For the last three years Phone2Action, a software maker for civic engagement campaigns, has run a fellowship program in the summer to give students the chance to work on tech projects throughout Phone2Action’s departments including engineering, marketing, customer success and operations. One program member eventually became a summer employee, according to CEO Jeb Ory. She is a student from Stanford who went on from the fellowship to spend some time overseas with NATO and then turned down an internship with the U.S. State Department to come back to Phone2Action. She is a member of Gen Z.
Now that the working world has finally figured out what inspires and draws Millennials, it waits anxiously for the next generation. That would be Generation Z, a cohort born in the mid-1990s to early 2010. They make up 25% of the population, a larger group than the Millennials or Baby Boomers. “We are still learning a lot about this new generation, but we do know that they will be a big part of shaping the future of work,” said Pushpa Gowda, the Global Technology Engagement Director for JLL. “One thing we know for sure: these future coworkers for Millennials and GenXers have a mind of their own as a generation and will carve out their niche as their numbers gain strength in the workplace.”
Gen Z is still emerging as a demographic profile, but companies are already wondering about this group and what they can expect from and how best to prepare for their culture for this generation. Here are some observations about this generation and how they are likely to influence the workplace.
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They Like to Work individually Instead of in a Group
There are growing signs that Gen Z is happier working alone than always as part of a group. This is not to say they aren’t collaborative or can’t work in a group — they are and they can. But Gen Z also wants credit for his or her work — and expects to be rewarded for their individual achievements. For this reason companies will need to continue to provide various work configurations, for both private offices and for collaborative space, Gowda said. This is not to say they don’t value community, crowdsourcing and personal connections — in fact they do. “The ideal work environment for them is a mixture of collaborative and support services,” she said.
They Have a Lot of Choices
Unlike the Millennials, Gen Z is entering a strong economy where employees are jockeying to find the talent in many tech fields. This is giving Gen Z lots of employment choices. “They are entering an economic environment that not only has some of the lowest unemployment ever but also has all of these unique, innovative working options,” Ory said. “If they don’t want a full-time job they can drive Lyft for 20 hours and deliver with Door Dash and wait in line as a Task Rabbit for someone.” As for full-time professional jobs, "they will go where their individual work styles can be accommodated," Gowda said.
“Gen Zs have grown up with access to the gig economy and that has created a desire for flexible and independent work,” said Summer Crenshaw, COO and founder of tilr. "Employers must create schedules that can attract and retain talent and must also create operational policies that will allow for parity between independent contractors and W-2 employees.”
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They Equate High Salaries With Success
Anticipate salary demands to be a bit higher than their counterparts in other generations, Crenshaw warned.
They Like To See The Bigger Picture At Work
Lever, a recruiting software company, has found that one of the biggest attractors for Gen Z employees is sharing how a new employee will impact their function, team and the overall business, said Director of Recruiting Amanda Bell. “We create an impact description — not a traditional job description — for each role that details what they can expect to have done in their role within one, three, six and 12 months. This way, they can see their work directly contributing to the success of the business and they have a rubric for what success looks like and how we measure it,” she said.
They Don't Have Effective Social Skills
Generation Z grew up using texting as a main form of communication, which, as you might imagine, doesn't translate well into the work environment, meaning they will have to make adjustments in how they communicate, according to Jayne Mattson, senior vice president of Keystone Associates. "They will have to use more face-to-face approaches," she said.
She also suggested that employers consider matching new Gen Z hires with a mentor to help them acclimate to the organization. This mentor would be someone who has been with the organization for 3-5 years and knows the culture. "[Mentors can] take them to lunch or bring them to the community area where other employees might hang out for coffee. They can introduce them to colleagues, key team members and show them behaviors that demonstrate the company culture." This will help them adjust and learn to navigate their new work environment.