Move Over Millennials, Gen Z Is On Its Way

By Sandy Meyer

The winds of change are blowing yet again. While Human Resource professionals and management teams continue to concentrate on finding new ways to attract and retain Millennials, a new generation has quietly begun to infiltrate the workforce. Generation Z now stands on the threshold to changing the landscape of the workplace yet again.

Where did the time go? It seems like just yesterday that the term Millennial was coined and now it’s time to turn our attention elsewhere. While no one was looking Gen Z has emerged on the scene and is poised to present all new recruiting and retention challenges. Though this new demographic group is still relatively young, the oldest born in 1996, the time to focus on engaging them is now.

Who is Gen Z?

Unlike its predecessor, Gen Z did not have to be taught technology. It was bred into them. Those born in this generation have never known a world without the internet, smartphones, iPads or social media.

They’ve never known a pre-9/11 world or gotten on a plane without taking their shoes off first. In this sense, they likely have more in common with Generation X than with their Millennial counterparts. Just as Gen X came of age during the controversial Vietnam era, Gen Z is coming of age during the controversial wars in the Middle East.

Let’s take a look at the beliefs that are shaping this new generation.

The American Dream Lives

The older members of Gen Z witnessed the housing bubble burst in 2008 and watched their parents get laid off and forced to recreate themselves in the workforce during the late 2000’s. Despite growing up during an economic downturn, The Center for Generational Kinetics reports that “78% believe the American Dream is attainable, which is higher than any other generation.”

Entrepreneurship Will Gain Momentum

According to a 2014 published study, 64% of college students and 72% of high school students surveyed want to have their own business in the future. This generation began coming of age during the fall of big banks, an increase of automation and pressure on companies to downsize. They know that they must rely on themselves if they want to succeed and they are already taking steps to do that. Programs like the Thiel Fellowship, TiE Global and The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) are becoming increasingly popular among this young generation.

The Thiel Fellowship attracts entrepreneurial-minded individuals by offering $100,000 awards to individuals aged 22 and younger to skip college and instead create their own business. The award is spread out over a two-year period and allows the Fellows to have the funds to work on their own unique product and ideas.

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship brings its training directly to high school students, particularly low-income students, teaching them leadership skills and problem-solving skills while showing them how to recognize opportunities for success.

TiE Global has a Youth Focus competition in which students can present their business plans and win cash prizes.

Hard Work Equals Success

Gen Z is in a way about coming back to basics. According to Millennial Marketing, a majority of teens surveyed believe that hard work is the foundation of success. They have a focus on getting good grades and getting into college, both which rank higher in importance than being with their friends.

Social media may be one of the many causes which have Gen Z already focusing on getting ahead. Being in the social spotlight 24/7 puts additional pressure on this generation to succeed from the starting gate and keeps them always up-to-date on what their peers are accomplishing.

Gen Z in the Workforce

So, now that we know a little bit about Gen Z, how will employers recruit and retain this growing workforce?

Flexible but Structured

Gen Z will present some unique challenges to employers in the years to come. For instance, a Gen Z survey reported in 2016 that this generation values flexibility while still embracing the corporate structure.  According to Business Wire, 57% of Gen Z workers surveyed want the ability to work remotely but still have a physical workspace to perform their duties. Additionally, 73% want to be able to work flexible hours.

Gen Z understands the benefits of working face-to-face with peers but they also already understand the need for flexible work options as their lives become busier. This work/life balance will become increasingly important as this generation grows older and begins to have its own families.

Regular Feedback

This new generation will likely bring about the end of the Annual Performance Review. This group that has grown up with real-time updates from every possible source will want feedback on their performance on a consistent basis and will not want to have to wait a year to get it.

Leadership Roles

Nearly 84% of Gen Z survey respondents  said that they want to have a leadership role in their careers. Their interest in entrepreneurship will require employers to offer them the ability to shape their own path in the company while presenting them with the opportunity to lead others. Gen Z wants their ideas to be heard so employers should be ready to listen.

Social is the Word

Social Media is not going away. In fact for Gen Z, it is becoming the main form of communication. Companies looking to recruit should access as many social media platforms as possible. Keep the messages short though. Gen Z is used to reading descriptions that are five words or less. Live streaming is also a popular way to go when trying to get the attention of this group.

Time is of the Essence

Employers and HR professionals must always remain fluid to the changes that come with each new generation. While the Baby Boomers and Millennials are still the cornerstone of the workforce, Gen Z is making its way into the market and hiring managers need to prepare to welcome them.  According to Forbes, by 2020, just three short years away, this new generation will make up 40% of the U.S. population.  Now is the time to prepare so that your company has the pick of the litter, so to speak.


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