Let's talk about the new kids on the block
We’ve spent plenty of time thinking about how to handle that most-maligned of employee demographics – the millennials. But their time in the spotlight is coming to an end – as millennials move up the ladder and begin to become supervisors and managers, it’s time to make way for those born in the late 90s, now starting to enter the workforce in larger numbers.
The natural tendency is always to assume that the younger generations are mollycoddled and idle, but you might find that these new recruits are surprisingly independent – fiercely driven and willing to speak up. Getting them on board and engaged could be a challenge.
How is this generation different?
Motivated by expensive university fees and the desire to prove their own success, either because of the money spent or indeed as an alternative to attending university at all, Generation Z are keen to get to work, and to do it now. With more competition than ever, they are aware of going the extra mile to get work done, and often think about career goals with some lengthy foresight.
Thanks to the much-published issues surrounding zero-hour contracts, unpaid internships and the recession, Generation Z have grown accustomed to the idea of low pay, but unlike millennials, they seek success regardless – and they’re willing to move around until they find that dream job. In fact, retention may well be the biggest challenge that employers face with those born after 1994 – 27% of current students believe you should stay at your first job just a year or less.
It has been proven that millennials are more attuned to an unusual working pattern, willing to take on antisocial hours and work longer shifts across weekends. Generation Z are likely to follow suit – studies show that working schedule ranks lower in importance for this generation than stability, fulfilling work and, most importantly, the opportunity for career growth.
The 24-hour nature of the world they have been brought up makes the idea of a traditional nine to five much less of a given, and as long as they feel themselves progressing, Generation Z are willing to put the work in. They’re a creative bunch too – having self-taught a variety of social skills via the mediums of the internet, it’s important to them to have variation and stimulation in the workplace.
Why we need Generation Z
Overreliance on a millennial generation can be risky. Studies show that millennial mothers are more likely than before to be single , increasing the need for flexible childcare and reduced hours from their employers.
Employers can provide support for millennials growing up and starting families through childcare vouchers, alleviating some of the need for time off, but it is worth considering implementing a mentoring system to help Generation Z workers learn from our millennial staff in preparation for when the slightly older generation start taking parental leave in larger numbers.
Whether they have families or not, self-determined hours are becoming increasing vital for millennials as they seek out a better work/life balance, both for their physical and mental health – millennials have suffered more than any previous generation with anxiety and depression, often caused by workplace stress or unreasonable expectations. The ability to work from home and pick hours is set to prove important to Generation Z also, with an emphasis on support in individual creative endeavors – in this way, it is distinctly possible that the number of individual employees will have to expand to accommodate a wider variety of shifts.
What can you do to help?
As with millennials, it’s important not to generalise. It’s vital to recruit, praise and motivate based on individual merit just as you would with any other employee. Generation Z grew up during a recession and saw firsthand the struggles that their parents faced – you may well find them to be much more financially mature and diligent than you would expect.
Over 50% of Generation Z expects to be listened to by their managers – gone are the days of simple subservience. Used to the instant gratification of social media, they expect their feedback fast. Consider replacing large annual assessments with smaller monthly or even weekly feedback sessions and you’ll find that the quality of unsupervised work improves – a key development considering that 41% of Gen Z employees value independent work.
Show that you are willing to invest in their future
Security and the idea of progression were both imperative to the millennial generation, and it’s likely that Generation Z will follow suit. While it may not be possible to offer career development at the rate that Generation Z are set to expect, there are a multitude of ways to show your employees that they are valued and can be invested in.
Mentorship schemes and workplace benefits can all help set the precedent for an enjoyable, supportive workplace that will keep them loyal and motivated. Millennials were the worst paid generation in history, and while not as high priority as with previous generations, finances do play a part in demotivation. Pay rises for Generation Z may not be fair or possible, but companies who find ways to save their employees money through benefits, shopping vouchers or other incentives can help ease the burden of modern life.
As on-the-job training falls by the wayside, it is more important than ever to show Generation Z the ropes to allow them to shine, and also encourage them to hold out for advancement in their current position instead of jumping ship.
Make it digital
Unsurprisingly for those who have barely known a life outside of the Internet, Generation Z are fascinated with a career in tech. When polled on the industries that this generation wish to see integrated in the work place, social media, virtual reality and robotics all ranked highly. Failure to invest or experiment with new technologies risks seeming outdated or unambitious, two factors that would send this generation heading for the door.
As true digital natives, Generation Z employees are valuable additions to the workforce regarding their inherent knowledge of social media, coding and creative troubleshooting. Generation Z are most motivated by working on causes that they are truly passionate about, and are harder to impress than previous generations – if you really want to know if that advertising campaign has hit the spot, it’s worth checking in with your youngest staff.
Put simply, what Generation Z wants is respect. They want to feel as if their work is valued and that they have opportunities to make an impact on the wider business in a creative, personable manner. Treat them well and you will find them to be hard-working, dedicated and enthusiastic – valuable traits in any employee.