Think Beyond Millennials: The Rise of Gen Z

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Move over millennials, Generation Z — those born between 1996 and 2010 — is stepping into the workplace. But will engaging with future talent be different from what was experienced when millennials entered the workforce?

To help add some perspective to this pressing question for HR and Talent leaders, business and workplace author, speaker and consultant, Alexandra Levit, shares what she's learned about Gen Zers.

What Differentiates Gen Zers From Millennials?

They're more independent. They don't rely on their parents or teachers if they want to know something. They go ask Siri or Google and do a deep dive for anything that interests them.

How Can HR Recruit Gen Zers?

Engaging with future talent begins when they're in high school and junior high school. Bring them in for internships or offer shadowing opportunities. Lifelong technology exposure has made them more mature. It's no longer a great idea to wait until college, because young people are hungry for it now.

What's Surprising About Their Generation?

There's going to be a lot of competition for them. Technology has leveled the playing field with people who are in developing countries and this will likely carry over into the workplace. Plus, they want to make the world better. They think it's cool to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity rather than be lifeguards for the summer.

Are Gen Zers More Stable Than Millennials?

Yes, because Gen Zers were raised by parents whose careers floundered. Society learned when you're a young person, you have to bootstrap your way up. It's a bit of speculation, but that's my job as a futurist. I'll speculate they're going to be more stable.

What Characterizes the Gen Zer Communication Style?

Rapid fire digital. There's a progressive decline among generations. Boomers do best one-on-one and in person. Gen Xers can do both. Millennials are more comfortable with technology — they were the first to abandon voicemail for texts. Gen Zers are more exaggerated technologically.

How Will Gen Zers Change the Way We Work?

Gen Zers are poster children for the gig economy, where people work for multiple employers (as independent contractors or consultants). Gen Zers are well suited to that because they like short-term projects. That's what they've done in school. They've done internships, and they've moved on.

Do You Foresee Conflicts Between Gen Zers and Millennials?

There will be less conflict, I think. The real divide was with Gen Xers, baby boomers and the early millennials because millennials came in and did things completely different from what we'd seen in the corporate world for ages.

What's the Most Important Guidance for an HR Leader With Regard to Gen Zers?

The infiltration of Zers in the workplace is going to bring about the realization that innovation should be institutionalized — built into people's responsibilities and schedules so they have time to tinker. Tinkering is how Gen Zers will make their mark — experimenting, coming up with new ideas. That's how they're motivated and that's how they perceive they're doing something meaningful and making a contribution. Innovation must be encouraged across the organization, including the most junior people there.

Don't underestimate Gen Zers because they're young. They've had many experiences that millennials, Gen Xers and boomers never got to have because they didn't have the same access to global situations, people and technologies. They're going to be making things fast and moving fast. So, to capture the attention of this group, you should try to make your organization more inclusive, be more open with your policies and procedures and promote as much flexibility as possible.

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