In this second part of our interview with "Gen Z @ Work" author David Stillman, we explore how the nearly 73 million members of Generation Z will be transforming the workplace they're now entering.
How does Generation Z balance digital communication and face-to-face interactions in the workplace?
Stillman: Well, 82 percent of those we surveyed said their preferred mode of communication was face-to-face. I thought for sure it was going to be texting. Gen Zers want face-to-face communication because they're savvy enough to know that, in a world of fake news and marketing exaggeration, face-to-face is going to be the most authentic, trustworthy form of communication. Now, that doesn't mean they'll want a daily half-hour sit-down with you. Keep it short and quick, but look them in the eye — it adds a level of authenticity that they're hungry for.
You mentioned in the book that Generation Z loves their side gigs and outside projects. Is that going to get in the way of their full-time jobs?
Stillman: Gen Zers are survivors and they want an alternative way to make extra money. It's gotten a lot easier, too. Within two days, they can have a website, an LLC form, an 800 number, business cards, a logo, and they're up and running. Gen Z is going to put their side hustle out there, rather than hide it like prior generations.
For Gen Z, it's not an "either/or" between getting a full-time job and doing your side hustle. This is where the friction starts happening with [other] generations. As an employer, you can't say you own [employees] from nine to five, because work just isn't nine to five anymore. If someone has a side hustle, talk about it with them. Have conversations about what's in bounds, what's out-of-bounds in terms of competition. Employers have to focus on performance, so if [your employees] are getting the job done that you've hired them to do, that's what matters. And embracing their side hustle, maybe even helping them grow it, that's a great retention strategy for Gen Z.
How should organizations be reevaluating the way they hire and recruit Gen Z employees?
Stillman: One of Gen Z's traits we describe in the book is "hyper-customization." When you're marketing a product or service to Gen Z, they're used to everything being customized. They go to Nike.com and design their own shoes with the look and feel they want. That same customized approach will work with Gen Z when it comes to job titles, job descriptions and job functions. Customization will engage them.
What else should employers know about Gen Z and work?
Stillman: Gen Zers are not millennials. You'd also be wise to tap into Gen Z's desire for hyper-customization, tap into their competitive drive, cater to their independent nature. Because Gen Z came of age during the Great Recession, because they had Gen X parents who really delivered tough love messages to them, they're willing to pay their dues: In fact, 76 percent of Gen Z says, "I'll start at the bottom and I'll work my way up." Sixty-one percent of them say, "I'll stay at a company for 10 years." So paying dues and loyalty are back on the table at work.
A big complaint about millennials is that they come across as self-entitled. Gen Z actually feels lucky to have a job. And one last point: Gen Z will want to perform multiple roles for one employer. They don't want to miss out on anything, which we call FOMO (fear of missing out). Small and midsized businesses have a leg up on big companies here because they tell employees, "You get to wear a lot of different hats around here." Gen Z will hear that as "Wow, I'm not going to miss out on anything." Big companies will put them in one position within one department, filling a specific role, and Gen Z may say, "Is this all I'm doing? I could be missing out." I think small to medium-sized businesses are going to have a leg up here with Gen Z.
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