Move over, Millennials. Today organizations are thinking about Gen Z, the newest cohort joining the workplace. While millennials remain the largest group in the workforce today, they are increasingly being joined by their “younger sibs,” a generation that the Pew Research Center defines as being born from 1997 on.
New college grads fit the bill, as do the high schoolers who will soon be coming on board. Here are five traits to know about this generation and how to create a workplace that appeals to them. (The great news is that most generations will appreciate the new dynamics as well!)
The Trait: Gen Z isn’t afraid to jump ship.
While this can seem like a downside, it’s wise to know this about the generation—and work to keep them happy. There’s a reason they’re more prone to move around, and that’s because they saw the damage done to their parents and neighbors who might have worked long hours at a job, only to see their company fail to offer that same loyalty in return. In addition, they’ve seen their millennial counterparts who presumably did the right thing by graduating from college being inundated with student loans and sometimes unable to find a job commensurate with their education. “The traditional power dynamic that views corporate overlords as holding the keys to job stability, benefits, and great pay isn’t shared by Gen Z. That spells potential disaster for employers that believe they hold all the cards,” explains an article on Quartz.com.
What HR Should Do: Cultivate a work culture that puts them first. Invest in them through proper onboarding, then training and interesting work that will keep them satisfied. Make sure that a full slate of benefits meets their needs. And then realize that they might not intend to be lifers, and that’s ok. When one leaves, hopefully another one will be there to take their place, bringing all the enthusiasm and creativity that comes with a new hire.
The Trait: Gen Z is truly digital first.
While millennials came of age during the digital revolution, most Gen Zers have never known a world without answers at their fingertips or social media impacting their life view.
What HR Should Do: Embrace the fact that they are going to post on social media by offering Instagrammable-events and inviting them to share company content. Make sure you have developed and share a solid social media policy; as in, highlighting confidentiality best practices and letting them know if they need to tag photos with your company name. And, make sure that your own social media and online presence reflects a place this group would be happy to join.
The Trait: Gen Z is eager for leadership and development opportunities.
Gen Z has spoken: The members of the graduating class of 2019 ranked ongoing continuing education as a top priority in their job search. That’s likely because of all the rapid technological change they have seen so far in their lives, coupled with the ongoing discussions of AI and automation potentially changing the dynamics of many workplaces.
What HR Should Do: Make sure that a robust culture of learning and development is prominent in your organization. Whether you offer options for online or in-person classes or focus more on cross-training and apprenticeships, show your newer employees that you are eager to have them grow with you—or you risk having them grow away from you.
The Trait: Gen Z craves flexibility.
Work/life balance has given way to a new concept of work/life blend. That’s because Gen Z has never known an environment where their personal and “other” lives weren’t completely intertwined. While they probably won’t balk at answering an email after hours, they also expect that sometimes they can take a longer lunch for an eye doctor appointment or come in late if they’ve been crunching on a project. That’s why flexible hours are consistently cited as one of the top draws for a job, finds online job site Glassdoor.
What HR Should Do: Of course, sometimes it’s not possible to accommodate all the flexibility an employee might want, but try to find ways that they can have some control over their work hours.
The Trait: Gen Z welcomes feedback.
Forget “annual” reviews. One study found that nearly 60% of the Gen Z cohort want check-ins from their managers at least weekly, and many would prefer daily. That allows them to course correct in the now, rather than taking a “rear-view” mirror perspective about what they could have done. Giving them tangible, actionable insights allows this “video game” generation to measure how well they are doing in “leveling up” to new skills and behaviors.
What HR Should Do: Offering constant feedback can seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be. While HR might have a more formal process in place, equip your managers with best practices on how they can help create a culture of continuous feedback, such as having short weekly check-ins with each employee, giving a five-minute debrief after meetings or presentations and starting each week with a concise team meeting to align on goals and also share quick performance updates in a group setting.