How Generation Z will impact the workplace

Lucy George

Friday 28 April 2017

Generation Z is entering the workplace. We look at their hopes and expectations, and how employers can adapt.

Hyper-connected, politically aware and entrepreneurial, Generation Z is coming of age, with diverse implications for how we live and work. Born between 1995 and 2010, Gen Z will make up 40 per cent of US consumers by 2020.

The media has given the recruitment and retention of their predecessors – millennials – lots of attention in recent years. But what about the entrance of Gen Z into the workforce? Coinciding with the retirement of baby boomers and the move of millennials into managerial roles, workplace dynamics are set for big changes. We look at what distinguishes Gen Zers from their predecessors, and what those differences mean for employers.

They are the true digital natives

While millennials are tech-savvy, they’re surpassed by Gen Zers, most of whom were immersed in the internet from birth. They’re expert multitaskers who can process information rapidly, thanks to their experience of multidimensional learning, entertainment and communication. However, this ability to scan and filter content quickly also goes hand in hand with a lower attention span: eight seconds, down from 12 in 2000.

To gain and maintain the attention of this cohort, companies need a multiplatform approach that includes the sophisticated use of social channels. Content that’s concise and image-led is more likely to be persuasive, as is workplace tech that gives employees autonomy and acknowledges their expertise.

Gen Z’s addiction to digital devices is another consideration – employers can turn this to their advantage by finding meaningful workplace uses for lifestyle-oriented tech.

They are entrepreneurial

Raised in an era of economic uncertainty and aware of the financial burden of university, Gen Zers are more likely to swap higher education for employment or their own business venture.

A study by Millennial Branding and Internships.com found that 72 per cent of US high school students want to start their own business. According to Universum, over half of Gen Zers around the world have similar ambitions. There are also signs that this cohort is more politically and socially engaged, with a desire to find careers that have a positive, real-world impact.

It follows that Gen Z will be harder to recruit and retain. A 2015 survey by Adecco Staffing USA underscores this, finding that 83 per cent of students see three years as the maximum tenure for their first job. A quarter (27 per cent) envisage staying in their first job for a year or less.

To maintain the appeal of traditional employment, companies need to create opportunities for new starters to innovate, develop their entrepreneurial spirit and pursue purpose-driven work. A strong training programme is crucial. Thinking beyond established workplace hierarchies is a good idea too.

Their work priorities are diverse

Gen Zers are exacting when it comes to career expectations, and they’re likely to do rigorous research on potential employers. Their priorities are much debated, with surveys revealing a variety of motivations. Universum’s international study found that 40 per cent see work-life balance and job security as top priorities. A global survey by Monster identified health insurance, remuneration and a respect-worthy boss as the essentials. Meanwhile, their global, open-minded ethos means many will favour a diverse, outward-looking workplace.

Lastly, Gen Zers have a discerning approach to brands and their marketing methods, so it’s important to be imaginative and transparent in your efforts to engage new recruits.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Building the next-gen data centre

Where traditional and web-scale apps co-exist