The youngest workers entering the workforce aren’t like their older siblings. Good luck keeping everybody happy.
7 min read
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Over the past several years, society has been fixated on millennials. And for good reason: They’re the largest age demographic that has disrupted nearly every industry they’ve touched.
But millennials are old news. It’s time we start paying attention to Generation Z.
Gen-Z is the country’s youngest age demographic, consisting of people born in 1995 or later. They’re poised to become the largest age demographic, and they’re beginning to enter college and the workforce. Generation Z, despite not digging having a title, is extremely diverse and independent. They’ve also been dubbed “millennials on steroids.” That’s because they have similar opinions and beliefs as millennials — just more of them.
If you’re a business owner who just got the hang of reaching and retaining millennials, how can you make sure you don’t waste the talent of the youngest generation? Start by implementing these eight strategies.
1. Don’t give them busy work.
Generation Z members are willing to put in hard work; they don’t mind putting in long days or working off-hours. But there’s a catch: It has to be meaningful work. If you don’t want to waste their time, offer flexible schedules and let them do hands-on work. And considering that 75 percent are interested in multiple roles within one place of employment, allow your Gen-Z talent to wear multiple hats.
2. Give them freedom and competition.
Millennials are big fans of collaboration, which explains why platforms like Slack have become so dominant. An overwhelming majority of 88 percent prefer a collaborative work environment.
But that’s not the case with Gen Zers. Research conducted by Gen Z Gurus David Stillman and Jonah, his 17-year-old son, shows that Gen Z is more independent than previous generations. Jonah explains that the generation’s biggest difference is its self-sufficient and competitive approach, which will throw off workplaces that have recently accommodated millennials‘ preferred collaborative style.
One big point of contention? Open offices, which millennials love and Gen Zers loathe. The Stillmans found that 35 percent of Generation Z “would rather share socks than an office space.”
In other words, provide private offices and offer more autonomy. Additionally, you may want to encourage healthy competition by using gamification, rewarding your best performers, setting stretch goals, giving honest performance feedback and finding opportunities for play.
3. Be a mentor.
Even though members of Generation Z enjoy their independence, they don’t have the know-it-all attitude millennials have occasionally been accused of. That means if you offer them opportunities to grow, they’ll leap at them. The opportunity to learn from experienced people they respect is one of the most important qualities Gen Z looks for in the type of work they engage in.
4. Make jobs less gig-, more career-focused.
Between the rise of the gig economy and the fact that employees are only averaging three years per job, some make the assumption that careers aren’t important for Gen Zers. That actually couldn’t be further from the truth.
Instead of focusing on short-term stints, transform roles into opportunities that could be considered careers. The best way to achieve that is to offer ongoing training and advancement opportunities. For this to be effective, use a blend of live and virtual programs. This is because a majority of Gen Zers prefer in-person communications with managers. At the same time, Gen Zers are true digital natives, spending an average of 3.5 hours daily on their smartphones.
5. Provide new opportunities to lead.
Unlike traditionalists, this generation isn’t motivated by titles or climbing the corporate ladder. That doesn’t mean they’ll reject leadership — they would just rather have a stake in a company’s growth or success, regardless of what that looks like.
One way to achieve this is by allowing your Gen-Z employees to have complete ownership of a project they can implement from start to finish. Give them clear expectations and guidelines from the get-go, and watch them take initiative.
6. Create a culture of entrepreneurship.
Gen Zers have an entrepreneurial spirit — 76 percent consider themselves highly entrepreneurial, with almost half being interested in starting their own company. You encourage them to stick around by creating a culture of entrepreneurship.
If you’ve already established a company that empowers and encourages freedom and ownership among employees, as we discussed, that means your team should also be set up to share and reward great ideas, ask for feedback and allow employees to fail (with support).
You could also allow employees to work on personal projects. Google, Apple, Facebook, and LinkedIn have all implemented some form of this. The result for Google was Gmail and AdSense. This not only allows your Gen-Z talent to follow their passions, but it could also boost your company’s bottom line.
7. Give them frequent, speedy feedback.
Forget the annual or even quarterly performance reviews. Gen Zers demand frequent performance conversations with their business leaders. They’ve grown up with constant and frequent communication, thanks to texts, emails and social media notifications.
A Future Workplace report found that Gen Z now gets performance reviews daily (19 percent), weekly (24 percent) or regularly (23 percent) rather than annually (3 percent). This conditioning is good for you both — it allows you to motivate or correct employee behavior, create a long-term plan to keep your best employees and prevent frustration with open communication.
8. Be socially responsible.
Like their older brothers and sisters, this generation wants to make a difference. It also prefers to work for employers who are socially responsible. What’s more, 77 percent of Gen Zs are extremely or very interested in volunteering to gain work experience.
This is a win-win for business owners. Instead of waiting until college to recruit this generation’s members, you can get them involved by interning with your socially responsible company. They have a chance to make a positive impact, while you get to scout the most motivated and talented individuals before anyone else.
Even if there aren’t interning opportunities for high school students at your company, have your current Gen Zers give back to the community. This could be having them start, manage or run a social responsibility program for your company.
Generation Z is on the verge of making a splash as big as the millennials’, but you have to make sure you don’t squander your opportunity to make the most of their talent. By understanding what motivates Gen Zers and taking their perspective into account, you can make a case for the most talented to join your team.