Today’s post comes to us from the Executive Director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

Did you celebrate Manufacturing Day 2021 last week? I did — by reading up on new research out from UKG and IndustryWeek examining Gen Z and the manufacturing sector.

According to “The 2021 Future Manufacturing Workforce Study,” 92% of Gen Z talent employed within manufacturing are satisfied with their current careers, despite three in four manufacturers reporting difficulties in attracting and retaining Gen Z workers, especially in the era of COVID-19.

The study also found that attracting Gen Z talent is either a high or very high priority for 88% of manufacturers surveyed. So, the natural question becomes what can manufacturers do to recruit — and, more importantly, keep — Gen Z employees happy, cared for, and productive in the workplace?

Based on what this research tells us, here are five key HR strategies manufacturers can leverage to succeed in recruiting and retaining Gen Z:

  1. Create a seamless onboarding experience that rolls into an actionable training and development plan. Clear goals and transparent career pathing drive job satisfaction for 67% of Gen Z talent, while 28% say opportunities for advancement are “extremely important” — more so than having time off from work (26%).
  2. Prioritize work-life balance by offering competitive time off and flexible work schedules. Work-life balance ranks high on Gen Z talent’s career wish list. More time off (31%) and flexible scheduling options (22%) are among the top three reasons an otherwise-satisfied Gen Z employee would change jobs.
  3. Use HR and workforce data to examine catalysts for Gen Z turnover. The majority of HR leaders (77%) report that 11%-20% of their Gen Z workforce turns over annually. Understanding if turnover is higher in a certain location or under a certain supervisor, for example, enables organizations to effectively reverse unfavorable trends.
  4. Engage digital natives with modern, consumer-grade technology. Gen Z has always had access to information when and where they need it in their personal lives, making it imperative for manufacturers to satisfy workplace expectations for technology. Yet, only 41% of Gen Z employees in manufacturing today can swap a shift or check their work schedules from a mobile device.
  5. Create more opportunities for Gen Z to interact with management and build trust on the job. Seeking advancement, 70% of Gen Z employees want recognition and respect, and 69% want to receive feedback on their performance, though only 35% feel they’re getting adequate face time with their direct supervisor.

Although the study focused on Gen Z employees in manufacturing careers, this is great advice for employers across industries, especially right now. “The Great Resignation” is real, and it’s leaving lasting impacts on organizations everywhere. But we don’t have to be resigned to it.

By focusing on our people, providing them with the resources and support they’re looking for, and equipping them with workplace technology that makes life easier instead of creating a stressful experience, we can help ensure our most talented individuals continue to grow their careers with us — not somewhere else.

Speaking of The Great Resignation, I’m pleased to join Sarah Morgan and John Frehse from the Workforce Institute on October 20 for a Human Resource Executive webinar: “Beyond the Great Resignation: An Action Plan for Hiring and Retention.” Register today to join us!

Today's post is contributed by Dennis Miller, AVP of Human Resources and Benefits Administration at The Claremont Colleges. Here he reflects on how the pandemic is affecting Gen Z mental health in particular.

The other day, I found myself on a Zoom call with five co-workers and realized that only one of them (aside from me) was old enough to have been working during the Great Recession in 2008. We were discussing some of the steps our organization might take to help mitigate the effects of the current COVID-19 Pandemic on our business and it occurred to me that while many of these steps were familiar to me because of having worked through various crises in the past, they were completely new and somewhat hard to fathom for my younger co-workers. 

The impact on the workforce due to the COVID-19 Pandemic is both huge and complex. We’ve never seen unemployment numbers soar as quickly as this before and even for those of us lucky enough to still be working, we are doing so in a manner and under conditions that would have seemed impossible two months ago. 

As leaders and managers, it is essential to pay special attention to the emotional and mental health impact this crisis has created with your employees, at all levels of the organization, and remember that no one is immune to the impact of this crisis. I would suggest that employers give extra thought to younger employees such as young millennials and Gen Zers who have not experienced a national or world crisis - pandemic or otherwise – as these folks do not have the benefit of knowing, at least on some level, what to expect. 

According to the recent “Meet Gen Z survey”, 34% of Gen Zers communicated anxiety as an emotional barrier they must overcome to achieve workplace success, along with lack of motivation/drive (20%), and low self-esteem (17%). Anxiety, specifically, is a greater concern among female Gen Zers (39% vs. 29% for male) and most prevalent in Canada (44%), the U.K. (40%), and the U.S. (40%). 

This group, especially, may not fully understand that we will get through this crisis, even though no one can say for sure when, or how. Here are some thoughts on how to be most helpful to these employees during this unprecedented time: 

  1. Communicate as openly as possible 

People prefer to know what to expect. Be clear with your employees about what is known, and what is not known. Although frequent communication is always important between managers and employees, this fact is exponentially more important during this, or any crisis. 

  1. Be caring and compassionate 

Today, no one knows what the future holds for them, or their loved ones, related to COVID-19. As a result of the unknown, a high degree of anxiety and stress will occur for many, and sometimes even depression will appear. Employers and managers must be extra caring and compassionate during this highly unusual and stressful time and be deeply in tune with emotions of their employees. Check in with your employees at least once a day via Zoom, Skype, Face Time, or whatever technology you prefer, to get a little actual â€œface time” with your employees and ask them how they are doing dealing with this crisis. 

  1. Don’t hesitate to provide more help 

Finally, leaders must be laser-focused on getting employees professional-level mental health during these unusual times and should not resist getting this type of help for themselves or their loved ones. Isolation can be a major concern for employees working remotely, and the feeling of isolation related to remote work can be expected to compound existing levels of anxiety and stress due to the pandemic. As an employer you want to help employees however you can and providing access to professional help is critically important.  

Here are three things I know today related to this crisis:  1. Pandemics were first confirmed in the 600 AD to 1500 AD period although evidence exists to support they go back to at least 2000 BC. 2. We will get through this crisis, although it will not surprise me if things get worse before we see improvement.  3. This will not be the last crisis we face, or overcome, pandemic or otherwise.   

Leaders at all levels of an organization must always lead and take care of their people.  Today, the leadership mission is focusing on the emotional and mental welfare of your people more than anything else.  

What are you doing to ensure the welfare of your people? Check out this podcast on managing uncertainty for more tips on helping your employees through this crisis.

This post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute. Following is the final segment of our global study examining the attitudes of Generation Z – teenagers and early 20-somethings – in the workplace. In order to be an employer of choice for these newest workers, you need to be able to answer the question, "What does Gen Z expect at work?"

Completing a three-part series from The Workforce Institute at Kronos and Future Workplace, “How to Be an Employer of Choice for Gen Z” uncovers the motivations and aspirations of today’s youngest working generation, including those yet to officially enter the workforce. You can find parts one and two of this research at the following links:

Part Three, our final report related to this research, completes our findings based on a survey of 3,400 Gen Zers across Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. We find that money still talks; good managers matter more than ever; work needs to be interesting; and, while schedule stability is important, flexibility is non-negotiable.

I've been sharing these results with people via speeches and articles for a few months now. One of the things I like to emphasize is that many of the insights we have hear from Gen Z would probably be true of any generation, especially at the point in their lives when they were entering the workforce. Pay matters a lot. Benefits matter increasingly more as you get older and your parents are no longer supplying them to you.

What I found most interesting, and perhaps somewhat more particular to Gen Z, is the equal weight they give to pay (51%) AND work that is meaningful (51%) when asked what would motivate them to work harder and stay longer at a company.

What you'll find in the data below, though, is that Gen Z cares a lot about the same things that motivate their workplace forebears. They are not so different from their elders in what they want at work, but they may be more likely to ignore your calls - or take someone else's - if their expectations aren't met.

Part Three Key Findings:

This post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos. What's up with Gen Z and the gig economy? Do they prefer gig work over traditional jobs?

While terms like “gig” and “gig economy” suggest a brave new world, sometimes it’s easy to forget that temporary employment has been around for a long time, especially for younger and entry level workers. The rise of platform enabled gigs like Lyft, Door Dash, etc. have made it easier to connect with and be paid quickly for those jobs, but those platform enabled jobs still represent the minority of gig work for younger workers. Research from the Federal Reserve Report on the Economic Well Being of US Households in 2018 defined gig work as a range of “informal, infrequent paid activities” that ranged from dog walking to selling goods at flea markets. They found that only 5% of 18-29 year olds engaged in work where they found their customers online, but 37% overall had participated in gig work overall.

I started working part time in 1970, at age 14, helping with payroll in my father’s codfish processing plant in the summer and doing retail, housecleaning and babysitting jobs during the school year.  My objective was spending money.  As my skills and maturity evolved, I took on more challenging work during college summers, serving as a lab technician at a pediatric hospital.  I still cared about the spending money, but the skills I was acquiring became increasingly important as well.  These earliest gig jobs helped me learn how to show up for work.

My first post-collegiate job was a temporary one, helping a biochemistry professor develop and test lab instructions for his organic chemistry course.  From there, I moved on to my first full time job, abstracting toxicology reports for a team of researchers and evaluating the health of Chinese Hamster chromosomes.  The isolation of that work wasn’t a good fit for me.  I moved on to my next gig – accepting a contract to teach 9th grade biology and 10th grade chemistry for one year to fill a teacher shortage.  I catered private events during grad school and finally got a “real” job in 1982. By four years post-college I’d had 4 different jobs, 3 of them temporary by design.  Like the Gen Z’s pursuing their entry level jobs today, those gigs provided the funds and flexibility I needed to prepare myself for my own future of work.

So, maybe it’s not so surprising that our recent research of Gen Z around the world reveals that they see a lot to like in the gig economy as they move into the workplace.  Gen Z is the biggest cohort in the world population right now – 32% vs. 31.5% Millennials according to Bloomberg. Employers who want to employ their fair share will do well to invest in understanding them.  We surveyed 3,400 Gen Z workers across Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. to learn about their attitudes toward work.

Our data indicates an even higher rate of gig economy participation than that cited in the Federal Reserve study, with 46% percent of Gen Z respondents globally saying they’ve done gig work. When asked what’s appealing about it, they cite flexible work schedules (55%) and greater independence (i.e. being their own boss; 53%) as the most appealing aspects of the gig economy. 

When asked about their long-term career aspirations, though, Gen Z desires the benefits that more traditional work models provide. They are interested in the flexibility and independence of gig work, yet hesitant to join the gig economy due to lack of stability and unpredictable pay.  This desire for stable predictable hours and pay has resulted in gig worker strikes and political action. The recently signed Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) in California strengthens the rules that define contractor vs. employee status in the interest of ensuring that employers aren’t using the former to avoid extending benefits to workers.  More of these actions will follow as lawmakers hustle to catch up with the new dynamics of high demand – and in many cases on demand – talent.  And employers will continue to make tough decisions as they blend full and part time employees as part of their mission.

What can employers do to appeal to Gen Z who want both stability and flexibility?  While our respondents say job stability is “very important” (46%), with nearly all (91%) saying it’s at least moderately important, they may not stay long. Twenty-seven percent expect to move on from their first full-time job within two years. They expect control over their schedules with 33% saying they won’t stick around if they don’t have a say over their work schedule. Gen Z respondents in Canada (33%), the U.K., and the U.S. (both 31%) say flexibility to work when, where, and how they want is motivation to deliver their “best work.” Similarly, 1 in 4 (26%) Gen Zers worldwide would work harder and stay longer at a company that supports flexible schedules.

Employers who’d like to keep them longer will find ways to incorporate the flexibility advantages of the gig model into their workplace culture.  While we all learn that even the best jobs include aspects we don’t love, some employers do better than others to create environments where employees thrive and choose to remain. Consider employees’ preferences in their schedules.  If your employees’ jobs don’t require presence, support remote work where possible.   Consider unlimited PTO if you can. 

And don’t forget that the benefits of the gig economy can help you throughout the employee lifecycle.  In 2018, I resumed the gig life as I entered semi-retirement while continuing to work for my employer.  Everybody starts somewhere.  But the gig life is a great way to slow down as well.

This post was originally published on the Kronos What Works Blog.

The following post is submitted by Workforce Institute Executive Director Joyce Maroney. Here she reviews recent research examining Gen Z feelings about gig work. You can download an executive summary of the findings here.

This is the second in a series of reports from The Workforce Institute and Future Workplace in which we surveyed 3,400 Gen Z workers across Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. This report expands on surprising contradictions uncovered in part one, “Meet Gen Z: Hopeful, Anxious, Hardworking, and Searching for Inspiration,” by examining this generation’s perceptions of the gig economy – the good and the bad – to reveal how traditional employers can best compete for Gen Z talent.

While terms like "gig" and "gig economy" suggest a brave new world, sometimes it's easy to forget that temporary self-employment has been around for a long time. What's new, though, is the rise of organizations that have been founded on their ability to mobilize a temporary workforce via technology platforms like Lyft, Wonolo, and Amazon Flex. Workers can log in when they want to be working, and just as easily log out when they don't. They don't get benefits like healthcare, but they aren't forced to work when they don't want to either.

Though there is disagreement about exactly what defines gig work, this Federal Reserve Report on the Economic Well Being of US Households in 2018 provides a instructive breakdown of gig work by age group. In this survey, gig work is defined as "informal, infrequent paid activities" that range from dog walking to selling goods at flea markets. They found that only 5% of 18-29 year olds engaged in work where they found their customers online, but 37% overall had participated in gig work overall.

Our data indicates an even higher participation rate with 46% percent of respondents globally (44% US) in our survey having done gig work. When asked what's appealing about gig work, they cite flexible work schedules (55%) and greater independence (i.e. being their own boss; 53%) as the most appealing aspects of the gig economy.

When asked what they want in a career, though, Gen Z desires the benefits that traditional work provides. Gen Zers would hesitate to go all-in with the gig economy because of unwillingness to give up the stability (47%), predictable pay (46%), workplace structure (26%), health benefits (26%), predictable schedules (22%), mentorship opportunities (17%), and manager support (16%) that a traditional job may offer. They are interested in the flexibility and independence of gig work, yet hesitant to join the gig economy due to lack of stability and unpredictable pay.

This desire for stability and predictable hours and pay has already led to worker strikes and legislative action in some places. Just today, California signed Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) into law, to strengthen the rules that define contractor vs. employee status in the interest of ensuring that employers aren't using the former to avoid extending benefits to workers.

What can employers do to appeal to Gen Z candidates? Legislated push back may curb the growth of the gig economy, but it won't squelch the desire of Gen Zs for flexible hours (37%). They expect control over their schedules with 33% saying they won't stick around if they don't have a say over their work schedule. Gen Z respondents in Canada (33%), the U.K., and the U.S. (both 31%) say flexibility to work when, where, and how they want is motivation to deliver their “best work.” Similarly, 1 in 4 (26%) Gen Zers worldwide would work harder and stay longer at a company that supports flexible schedules.

While our respondents say job stability is “very important” (46%), with nearly all (91%) saying it’s at least moderately important, they may not stay long. Twenty-seven percent expect to move on from their first full-time job within two years. Employers who'd like to keep them longer will find ways to incorporate the flexibility advantages of the gig model into their workplace culture.

This post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos. In it, she discusses the first installment of a 3-part series of reports on our most recent research - a global survey of 3,400 members of Generation Z finds them optimistic and anxious about work.

We asked Gen Z folks in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. how their education has prepared them for the working world, their perceptions about the gig economy, and their views on what employers need to offer them in order to attract and retain them. For purposes of this research, we are defining Gen Z as people who are currently 16-25 years old.

For me, the most surprising finding was the high level of anxiety expressed by our respondents when it comes to what they believe are their biggest barriers to professional achievement. In fact, "my anxiety" is the top answer they gave when asked to rank a list of potential barriers including education, family finances, location, etc. Across all regions, 34% percent of our respondents felt anxiety was their top barrier, with women (39%) feeling greater anxiety than men (29%). When we look at responses by country, anxiety jumps to 44% in Canada and 40% for the US and the UK.

I wondered if this anxiety was specific to our respondents. It's not. A 2018 report from the American Psychological Association titled Stress in America - Gen Z notes that 77% of US Gen Z adults were stressed about work vs. 64% of adults overall. That same report notes that Gen Z adults are the most likely to report poor mental health. If there's a silver lining here, they are also most likely to seek professional help for mental health issues.

Our respondents did mostly indicate that they are optimistic about their prospects - although that optimism seems to wane among those who are currently working. Across the globe, more than half (56%) of Gen Z are "very" or "extremely" optimistic about their professional future. However, Gen Zers who are currently employed are the least optimistic: half (50%) of those who are currently serving in an internship and one-third (28%) of those working full-time are only “moderately” optimistic about their professional future.

What's happening to these folks once they get to work that makes them feel somewhat less optimistic about their futures? Some of this may just be the inevitable collision of vision colliding with reality. When I used to complain to my father about work early in my career, his response was often "There's a reason they have different words for work vs. fun."

While we all learn that even the best jobs include aspects we don't love, it is the case that some employers do better than others in creating environments where employees thrive and choose to remain. Gen Z is the biggest cohort in the world population right now - 32% vs. 31.5% Millennials according to Bloomberg. They are starting to show up in force in the workplace. Employers who want to employ their fair share will do well to invest in understanding them.

You can download the report "Meet Gen Z" here to learn more about the research.

Here are a few more highlights from Part 1 of this series:

The following post was contributed by Amanda Boyle, one of our terrific summer interns.  Amanda (2nd from left in the front row) has done a lot of great work for us this summer, and we'll miss her!

Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, and now Gen Z are all defining generations that make up today’s workforce. We’re so quick to categorize an individual, placing them into a specific generational bucket, that it’s easier to ignore their unique characteristics. We instead slap a label on them and call it a day.

Is the obsession over generations, especially when it comes to managing a workforce, really warranted? Or is there a better approach to considering what individuals want and need to feel successful at work? I may be at the early stage of my career, but the entire idea seems flawed to me, especially when you consider that the start and end dates for each generation are so fuzzy.

The end date of the Millennial Generation is yet to officially be defined, but it’s commonly accepted that Generation Z starts somewhere around 1996-1999. Most of Generation Z, which society labels as my own, has never known a pre-9/11 world.  Gen Z’s have grown up with cell phones glued to their hands and internet access anywhere they venture. On the flip side there are still some members of this generation, myself included, that don’t identify with many of these “defining” characteristics.

Growing up, I was constantly told that I was a Millennial.  Born at the tail end of 1997, I was considered a “90s kid.” (I just made it!) I was alive for the turn of the century and was almost four when 9/11 happened. Young enough to not remember specific details, yet old enough to understand the event’s enormity from my earliest memories. Quite frankly, it wasn’t until my first communications class in college that I was even introduced to Generation Z.

My professor asked the class what generation we classified ourselves as. Half the class said Millennial and the other said Gen Z. Being told my whole life I was a Millennial and then finding out about Gen Z was quite confusing. Where do I belong? What should I categorize myself as? Should I let someone else categorize me? And ultimately, does defining my generation – or any generation – really matter? For those born between 1996 and 1999, this confusion is common.

One great thing about being an intern at Kronos is that there are fifty other college students in the program with you, all around the same age. So, I asked some of my colleagues about it in order to get their opinions on the matter. Their answers to my simple question — what generation do you categorize yourself as? — were exactly as I predicted. All of us were born between 1996-1998. Some said they were Millennials and others Gen Z, just like my college class. After discussing the topic for some time, we all came to the same conclusion: we are too young to be Millennial’s but too old to be Gen Z’s.  So where exactly does that leave us?

Ultimately those of us born between 1996 and 1999 feel as though we are stuck between two generations. We strongly identify with characteristic that comprise both Millennials and Gen Z’s. We are a lot like Millennials when it comes to technology: we’re older than Google!  We did not grow up with a cell phone and various other technological advancements as later Gen Z’s had glued to their hands.

Instead, those born between 1996 and 1999 grew up like the rest of the 90s kids, watching early Saturday morning cartoons and spending the entire day outside in the summer playing. VHS was still a thing and Blockbuster was the place to be on Friday nights. The Motorola Razor was the most popular cell phone, and even then few classmates had one until middle school. iPads and tablets weren’t a thought in people’s minds and barely anyone had their own laptop until late high school.  We may be tech savvy individuals, but we didn’t grow up with the same connection to tech as later Gen Z kids.

On the other hand, like most Gen Z’s, we came of age after the turn of the millennium. We are extremely individualistic and have our minds set on making a difference to change the world. We did not and (luckily) will not enter the workforce during a recession. As we enter the workforce, the job market will be at its peak. Unlike most Millennials, we’ll have a wide variety of job opportunities to choose from. We contain strong characteristics from both generations yet we still feel like we’re not a part of either.

We are the gap between two generations. Sometimes it feels as though we’ve fallen through the cracks. We are not solely Millennials or solely Gen Z’s, we’re a hybrid of both. Feeling the same way the “early” millennials did. They experienced the same sort of “identity crisis” as we are going through now. Too young to be Gen X’ers, but their childhood and late adolescence was extremely different from your typical Millennial. Growing up in the 1980s was very different than growing in the 1990s. They did not enter the job market during one of the worst times in US history. They had to navigate the dot com bubble burst, but most were well established in their careers at the time of the recession in 2008.  Seeing as this feeling of falling through the cracks has happened before it will most likely happen again.

This poses the question: are generation ranges too wide? For a society that preaches individuality and uniqueness, why are we grouping people over a fifteen-year age range together? Why not five years? Why do we need defining generations at all? 1996-1999 babies are on the cusp of leaving behind adolescence and entering the workforce—the real world, if you will. We’re unlike the Millennials before us. And different from the Gen Z’s that will come after us.

I think a better way to approach the conversation about generations in the workplace is to instead look at the various life stages of your employee. I may fall into the gap between Gen Z and Millennial, but I have a feeling that my aspirations, goals, wants, and needs as a college student about to embark in my career aren’t much different than someone who entered the workforce in the ‘90s, or ‘80s, or ‘70s, or ‘60s!

Until organizations change how they think about their employees, shifting from a generational mindset to a life stage mindset, I’ll wear my own hybrid label proudly as the gap between two generations.  Who knows what we’ll do or the impact we will have on the workforce? I can’t wait to find out.

 

Today's post is written by Kronos Summer Intern, Megan Grenier. Megan is an intern on our mid-market marketing team. She’ll be returning to Saint Anselm College this fall where she’s studying communications.

My experience as an intern at Kronos this summer has been incredible. I have had the opportunity to learn and do so many new things. One of the most interesting aspects of my work experience – and sometimes one of the most challenging – has been learning to communicate appropriately with colleagues who span many generations.

When I first started, I had to learn many new technologies that I was not accustomed to. Next, I had to learn how each person I work with communicates. I work with fellow Kronites who span Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers. It can get a little tricky trying to balance all of the communication styles!

I have had to ask a lot of questions: when should I send an email versus an IM? When is an in-person conversation the best option? Is it okay if I stop by my boss’s office unannounced?

With so many questions, I have made a few mistakes: like not hitting “reply all” on an email or starting to work on a task my manager just emailed me about without first telling him that I was available to do so. While I have made my fair share of mistakes, I have learned a lot because of them. Perhaps the biggest two things I have learned is that it is okay to ask questions, and it is better to overcommunicate than to under-communicate.

And so, based on my experience, my two pieces of advice to future interns would be:

  1. Ask as many questions as you need to: It is better to get clarification early on, so you can be led in the right direction, rather than making errors along the way. I have noticed that my managers and coworkers appreciate my consideration, and it makes my life a whole lot easier.
  2. Overcommunicate. My managers always prefer when I give them more information than less. They want to be kept in the loop. So, it is okay if you send them that extra email, they will appreciate it.

Communicating with people in general can be a challenge, but multigenerational communication is a whole new ball game. To learn more about the topic, check out my series The ABC’s of XYZ on Kronos’s What Works blog, where I dive deeper into these questions, to help bridge the communication divide in a multigenerational workforce.

Today's post is courtesy of Gina Cincotta, a Gen Z intern at Kronos.  Although it seems like we've been talking about Millennials forever, Gen Z will shake things up further at work.  Read on to hear what one Gen Z'er thinks is in store for their employers.

I’m a member of Generation Z. Born between 1995 and 2010, we follow on the heels of the Millennials. They were born into the era of digitalization, making them more knowledgeable about technology than any demographic that preceded them.  Until we came along, that is.

Why should you pay attention to us? – Gen Z is beginning to enter the workforce and is the future of your company. According to Nielsen’s new Total Audience Report from late 2017, Gen Z makes up of 26% of our population, making us the largest group of individuals over Millennials and Baby Boomers.

What are the three C’s Gen Z’s want at work?

  1. Change: One of the most important things Gen Z wants is constant change in the workplace. Gen Z was born into a period where everything was always changing around them—from flip phones to the iPhone X and from VCRs to DVDs to livestreaming. Gen Z (also known as iGeneration) were born into a world of booming technology, and they therefore were born to evolve and to adapt much more quickly than previous generations. These digital natives are knowledgeable about all social media platforms and according to Julian Smith from The Drum, “research suggests that their brains have evolved to process more information at faster speeds, and are cognitively more nimble to handle bigger mental challenges.” Therefore, Gen Z will get bored at work quickly unless there are multiple tasks to complete and a constant change in their day-to-day work.
  2. Challenge: Gen Z loves a good challenge. A great way to keep them focused and busy is to constantly challenge them with something new. They have a craving to learn and know everything. On top of this, they are multi-taskers. According to a report by Forrester Research, 84% of Gen Z “multitask with an Internet-connected device while watching TV—using on average 1.5 other Internet-connected devices (e.g., laptops and cell phones).” From shopping in a store, to sharing a post on social media, to talking to their friends (all the while not walking into anyone) Gen Z can do it all —and at the same time!  According to Dan Schawbel from the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, more than “72% of high school students want to start a business someday” and “61% would rather be an entrepreneur instead of an employee” when they graduate. Even more so, more than 60% of Gen Z said they want to make an impact on the world. So make sure you have plenty of challenges for Gen Z and lots of opportunity for them to grow and learn, or they may begin to look for opportunities elsewhere.
  3. Competition: Gen Z thrives off competition. They want to be viewed as independent and therefore prefer to complete their work on their own and be evaluated one-on-one. According to a Forbes article, Gen Z. prefers to “manage their own projects so that their skills and abilities can shine through.” They are willing to work hard and play hard, but want to be recognized for it. “In fact, 77% of Gen Z anticipate working harder than previous generations to have a satisfying and fulfilling career.”

With their entrepreneurial characteristics and preference to be viewed as an individual, companies need to find a good balance between solo and collaborative projects for Gen Z. This means giving Gen Z spaces within the office that they can utilize when they want to work more privately.  Companies also need to provide a broad spectrum of opportunities for Gen Z to grow and take on larger roles. According to a Robert Half Survey, 64% of this generation ranked career opportunities as their main consideration in pursuing a full-time job.

Instead of focusing on where they will fit into your company, they are focusing on where does your company and position fit into their life.

What will your company do to create a work experience and environment that caters to Gen Z?

FT_18.02.15_GenerationsBirths_projectedThe Millennials are increasingly in charge.  According to Pew Research Center analysis of US Census data, these Americans born from 1981-1996 will pass Baby Boomers as the largest living adult generation by 2019.  This generation has already been the focus of countless books and opinion pieces attempting to explain who they are, the forces that shaped them, and what their impact on the world is likely to be.  In fact, I'll be doing a podcast next week with a couple of Millennial experts to talk about Millennials in management.

This week, though, I can't stop thinking about the generation right behind the Millennials.  Most commonly referred to as Generation Z, they are variously called Post Millennials, iGeneration, or Homeland Generation.

The oldest members of this generation were born in 1997.   They probably don't have a clear memory of 9/11, but most will have felt some impact from the Great Recession.  If they are attending college or planning to do so in the near future, they are likely worried about whether the benefits of that education will outweigh the attendant student loan debt. They never experienced the pre-internet world; i.e. the world before google became a verb. The majority carry a cellphone that delivers the internet on demand.  They don't debate the pros and cons of technology access any more than they'd challenge whether electricity is a good thing.

They have begun to enter the workforce - as the most tech savvy workers to date.  And according to this 2017 survey from Apprise Mobile and Google Consumer Surveys , some of their prospective managers are worried about what their impact will be.  Ironically, managers in this study from the frequently maligned Millennial cohort were the most worried, with 20% indicating they thought Gen Z would have a negative impact on their organization's culture.

Concerns expressed in this survey and elsewhere often focus on whether this generation can separate themselves from their ever present screens long enough to communicate with coworkers.  This week, we saw many middle and high school aged Gen Z'ers march out of classrooms across the US to demand action from Congress to make their schools safe from gun violence.   While they are leveraging social media to organize, they are making their voices heard loud and clear in public places across the country.  In this one clear instance, they certainly looked up from their screens to confront what they feel is a need for change head on.  

From the 1912 Bread and Roses strike for fair wages and better work conditions to the movements for civil and womens' rights to the  Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, workers who've spoken up for change have made workplaces better for everyone.  Welcome, Gen Z.  Bring it on.

Photo Credit Erin Schaff for The New York Times

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