Large and in charge
Forget millennials, Generation Z is entering the workforce as the largest, most diverse, and most demanding generation ever. What’s it going to take to hire — and keep — these ‘always-on’ workers?
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Speaking of recruitment and retention, Woodman-Holoubek says employers need to start by changing mindsets to expand their definition of what and how a job or a position is defined and described, and then they must market and brand that information in an online platform where the targeted candidate virtually lives.
“To generalize, influencers live on Twitter and LinkedIn, creatives and makers live on Instagram and Facebook [though less so Facebook for Gen Z],” says Woodman-Holoubek. “Make the information short and focused, maybe in video form, and change it often. Make the content relevant and the responses rapid. Do not wait to contact a candidate and set a meeting, probably at their convenience. In a week or less, be ready for the information to not be relevant anymore, and that they have moved on if they do not receive your response. Gen Zers want human connection in the form of virtual, ‘just-in-time’ experiences. Be ready to engage them then and there.”
“Gen Z is more pragmatic than millennials; Gen Z grew up during the recession.” — Ashlie B. Johnson, owner, Brooke Human Resource Solutions
Because Generation Z is so digitally savvy, companies need to have a digital presence to effectively recruit them, concurs Davis. HR and marketing will need to work together to align and take advantage of a company’s brand. Gen Z will judge how easy — or difficult — it is to do business with your company online, so HR should take advantage of video and YouTube channels to more effectively convey the brand message to audiences and recruits alike.
“From a recruiting standpoint, I think we have a preconceived concern about Gen Z job hopping, says Mary Moua, recruitment sourcing specialist for Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. “Because Generation Z expects instant results and knows we always have options in many aspects of life, we tend to move on to the next option if we are not pleased with service or other expectations. Same goes for employment — changing jobs within one to three years is more typical than it was 20 years ago. Employees expect more these days, like better benefits and perks, to work remotely, etc. If [those expectations are] not met, they may look elsewhere. Especially with the unemployment rate being so low, it works in their favor because talent is hard to find these days.”
Recruiting Gen Z requires much more effort than the generations that came before them, notes Johnson. Gen Z is much more independent and likely to investigate a potential employer prior to agreeing to an interview.
“For instance, use of apps such as Glassdoor is much more common for Gen Z,” explains Johnson. “It is very important for employers to look at their company as a brand and market it that way. Maintaining a social media presence and keeping up to date with changing trends is more important for the recruiting department than ever before.
“Gen Z is also more pragmatic than millennials,” continues Johnson. “While millennials were concerned with open office space, bean bag chairs, and collaborative/fun working environments, Gen Z grew up during the recession and are much more keenly aware of the value of a generous 401(k) match or stock options. Gen Z’s more aggressive attitude about advancement and increasing their wages over time also requires employers to acknowledge and put training and career development programs in place in order to retain this new generation over time.”
In terms of retention, the current trend for an employee to remain in a position is 2.2 years, notes Woodman-Holoubek. She recommends expecting less for Gen Z, unless you expand the employer mindset on the terms of employee and worker, as well as what is considered “work” and what is not work.
“Employers should focus on the outcomes they want to and what experience the worker should generate for the organization,” explains Woodman-Holoubek. “From there, organizations can begin to redesign ‘work’ and work descriptions. Pathways for individual employees can then be determined and Gen Zers can be supported. Gen Zers are not only multitaskers; they are also multifaceted. Expect a candidate for a position to also be a multimedia expert, an actor, or a musician, and want their organization to support all their pursuits and all their endeavors.”
Some ‘splainin to do
Both colleagues and managers will need to adjust their expectations when it comes to working with and managing Gen Z employees. Queue the eye rolls, right? Well, don’t worry because this is much less about babying Gen Z than it is about learning to work with a group whose idea of work is significantly different than the generations before.
Older generations of managers and leaders will need to up their technology game, says Johnson. It is no longer possible for managers to let knowledge of technology pass them by, she notes, and employers should take an active role in continued technology education for their aging workforce. Because Gen Z is always connected but also distracted at the same time, implementing productivity management and project management tools can be very beneficial for managers.
“The traditional top-down, command-and-control corporate structure has proven to be challenging for millennials and is likely to be even more so for members of Gen Z,” warns Johnson. “Managers will need to re-evaluate management tools such as performance reviews and ‘employee-of-the-month’ posters, and replace them with practices that are more effective for Gen Z.
“Another challenge with Gen Z is their sense of entitlement and the idea that they should challenge any practice that they perceive to be ‘unfair,’” Johnson adds. “Employers will have to do a better job of clearly defining job and professional behavior standards. While previous generations would never have challenged an employer with demands such as having the ability to work from home and flexible start/end times, Gen Z will not hesitate. Employers will need to review their business practices and be prepared to educate employees on the necessity for the practices and expectations that are in place.”
Moua agrees, noting managers need to have a level of understanding and empathy for their Gen Z employees, but that it goes both ways and the younger generation needs to be just as open minded about the older generations.
“From both a retention standpoint and from the perspective of getting the most out of Generation Z employees, businesses should be looking to encourage and empower this generation to come up with ideas rather than simply carry out management initiatives,” says Davis. “Managers and leaders will need to shift their mindset from providing all the vision and direction to supporting and guiding young employees to bring their ideas to fruition within the constructs of corporate rules and regulations. Basically, leaders need to help Gen Z figure out how to bring their solutions to life.”
Business leaders will also need to remember there is more than one way to accomplish a task and give Generation Z the freedom to find a path that might be different from the way we’ve always done it, notes Davis. This will require adjustments on both sides.
In addition, young workers will have to realize that most companies are small businesses, explains Davis. “We’re not all Google, Facebook, and Netflix. Small businesses tend to adopt technology at a slower pace than the big, national corporations. Again, this will take adjustments on both sides, with smaller companies needing to incorporate technology at a faster pace and Gen Zers needing to be patient with businesses adapting as fast as they can.”
Ultimately, managers and older co-workers will have to work hard to build authentic relationships with Gen Zers, building trust and focusing on the experience of the leadership relationship, says Woodman-Holoubek. This means changing styles to mentor, coach, and facilitate rather than supervise, manage, or even micro manage.
“Leaders will have to adjust to not always having their people present in the office, or in the city, or even the same country,” notes Woodman-Holoubek. “Managers will need to focus on acceptance and tolerance separate from diversity and inclusion as a new attitude toward the workplace code of conduct. Gen Z will be a spectrum of gender and identity and will be expecting managers and co-workers to treat them as non-binary. This requires work on removing unconscious bias and second generational bias from the work practices.
“There really will be zero tolerance of workplace abuses of power, of violence, bullying, and other forms of human discord,” says Woodman-Holoubek. “However, I think we will see a rise of leaders coaching people through anxiety and depression. This is not because the changes in our society and lifestyles are leading people to mental illness, it is because it is becoming less taboo and normalized to discuss in the workplace, and we will continue to become more personal with people.”