Generation Z (Gen Z) refers to the population born between 1995 and 2012—people of 23 years-old in average today—which will be forming the modern workforce, and that, according to United Nations, will account for 32 per cent of the global population in 2019. Compared to previous generations X (millennials of 48 years-old in average) and Y (32 years-old in average), Gen Z brings new characteristics to the table that represent a challenge and an opportunity to those companies aware of the emergence of this new talent wave.
Different generations usually differ, but there might be a special ground for challenge when current millennial managers are forced to interact with the young, ‘always on’ Gen Z. Understanding the differences between working generations then becomes a must for any company, rather than a choice. Millennials (Gen X), for example, are service oriented, enterprise focused, and storage managers; Gen Y focuses on press releases, they are bloggers and data analysts; and Gen Z are technological savants, online researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators.
Knowing the main traits of Gen Zis the fundamental starting point to prepare for this new generation of independent, competitive, entrepreneurial, and technological workers. Bruce Anderson—lead writer for the talent blog of LinkedIn—addressed this issue in August 2018 by quoting the book Gen Z @ Work, where the authors, David Stillman and Jonah Stillman, discuss the most important features of Gen Z as follows:
- Realistic and pragmatic view of the world
- Physically and online grounded
- Driven to a purpose
- Do it yourself believers (DIY)
- Fear of missing out if not connected (FOMO)
- Shared economy believers
- Hyper customized (unique, personal style)
Having in mind the main characteristics of Gen Z, here are the five steps to prepare to embrace their potential and embed it into the workplace.
1. Foster open communication and straightforwardness
Generation Z is the first group of true digital natives, but smartphones and constant connectivity have taught them the importance of real human interaction. They value face-to-face conversations and the possibility to contribute and be heard. They want to be social beyond social media, preferring straightforward and open communication, rather than endless email exchanges. They want to be involved, work with other people and feel they are part of something larger than themselves.
2. Offer professional development and personal growth
Pragmatic and realistic, Gen Z is looking for stability and development in their careers. They want either to become entrepreneurs or to earn a long-term spot and grow within. Self-motivated and out of the box thinkers, they have high aspirations, and will invest time and effort to succeed in their career growth. Along with constant access to the internet, this generation has become a group of continual learners who absorb and process information faster than any previous generation. They are self-directed to reskill themselves and engage with homeschooling and massive open online courses (MOOCS). They want to feel fulfilled in both their professional and self-development journeys.
3. Provide guidance, meaning and a sense of community
Gen Z wants their ideas to be heard, but they also seek mentorship and support. They want to know that what they are doing matters and to be involved into the larger implications of their projects. Independent as they are, they value regular feedback, although not micromanagement. They need to feel the freedom to make their own mistakes and to learn on their own. Gen Z is a socially conscious group, driven to ignite positive change. They are interested in sustainable practices, building communities and establishing real relationships that empower and connect them to their workplaces.
4. Embrace an up to date tech-centered workplace
Gen Z has grown up in a world that is constantly advancing and changing. To them, technology is simply how the world works, the infrastructure that allows them to stay connected and efficient. They will feel repressed in a workplace that does not keep the pace with basic technological upgrade. They have been used to alternate attention between multiple foci, and would benefit from learning the value of focused attention and single-tasking.
5. Promote work flexibility, independence and ownership
Growing up in a fast-paced, technology-driven environment means Gen Z wants to work smart and be flexible in how they invest their time. An open environment, with customized working hours and places will allow them to develop a dynamic, energetic and efficient workflow, increasing their working morale and happiness. Entrepreneurial by nature, they will be eager to work on independent projects and take ownership of the whole. Technology has already encouraged their independent thinking, unique personalities and creative perspectives. They believe that: ‘If you want it done right, do it yourself.’
Generation Z is a group of independent, ambitious, and digital natives that have confidence and skills across technological platforms, however, they do not rely on technology alone. They value real and open human interaction. While they have plenty of digital insights to offer, they are a socially conscious generation that cares about personal growth, making meaningful impact and building real communities. Smart companies will do well in preparing themselves to embrace Gen Z’s new stream of talent. Their distinctive traits will certainly keep organizations creative, fresh and productive towards the future.
Written by Paula Arellano Geoffroy for Together Abroad.