Are you ready for Gen Z?

December 2, 2015 Steven Laird

While many organizations are still just beginning to adapt their workplaces for Gen Y, the next generation—Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2010— has already begun its debut into the working world.

With the first wave of Gen Z students graduating from university next year, it’s time to start thinking about the impact they will have on your business, as well as your recruitment and retention strategies. How will you get and keep top Gen Z talent, while transitioning Gen Y to become effective managers?

At first glance, Gen Z may seem to be just an extension of Gen Y, but there are some noticeable differences in how they work.

Thought to be more responsible and hard-working than the previous generation, Gen Z grew up during the recession, and they saw how it impacted their Gen X parents, who involved them in household purchasing and decision-making at an early age.

But despite their frugal and hardworking nature, Gen Z individuals still place significant value on finding a “cool” work environment that is laidback, social and appeals to their lifestyle. Even more than Gen Y, Gen Z employees will make decisions on their choice of workplace based on whether they believe the company aligns with their personal values and interests.

According to a 2014 survey by Mintel, 61% of Gen Z employees want to own their own business. So companies will need to foster their entrepreneurial drive and channel it toward business results. Offering work perks such as recreational game areas and complimentary food and beverages will appeal to their ideal environment and sense of community at work.

During their formative years, Gen Z individuals also witnessed the rise of global warming, as well as increased environmental and social activism, which impacts their financial, environmental and social decision-making. In fact, according to a survey by salt (a communications consulting firm), nearly three-quarters of Gen Z individuals believe businesses are responsible for creating a better world—meaning companies will have to take an active role in defining their values and engage in corporate social responsibility initiatives to appeal to top Gen Z talent.

In addition, it’s difficult to keep Gen Z engaged. Known as the “snack media,” generation, people from this generation consume information quickly, on multiple platforms and screens. While Gen Y was the text generation—creating blogs and sharing with each other in communities such as Facebook—Gen Z prefers quick communication in a visual format, such as Snapchat and Instagram.

Much of their choice of social media has to do with an increased value on privacy. Whereas the previous generation would publicly post private information on Facebook and Twitter, Gen Z prefers anonymous posting sites such as whisper and values the self-destruct function of Snapchat.

Communicating with Gen Z will be one of the greatest areas of disconnect for Gen X & Y managers, who will need to avoid the long-form messaging they’re used to. Say goodbye to email, newsletters—and even blogs—if you want to communicate effectively with Gen Z!

Workplace technologies with organized graphic elements, such as portals and intranets, will play a critical role in engaging this generation of employees, as well as ensuring adequate knowledge transfer and operational efficiency. This also includes project management apps, where managers can assign tasks and build project groups, as well as instant messaging threads for quick communication between team members.

Managers will need to leverage these tools and platforms to deliver short bursts of information, including visual elements. Short, informal in-person communication will also be an asset in connecting with teams, replacing long email threads and meetings where Gen Z employees may get easily distracted or lose interest.

Of course, it’s tough to fit all of Gen Z into one box—or to predict how it will evolve in a melting pot with four other generations. As with any generation, attracting and retaining top talent will come down to appealing to core general needs. Keeping this in mind, here are a few tips for handling Gen Z.

  1. Be socially and environmentally conscious and involved.
  2. Focus on fun in the workplace.
  3. Engage Gen Z employees in entrepreneurial projects that make them feel independent.
  4. Encourage collaboration and involve them in decision-making
  5. Communicate using short, visual messages available on multiple devices.

While this generation seems to work at hyper-speed compared to the rest of the workplace, don’t worry. Their willingness to contribute, create and succeed will prove very valuable to the future of business.

How do you think Gen Z will impact your workplace?

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