Are you prepared for Generation Z? Learn how these youngest workers stack up against other generations, and what they value at work.
No longer just up-and-coming professionals, Pew Research reports millennials, or individuals aged 22 to 37, now represent the largest segment of the U.S. workforce. What that means for CHROs? It is officially time to shift attention toward Generation Z, or people born after 1996. Not only is Gen Z beginning to enter the workforce, the New York Times reports they'll be the largest generation yet, at some 60 million members. For organizations struggling against talent shortages and impending boomer retirements, the oldest members of Generation Z can represent a new stream of entry-level talent for organizations.
Here's how the youngest generation's values stack up against other members of the workforce, and how to capitalize on their values to stay relevant and competitive as your workforce evolves to include this new group.
Who Is Generation Z?
Research by Universum indicates that members of Generation Z may be hitting the workforce much more quickly than HR leaders previously suspected. Their findings also point to some unique generational perspectives. For instance, just 38 percent believe that college is an effective means of preparation for professional life, and 60 percent are actively interested in on-the-job education opportunities from employers who will hire without a four-year education.
Raised among massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other forms of alternative education, members of this generation appear to be willing to blaze their own path. Their remarkable pragmatism and high aspirations are likely to have great value for employers, especially coupled with their high degree of self-motivation and decidedly entrepreneurial bent.
Not Like Millennials, But Not Their Polar Opposites
Lumping members of Gen Z in with millennials may be tempting for both marketers and HR leaders, but studies on the two generations' behavior indicates a clear separation on certain issues. Millennials have earned a reputation as boundary-pushing dreamers who value experiences over money. However, research from Next Generation Catalyst notes that Gen Z is in general more level-headed and financially responsible. While a global mindset has been a hallmark of millennials at work, Gen Z has grown up in a world where global communication is the norm, and they are more fully prepared and accustomed to the idea of taking on worldwide challenges.
Much like millennials, Gen Z's formative years have been defined by technology and touch screens, and Vision Critical reports they spend an average of over 15 hours each week engaged with smart phones. They're also fantastic multitaskers and tool-agnostic workers, which is likely a direct by-product of growing up with so many device options. Finally, much like the generation that preceded them, 60 percent set their sights on changing the world as a lifetime goal.
How to Align Your Workplace With Gen Z Values
Considering that 61 percent of Gen Z "would rather be an entrepreneur instead of an employee after they graduate college," according to Entrepreneur, organizations who are hoping to position themselves as a relevant choice for this emerging talent would be wise to consider leveraging those values. Universum recommends the following means of attracting the youngest hires:
- Clear autonomy and purpose within work
- Support for personal initiatives
- Flexible working conditions
Although it's crucial for HR leaders to provide opportunities for Gen Z workers to take initiative and grow their own careers, it's also important to account for their desire for honest and dependable leadership. According to Entrepreneur, these up-and-coming workers "want leaders to be open with them and not hide information because of their age or title." Therefore, a strong definition of roles and established mentoring structures could be a critical tool for attracting and then integrating new hires into your workforce.
The only true constant for HR leadership is change. As millennials have shifted from entry-level workers to today's leaders, it's important to shift your talent strategy to include the needs and potential of Generation Z. By preparing for the influx of these youngest workers by taking steps to understand what makes them tick, CHROs can hopefully future-proof their recruitment and retention strategies.