Move over millennials, Generation Z isn’t just taking over the TikTok scene, but the workforce as well.
According to a 2020 Deloitte study, in the U.S alone, they constituted “more than a quarter of the population and are already considered to be “the most diverse generation in the nation’s history”.
Unlike millennials, they are the first generation that has never known a world without the internet. #whatsafloppydisk
As a manager, understanding the needs and behaviour of this rising workforce is crucial to building an engaging workforce.
Before we get to that, let’s answer the question that’s already on your mind: Who is Generation Z?
Understanding Generation Z
Born between 1997 to 2015, this anxious yet optimistic generation is currently 6 to 24 years old.
Despite their digital savviness and need for a work/home balance, it’d be a mistake to put them in the same group as their millennial counterparts.
Growing up in the aftermath of a global recession, they’ve witnessed their parent’s and older siblings’ financial struggles and as a result, are more risk-averse and pragmatic towards their financial future.
As much as they’re labelled as “the entrepreneurial” generation, according to Fast Company, their “supposed entrepreneurialism is actually more of a survival mechanism than an idealist reach for status or riches.”
A true paradox of sorts, they value flexibility in the workplace as much as financial stability.
With this generation already accounting for over 40% percent of the workforce, here are five ways to keep GEN Z engaged in the workplace:
1. Prioritize In-Person Feedback on a Recurring Basis
Despite growing up in a hyper-connected world, these digital natives value offline connection more than you think.
According to a Workforce Institute study, “three out of four Gen Zers (75%) prefer to receive manager feedback in person, and 39% prefer to communicate with their team or employer in person.”
With COVID measures being in place, if in-person feedback isn’t an option, a better alternative would be to opt for video conferences instead of audio calls.
Additionally, this generation understands the value behind employee feedback and needs it in order to be actively engaged in their job.
Annual reviews aren’t enough. According to a research study, 60% of Generation-Z’ers want multiple check-ins from their managers weekly, if not daily.
In fact, 40% think they’ve done something wrong if they don’t have daily interactions with their boss.
According to LinkedIn, this doesn’t have to be a huge disruption to the company’s usual workflows, as 67% are comfortable with check-ins taking five minutes or less.
After all, an engaged post-millennial workforce means more employee retention and less job-hopping than their millennial predecessors.
2. Offer Continuous Learning and Hands-On Training
With automation and AI takeover becoming more of a reality, GEN Zers want to prepare themselves in the best way possible: by learning new skills on the job.
With 76 percent of GEN Zers describing themselves as being in charge of driving their own career paths, these motivated self-learners understand the importance of levelling up their skillset.
The way to their heart is through upskilling.
In other words: Offer education and training programs to help them remain relevant in the ever-evolving workforce.
Gen Z participants in a Working Learner Study listed education benefits as the most desirable work benefit behind healthcare, even outpacing paid sick and vacation days and retirement savings programs.
Additionally, nearly 90 percent say education benefits make it more likely that they will recommend their employer to a friend.
Unlike past generations, Gen Z prefers microlearning and self-directed learning as opposed to a traditional learning approach with a manager listing them exact tasks to do.
Small and very specific bursts of learning provide ample room to retain and apply the knowledge quickly.
Online training through YouTube, LinkedIn or a company course is the most viable option that meets the needs of these modern learners.
By investing in continuous learning, you’re setting up your workforce to adapt to the realities of an automated future.
3.Emphasize Job Security and Personal Development
As entrepreneurial as they are, GEN Zers are deeply driven by security.
Growing up in the aftermath of a global recession has made this generation more pragmatic than their millennial predecessors.
In a study, 70% say their top “must-have” is health insurance, while 35% plan to start saving for retirement in their 20s.
Moral of the story?
Ping-pong tables and fully stocked beer fridges aren’t enough to satisfy this risk-averse generation.
Prioritize catering to their basic needs instead. One recent survey of 1,000 Gen Zers, found that the top career goal among respondents (40 percent) was to land in a position where they feel secure and stable.
The survey also found that 36 percent of Gen Zers worried they’d be stuck in a job that didn’t give them chances to grow.
Offering paid time-off, health benefits, room for personal growth and opportunities for job advancement are the ways to a GEN Z’s heart.
4. Adopt a Mobile-First Mentality
Fun fact: The average Gen Zer received their first mobile phone at 10.3 years old.
To this day, consider it to be their preferred method of communication for touching base.
They may not have experienced the memories of growing up with super- slow dial-up internet or know what a floppy disk is, but this hyper-connected generation knows their way around technology.
Mobile-centric and device savvy, these digital natives view technology as a tool rather than a toy and are ruled by their versatile ability in leveraging multiple modes of communication at once.
To engage a generation that checks their smartphones the minute they wake up, employers need to start embracing digital channels for communication, task and performance management.
With 91% saying that technology offered by an employer would influence their job choice it goes without saying, that a lack of it could be a deal-breaker.
Addressing the concerning technology gap in the hourly workforce is a start.
Engaging GEN Z in the workplace requires speaking their digital language.
For them, simplicity is key.
Workforce management apps with built-in messaging simplify employee communication by keeping everyone in the loop so no message gets left unread.
Whether it be through direct messaging or email, an employee can choose their preferred method of digital communication and get notified directly from their manager.
Additionally, they have the opportunity to build their own schedules based on their availability and desires. This collaborative-based approach lessens the manager’s workload while empowering GEN Z employees with the flexibility they need in the workplace.
Leveraging technology to build a positive experience with GEN Z boosts employee morale and engages them in the long run.
After all, you don’t want them to think your company is still operating in the Stone Ages.
5. Incorporate Diversity and Inclusion Efforts In Your Company Culture
GEN Z is no stranger to experiencing significant political and social milestones throughout their formative years.
From dozens of countries legalizing gay marriage to Barack Obama being the first African-American US president to the #MeToo movement, these milestones have shaped their perspective.
Considered to be the most “accepting generation”, GEN Z values a sense of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
In fact, 77% of Gen Zers say a company’s level of diversity would affect their decision to work there.
One way of winning GEN Z over is by shining a light on your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
If you have no idea where to start or are lagging behind on it, see it as an opportunity for growth.
Whether it be offering equal pay and promotion opportunities, hiring a diverse workforce or simply being an empathetic manager, it’s important to highlight your efforts but also walk the talk.
For real change to happen, everyone on your team, from the top down needs to buy into the values of inclusivity and diversity.
Bear in mind, it’s an ongoing process, one that doesn’t get created through a one-hour training session but rather through reflecting on the current behaviour of your company culture and identifying key moments it can take place.
A good place to start is by implementing an open-door policy where employees can get the opportunity to speak their minds and have their voices heard loud and clear.
If there’s one thing GEN Z is all about, it’s authenticity.
With the rise of GEN Z taking over the workforce, it’s important to understand their needs and how it impacts the way they work.
From offering ongoing feedback to fostering a continuous learning environment to adapting to a mobile-first mentality, these are just several ways to build engagement and deliver a positive day-to-day working experience for this innovative generation.
To attract and retain the best and brightest of this generation, adapting is key.
In the end, the future belongs to those who learn it.