young couple working on laptops on a table outdoors
PHOTO: Eliott Reyna

At nearly a third of the world's 7.7 billion people, Generation Z (Gen Z) now outnumbers millennials. Many are starting to enter the workforce and will comprise a large percentage in the coming years. Pew Research defines this generation as those born after 1997 and before roughly 2012. Much as the millennials did before them, Gen Z grew up online. A staggering 96% own a smartphone, and half spend 10 hours or more per day on an electronic device. These young adults have developed a different way of working and communicating as a result.

So what does this mean for business? Because Gen Z has a markedly different way of both seeing the world and interacting with it compared to previous generations, businesses must be prepared to once again adjust and reevaluate their practices.

Understanding Gen Z's concerns will help you devise a plan to support and attract this rising generation in your workplace. Stagnating wages is one concern. Pay for young, lower-income workers just entering the job market has been stagnant since 2000. Rising debt is another major concern. Unsurprisingly, 46% of Gen Zers say student loan debt is their most pressing financial concern. Combined with growing credit card debt, it’s clear that long-term debt is sure to be a significant problem for this generation. 

Many are also unhappy with their current jobs. As many as 40% of Gen Zers say they regret accepting a job offer. There's also the stress associated with these concerns. Providing adequate health insurance benefits and options such as work-from-home or flexible hours could go a long way toward decreasing stress among younger employees.

With all the above in mind, here are six ways to support your Gen Z employees.

1. Embrace their tech and social media expertise

Gen Z grew up with access to smartphones and the internet like no other generation before it. A major part of their daily interactions take place in the digital realm —either on social media or surfing the web — and they’re comfortable using a variety of tech tools and apps. Your business should embrace their comfort level and expertise using tech with a dynamic and engaging online and social media presence. If it doesn’t, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to create a generation of  brand ambassadors.

2. Don’t forget old-school 'face time' 

Gen Z is the most technologically minded generation, but they consider in-person interaction aka “face time” as the best way to communicate. Gen Z also craves daily communication and collaboration with others. This may come as a surprise to those who agree with the stereotypical image of young people staring at their smartphones constantly. As a manager, it's critical to understand your employees rather than pigeonholing them into predetermined categories.

Related Article: Stop Reinforcing Generation Gaps and Other Insights From Digital Workplace Experience

3. Prepare to meet higher expectations

Speaking of management, Gen Zers expect more from their bosses. Their most wanted attributes are a willingness to communicate, good coaching, and more frequent performance reviews. Many want daily feedback on their work. This can be a challenging request for older managers who are content with yearly employee reviews. It certainly puts more work on their plate, but those willing to go the extra mile will be rewarded with happier, more engaged and more productive employees. 

4. Train tomorrow’s leaders

With 60% of Gen Z interested in future management positions, today's management is, in essence, training the corporate leaders of tomorrow. Playing to their needs and strengths will allow them to become the best versions of themselves and give them the tools they'll need to lead effectively.

Related Article: The Role of Data Literacy in the Digital Workplace

5. Adapt and improvise

The ability to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the workforce will be a common trait among successful companies in the future. Those who resist and insist on keeping legacy policies for the sake of continuity will find that turnover is high, productivity is low, and the business as a whole is less competitive. Young adults have useful, important skill sets that can help your company relate more to your modern customer base. Embrace this evolution and your business will be dynamic and well-suited to meet new challenges.

6. Embrace diversity, inclusion and social missions

Gen Z is leading the way in promoting diversity and inclusion in all aspects of life. In the US, this generation is the most racially and ethnically diverse one yet. They are also quick to identify insincere efforts and will call out anything perceived as fake. That also applies to social missions. If your company chooses to support one, be sure the effort is authentic and supported by senior management.