10 ways to get ready for Gen Z in the workplace
Generation Z -- the demographic group following the millennials -- is making its way into the workforce. What does this mean for management and co-workers?
Members of Generation Z were born from 1995 to 2010, which means the oldest are turning 23. It's time that management starts prepping the workplace for these early-twentysomethings who are -- as a whole -- seen as techy, creative, innovative and mostly ready to make a difference.
That said, there are exceptions, experts point out. And there's overlap, warns Tom Gimbel, founder of LaSalle Network, a staffing and culture firm with offices in Oak Brook and Schaumburg. Gen Z and younger millennials may share some of the same characteristics and are often fundamentally different from older millennials with different employment demands.
One fact is clear: Gen Z's digital natives don't recall life without a smartphone in their pockets, and their confidence across social media platforms exceeds that of older generations.
Gen Z-ers have an abundance of digital and social insights to offer employers, but they're also socially conscious and care about face-to-face interactions, said Lauren Soderstrom, a senior organizational development partner at the Management Association in Downers Grove.
Here are some tips business owners, entrepreneurs, company executives and middle managers can use to better understand the newest group coming out of college.
1. Competitive nature
Experts say that millennials enjoy the collaborative nature of work. Generation Z -- not so much. Studies are finding that this group tends to be much more independent and competitive.
Members of this generation are applying for jobs thinking that they need to beat the next person to get there. "If you want something done right, do it yourself" is often the thought once they land jobs.
Ernst & Young ran a multigenerational survey of 1,800 people in the U.S. to gain insights into Gen Z and found that the majority of them have a "do-it-myself" mentality.
"I have read reports that they're more competitive," Soderstrom agrees. However, she does not suggest pitting employees against each other to compete in the workplace. "But maybe tie in games or competition," she suggests.
2. Entrepreneurial spirit
Members of this generation have a real entrepreneurial spirit. They have watched people their own age create successful companies, and this independent mindset shows within their attitude to work. They are eager to work on independent projects. Managers should encourage them to think beyond their job descriptions in an effort to keep them engaged and help them feel loyalty to the company.
3. Benefits that matter
Air hockey tables and upscale coffee machines would be seen as recruitment tools for older millennials. Gen Z-ers are more about tangible benefits, such as health care plans and 401(k)s.
New, younger employees may not know how to manage these new benefits and might need some guidance. They will feel the loyalty of the company when they are given the opportunity to learn.
4. Let's talk
Sometimes, members of this generation get a bad rap for their social media and cellphone engagement. However, they like face-to-face interaction, Soderstrom says. "They are very likely to pop into your office to talk," she says.
Older employees may vote for virtual meetings, but younger workers enjoy ongoing contact. They want to stay engaged. That's reflected in an increase in open workspaces and creative work areas used by startups and technology companies looking to bring in younger talent.
Experts say Gen Z-ers appreciate structure in the workplace. They are less likely to enjoy a mobile office at Starbucks. They like to feel connected to their workplaces and to co-workers. However, experts warn against micromanaging them as they will not respond well to that.
6. Feeling safe
Feeling safe and secure at work is key with this group.
"They saw the aftermath of the recession," Soderstrom says. Many in this group saw their parents struggle with financial hits experienced during the most recent economic downturn. Therefore, they want to know there is a future for them, and managers should help outline a career path.
7. Multi-tasking to the max
For managers who worried that millennials were easily distracted, switching between texts and emails, Gen Z takes the issue up a notch. Gen Z-ers have even more distractions as they are used to constant updates and notifications from dozens of apps. It's quite normal for them to go from one task to another.
This can be perfect for a workplace that requires multi-tasking. But managers seeking employees who can focus on a task for an extended period of time should communicate that to potential Gen Z workers.
This group, after all, grew up flashing between their phones and their homework. As workers, they might start a report in the morning, open it on their phone on the train home and pull it up again on their laptop while relaxing in the evening. Some experts say younger employees don't have as much of a harsh delineation between work and home, and this could change the workplace even more in years to come.
8. Office etiquette
As with any generation coming into a new job, setting workplace rules is essential. Discussions should take place about the dress code, for example. Rules about how much time should be taken for lunch and breaks should also be communicated.
9. Writing tips
The younger generation is often more about texting and social media than writing emails and letters. Some experts say this generation may not have been properly taught how to write professional or work emails while they were in school. A manager may have to touch up on these skills once the employee is hired.
10. Don't be hypocritical
Some older managers may be quick to point out the faults and flaws of the newest generation, complaining about a lack of professionalism on business calls or the tendency to bury their faces in cellphones. However, Gimbel suggests monitoring a business meeting and keeping track of how many older managers are on their cellphones during a presentation.
Characteristics of Gen Z workforce• Have mission-driven career paths
• Interested in meaningful work
• Have grown up with technology
• Are extremely independent
• Want the workplace to be more casual
• Are able to express their individualism
Source: Keystone Associates