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Move Over Millennials – Gen Z is Entering the Workforce

Posted on: January 18, 2018

Categories: Featured | Hiring

By Greg Whitesell, Marketing Manager

Not so long ago – the first quarter of 2015 to be exact – Millennials reached a milestone by becoming the largest segment of the workforce.  Their reign over the workplace may be short lived, however, as an even larger demographic group is beginning to trickle into America’s offices.  That’s right, individuals on the leading edge of Gen Z – the generation born between 1995 and 2010 – are going to work.  In all, Gen Z encompasses roughly 80 million people – making it the largest portion of the US population, edging out Millennials 26 percent to 24.5 percent.  Ultimately, this group is poised to compose 20% of the workforce by 2020.  That’s just two years from now.  With that said, it’s time employers start to learn about this connected, competitive and career-oriented group. 

Motivated by Money and Job Security

Events like 9/11 and The Great Recession presented Gen Z’s Gen X parents with challenges not seen in America since the Great Depression.  According to Pew Charitable Trusts, the median net worth of Gen X dropped by almost 45 percent while they were raising their families.  Having witnessed the uncertainties in global affairs and financial struggles at home, their offspring developed a more pragmatic view of their futures than their Millennial counterparts.  Where company culture and the opportunity to make a difference were key factors for Millennials when choosing an employer, Gen Z is driven instead by job and financial security.  As an employer looking to attract Gen Z employees, you’ll need to present them with a clear vision of how your opportunity can set them up for long term stability.

Once you hire Gen Z’ers, you’ll need to quench their thirst for knowledge and provide adequate training to prepare them for success.  In fact, a recent Accenture study pointed out that 86 percent of Gen Z expect formalized training from their employer.  Although training new employees isn’t cheap, employers can be optimistic about their investment in Gen Z, as the group seems open to bringing back the concept of employer loyalty.  The same study found that 62 percent expect to stay in their first job for at least three years and further research conducted by author David Stillman for his book Gen Z @Work deduced that 60 percent are willing to stay at a company for 10 years if their needs are being met.  It’s clear that employers who are willing to invest in Gen Z, present them with workplace stability and steady pay progression are taking an important first step towards winning their trust and loyalty.

It’s the IGeneration – the First True Digital Natives

Also dubbed “the IGeneration”, Gen Z has never known a phone that wasn’t “smart” and has never been without on-demand access to information.  Living almost equally in digital and real time, this generation has some interesting traits that will create both workplace challenges and opportunities. In a recent podcast with Ryan Jenkins, author Stillman and his Gen Z son, Jonah, noted that 40 percent of Gen Z professed that working WiFi was more important to them than working restrooms. 

Think about that for a second. 

Clearly, employers who struggle to stay up to date will have a hard time appealing to Gen Z.  Employers will need to invest in their networks, hardware and software to keep Gen Z working at their preferred pace.  A recent Commscope study showed that 60 percent of Gen Z won’t use a website or app if it’s too slow to load – and they’ll apply the same logic to their job search and to the tools they’ll be using in the workplace.

In addition to forcing employers to stay current from a technology standpoint, Gen Z’s reliance on and consumption of technology presents an interesting dichotomy for employers.  On one hand, the group has an innate ability to multitask and quickly process information – gained from seamlessly shifting between devices and stimuli throughout their childhood.  Indeed, Gen Z grew up managing Facebook conversations, texting friends, checking emails, watching YouTube or Vine videos and gaming all while doing their homework. 

Exaggeration?  Maybe.  But it does bring us to the other hand. 

The constant bombardment of multiple demands for their attention has played a role in reducing the attention span of Gen Z’ers to just 8 seconds (from a whopping 12 for Millennials).  As an employer, you’ll need to keep that in mind in everything from how long it takes applicants to apply for job with your company (and they certainly need to be able to do it easily online), to how you set up your new hire training, to how you assign work tasks and how you provide ongoing feedback and reviews.  Gen Z can do lots of tasks concurrently, but finding focus to ace them all might be challenging.

They are Diverse and Inclusive

According to US Census data, by 2020, there will be no ethnic majority in the US.  To Gen Z, diversity is the norm – and their views on diversity and inclusion are clear across the board whether referring to race, gender or sexual orientation.  Gen Z will bring these views into the workplace.

Need proof?

A recent Ernst & Young survey of Gen Z found that the leading factor towards gaining employee trust was “providing equal opportunity for pay and promotion”.  With the rise of Gen Z, businesses should expect and encourage some change in leadership demographics – and there’s certainly room for it: a Fortune study revealed that only 6.4 percent of CEO’s and 20.5 percent of senior managers of America’s Fortune 500 companies are female – and 73 percent of all executives are white, meaning companies are lagging behind in placing ethnically diverse employees in leadership roles. 

What Can Z Do for You?

Ready or not, the rise of Gen Z in the workforce is well underway – and there’s much for employers to be excited about – but just like the assimilation of prior generations, change will be a given.  Now is the time to learn the nuances and needs of Gen Z and begin to make any necessary tweaks to make your workplace one where they can thrive.  Figure out how to appeal to this hard-working, self-directed, tech-savvy and “mentorable” generation and you just might be poised to win the talent war and achieve sustainable success.


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