in mind when recruiting and retaining workers, but they’re also important to how you conduct business. When you start thinking about the next generation of customers, you’ll want to keep these stats in mind. According to Jenkins, these data points provide key insight into what is to come, and he advises not to change for Generation Z but to change in light of it.

With that being said, technology vastly drives Gen Z workers. Generation Z employees are more high tech, more diverse, more experimental, and prefer customization over any other generation. Keep in mind that:

  • 91% of Gen Zs say technological sophistication drives their interest to work at a company.
  • 77% of Gen Zs say that a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there.
  • 75% of Gen Zs say they would be interested in a company where they could have multiple roles within one place of employment.
  • 62% would rather customize their own career plan than have the organization lay one out for them.

Globally Connected

Advancements in technology allow everyone to stay connected, whether its via phone, e-mail, Skype, or social media, and Gen Z is no exception. However, what sets Gen Z apart from other generations is the fact that Gen Z is more globally connected than any other generation.

Jenkins explained that geographies are shrinking due to technology. While there are physical borders that define countries, these borders are nonexistent to Gen Z. Gen Z is able to communicate and interact with individuals all across the globe, and because of this, Gen Zs have more in common with people their own age than any other generation, anywhere in the world.

Because Gen Z workers were raised on global interaction, they crave a workplace that’s just as diverse as they are. Jenkins says Gen Z workers will flock to companies that offer the diversity they crave, and any employer that doesn’t jump on the diversity bandwagon is doing itself a disservice. And justifiably so: Diverse workplaces open employees to different cultures, unique experiences, and different ways of thinking, which will greatly impact a company’s bottom line.

Innovation Is Behavior-Based

According to Jenkins, not only has technology helped break down global barriers, but it’s also changed the way we innovate. Jenkins asked participants to name an invention, any invention, since the creation of fire. Most people think of wheels, cars, televisions, and smartphones when they think of innovated technology: something tangible. But, in light of all the technological advancements, innovation has become behavior-based, not tangible.

For example, since the creation of smartphones and tablets, innovators have developed app-based technology that changes the way we communicate, shop, learn, and more. Facebook, Amazon, Uber, and other cloud-based apps are all behavior-based innovations that are taking the place of old-fashioned, tangible inventions. Because of these new behavior-based innovations, our expectations have changed, as well.

Do you remember what life was like before smartphones? For Gen Zs, many will be unable to answer this question, as they’ve been raised to do everything through mobile technology. Jenkins says that if you can’t remember a time before a specific innovation, that’s just the new standard, the new normal, to the way we do things. He adds that this doesn’t make you entitled—it makes you a fresh generation with a new expectation of reality.

Jenkins explained that children these days won’t remember a time before drone deliveries and instant access to Web purchases, and because of this, they’ll expect drone deliveries in the future, or they’ll even expect something bigger and better to take its place. And let’s face it: With the rate technology is constantly changing, there will always be something bigger and better to blow our expectations out of the water.

For now, we need to be better equipped to meet Gen Z’s growing expectations, especially where technology is concerned. If your company isn’t offering the technology Gen Zs crave, or isn’t innovative enough to appear on Gen Zs’ radar, you can forget about them working for your company. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll discuss four strategies to engaging the Gen Z workforce.

Melissa BlazejakMelissa Blazejak is an Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor and L&D Daily Advisor. She has written articles for HR.BLR.com and HR Daily Advisor and has been at BLR since 2014. She graduated with a BA of Science, specializing in Communication, from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2008. Most recently, she graduated in 2014 with a MS of Educational Technology. Llamas are her spirit animal.