Generation Z can no longer be ignored — they are the inevitable future, a generation that employers are increasingly forced to deal with, regardless if they are prepared or not. As I look into the future recruiting and talent strategies for Fierce, this is top of mind for me.
Bloomberg estimates that this year, Gen Z (those born after 1996) will surpass millennials as the largest age group, at over 30% of the population. By 2021, Maverick Research says 1 in 5 corporate employees will likely be from this generation.
As Baby Boomers continue to retire, the makeup for the workplace will keep shifting, and organizations are needing to address this change today — as in right now, as we speak. If you are an organization able to recruit and keep top Gen Z talent, you will benefit immensely in the long term. This is the next generation of workers we’re talking about after all.
The inevitable question on many organizations’ minds is how exactly do you attract, and ultimately retain, members of the estimated 61 million Gen Zers who are applying for jobs in the U.S. next year, many entering the workforce for the first time?
These young adults grew up during the 2008 recession, with smartphones as a way of life for as long as they can remember, and an on-demand economy that provided what they wanted, when they wanted it. Simply put, they value different things than those who came before them.
Because of this, it’s extremely important for employees to understand these disparities. Below are 4 areas organizations can address to both entice, and keep, Gen Z employees:
1. BE FEARLESSLY AUTHENTIC
Perhaps more than anything else, Gen Z values authenticity. These individuals crave the ability to share their views and ideas openly and honestly — and the workplace is no exception.
When you reflect on leaders who you work with at your organization, where the relationship is genuine and has a strong foundation built on trust, the common denominator is that the leader is consistent with their behavior and in turn, you most likely are too.
These leaders set themselves apart because they acknowledge that being a leader is hard — they don’t put on an act or pretend that their jobs are effortlessly easy. They handle the pressure of leadership by being consistently thoughtful, agile, and quick on their feet while having an awareness of their emotion wake.
In difficult situations, their employees don’t “walk on eggshells” or wonder what outburst might happen next.
These are the types of leaders and culture that are going to attract the brightest Gen Zers to your organization. If any generation can see through and refuse to put up with the smokescreen of corporate speak and fakeness, it’s Gen Z.
This isn’t easy to do, and it is important to share with your employees openly.
Personally, being a leader at a conversations company sets a very high bar for me, and I am not always perfect. My commitment is to call out when I do not feel I did as well as I could have done.
For example, last week one of Fiercelings (our employees) was discussing a topic with me that was emotionally charged, on both sides. After the conversation ended, I felt there were some ways that I thought I could have been better in the conversation. I invited him back into my office, shared my reflection and emotions, and welcomed more discussion if he was open to it.
That enriched our relationship.
Authentic leadership is not perfection. Rather, it is sharing and being willing to come out from behind yourself and make the conversations real. My commitment is to support all of our people to lead their lives and our work in that manner.
Organizations that cultivate open, honest and frequent communication will have a leg up on those with more archaic, stale and facade communication systems in place.
2. PROVIDE JOB STABILITY & OPPORTUNITY QUICKLY
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Gen Z, a generation that has never known what it was like to not be able to access everything and anything from the touch of their smartphones, has a low attention span.
According to Vision Critical, Gen Z has the lowest attention span of all generations — 8 seconds compared to Millennials’ 12 seconds — and have an incredibly low threshold for boredom.
This tidbit is highly valuable information for organizations to understand because, while it’s great if you can get a Gen Z in the door, the question you must solve is this: how do you keep them interested in continuing their journey with you, so your company doesn’t have to watch its investment leave after only a few months?
To attract and guarantee your Gen Z workers stick with your organization for the long term, my advice is to be open with details into the health and future of the company often and provide insight into what an employee’s career trajectory could look like more frequently than a simple once-per-year performance review.
The key here is to allow Gen Z workers to create a real, genuine connection with your organization, as well as see how they will grow and expand their career right from the get-go.
Gen Z wants to feel immediately that they are secure in their job and can picture what could be on the horizon for them in the coming year, five years and even 10 years from now. This can be a hard commitment for leadership given so many unknowns.
As a business leader, I know the challenges of providing career pathing and guaranteed stability. Sometimes you can’t provide what is desired. However, this truly is about acknowledging this desire and doing the very best you can.
The bottom line is that the growth and opportunity conversations must happen.
3. HIGHLIGHT DIVERSITY PROGRAMS
The current political and global climate has led to an increase in conversations about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and this is especially true for a generation such as Gen Z who is more diverse than any other before it.
According to recent Deloitte global human capital trends research, the number of executives who cited inclusion as a top priority has risen 32% in the last several years, and over two-thirds of executives rate diversity and inclusion as an important issue.
We got curious ourselves and recently surveyed over a thousand individuals nationwide to gain a better understanding of how people perceive the benefits of workplace diversity. We also explored issues relating to discrimination and safety in the workplace.
We thought it was interesting that over 40% of Fierce survey respondents believe their organization would benefit from greater diversity. This number increased to 55% amongst those 18 to 29 years old, however, decreased to just 30% of those 60+ years old.
A clear disconnect exists here between generations, as younger individuals seemingly place a greater value on diversity than those older. This finding is important for organizations to address head-on.
Company leaders need to encourage all employees to embrace the insights of individuals of all backgrounds and discover the value diversity plays in an organization’s success.
Inclusion regardless of race, religion, gender, and generation is paramount. My immediate question for business leaders is this: what is your plan with diversity? It is not about checking the box anymore, which truly creates a go-no go situation for many younger employees.
By not only being acceptive of a diverse workforce but also encouraging diversity and committing themselves to inclusion programs, organizations are sure to pique the interest of Gen Z.
4. EXPAND TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION
Organizations that are constantly updating their technology as the latest and greatest will prove successful in engaging Gen Z. Ensure everything from recruiting (video resumes!) to onboarding to internal learning and communication is done in a tech-savvy way, as this generation has come to expect it.
They will want the ability to work anywhere and any way that they please and communicate with those they work with this way as well (from co-workers to company leaders). However, while technology is important, do not make assumptions about technology use. This generation will still have a strong desire to travel and interact in-person. Do not swing the pendulum too far to only digital offerings.
From the perspective of a millennial (yes, that's me), I think there's a misconception that young people are attached only to technology and virtual options. I think the reverse can also be true — we're craving engagement and connection. Just because technology often dominates how we take in information day-to-day doesn't mean it's always what we want.
What it really comes down to is how and when technology is being used in the learning process and employee experience It's beneficial when used in tandem with a holistic learning approach that includes other methods of learning, especially as it relates to training, but it can become a serious drawback if it's used as the sole learning tool.
I've found that for myself, different situations call for different learning methods. For example, I love the Headspace meditation app. It's more realistic for my schedule to learn meditation this way than take hours out of a day or week to learn it in-person with an instructor.
However, there are other skills that lend themselves better to in-person learning. For instance, I typically go to in-person instruction for exercise or working on foreign language skills. The social pressure of classes or workshops helps me move the needle faster.
Want to know more about what organizations should be tackling in the coming months to stay ahead of their competitors? Read the rest of our 2019 predictions here to get a head start on improving your workplace for the better.