The Future (of the) Workforce: Meet Generation Z
I know, how come we’re already talking about generation Z, right? Just when you thought you’d finally started to figure out your millennial workers. The fact of the matter is, the first gen Z’ers have entered the workforce. Sure, mostly as interns or in entry-level positions for now, but regardless: it’s time to meet generation Z.
Who, what and when?
Generation Z – also known as the iGeneration (iGen), Gen Tech, Digital Natives and Gen Wii – is the cohort that comes after generation Y, perhaps better known as the Millennials.
While the latter was born somewhere between 1980 and 1995, Gen Z starts from around 1996 till 2012, making them currently between 5 and 22 years old.
Meet Generation Z
So, what do we know about this new, iGeneration of workers? Let’s take a look at some of their characteristics.
How could they not be, really? These are the kids that were practically born with a smartphone in their hand and it wouldn’t surprise me if ‘WiFi’ was one of their first words.
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Generation Z doesn’t know a world without digital devices, internet or social media; they grew up with these things. As such, they know very well how to use this kind of technology for virtually every aspect of their everyday lives.
Where parents of Digital Natives – and even some (older) millennials – often struggle with the latest apps, technology or platforms, Gen Z has no difficulty what so ever; it’s like a second nature to them.
Many Digital Natives remember the economic crisis from 2008 and the impact it had, directly or indirectly, on their families. Unlike their millennial predecessors, who are very much purpose oriented when it comes to their professional choices, generation Z attaches great value to a certain level of security.
Yes, they’d like to make a difference in the world, but they find it more important to have a job that allows them to have a secure life outside the office.
They love video
As Michael Litt, millennial co-founder and CEO of video platform Vidyard – as well as Gen Z employer – put it in his article for Forbes: ‘A natural result of growing up with a camera in your pocket is that you’re not afraid to use it.’
And indeed, while the constant selfie-making may seem a rather pointless activity to some of us, it does teach you something about how to present yourself. Or, as Litt says about his generation Z employees: ‘These folks are pros at presenting themselves face forward in a polished, confident yet natural way.’
To read Litt’s full article (which I recommend) for Forbes, go here.
They know their weaknesses
Maybe this characteristic is linked to the more serious-minded nature of the Digital Natives. A study among 4,000 generation Z members showed that 37% is worried about their potential lack of people skills and their ability to create lasting interpersonal relationships. Many of them are also worried that technology has weakened their ability to communicate and 92% of Gen Z fears that it has created a (cognitive) skill gap.
The above list is just a small sample of particularities of generation Z. Other features that are frequently mentioned are their competitiveness, their independence, and their entrepreneurial spirit.
When HR meets Generation Z
The entrance of Gen Z into the workforce will undoubtedly have consequences for HR. A few elements to keep in mind here:
In order to find the best generation Z talent, recruitment efforts should go there where the candidates are: on social media, using videos. It’s been coming for some time now, but instruments such as the CV and cover letter finally seem to become a thing of the past with the arrival of Gen Z.
A recruitment process driven by emails probably won’t cut it in the long-term either. Instead, a focus on a short voice-or video message to keep candidates informed about their status and potential next steps seems to make more sense.
In practice: Meet Generation Z candidates where they are, this can be on Snapchat (currently one of their favorite social platforms) or Instagram for example. But stay on top of the latest (social) trends because technological developments – and the preferences of today’s teenagers – change quickly. So as a recruiter, being agile is key.
Avoid lengthy job descriptions as Digital Natives simply won’t read them. Instead, turn to another one of their favorite (visual) platforms – YouTube for example – in order to get them excited about working for your organization.
Learning & Development
With the iGeneration focused on security and aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, a customized learning and development (L&D) program is essential. It will give your Gen Z workers visibility about their career development within your organization and hence provide them with a sense of security.
At the same time, they’ll be able to use your company’s learning and development program to develop those skills they feel they lack. Video will play an important role here as well and Digital Natives will expect nothing less than a customized, fully digital L&D experience.
In practice: For Generation Z it’s mobile first. Smartphones are their preferred mode of engagement whether it’s for communication, entertainment or corporate learning & development. So a fully mobile compatible L&D program – both for iOS and Android – is your starting point here.
Above all, Gen Z employees attach importance to the technological sophistication of the organization they work for. In fact, according to a study by Inc., 91% of them says this would directly impact their decision whether or not to work for a company. As such, they’ll expect the organization they work for – including the HR department – to be digitalized.
In practice: Cloud-based, mobile-enabled company apps and software that’s accessible at any time, on any device, and from everywhere, are a standard requirement. As is the possibility for your Digital Natives to send an instant (video) message to HR, their colleagues or even their clients; whether it be to ask a question, send a request or schedule a meeting.
As far as the actual office is concerned, you might want to provide some quiet, private spaces for employees to work in. Unlike many of their millennial predecessors, Gen Z employees value having their own space every now and then. An open-space only office won’t get their thumbs up.