Just when we thought we finally understood Millennials, a new breed of animal has joined the workforce. Gen Z is here. Every time I get a CV and the birth date listed is 1996, I do a double take and realise just how very old I am. I was a fledgling teacher in the year 2000, I taught kindergarten and my students were five years old. Imagine, they are now joining the workforce and it is hard to believe that these small people who were learning to read are now entering the job market. Just as we started to finally work harmoniously together, a new generation is emerging. I fall into Generation X, what Douglas Copeland described as the misunderstood generation, Millennials after me are defined as entitled, collaborative and self-assured. Gen Z are described as tech savvy Digital Natives with short attention spans and advanced multi-tasking capabilities. Like siblings, we will have to learn to get along and for this to happen, we need to define this generation and understand the things that make them tick.
What drives this newest breed of young workers and how do we keep them engaged in the workplace? How do we attract this tech savvy generation who value independence over collaboration? Understanding how to adapt your office culture to the needs of this newest generation will help give your company a competitive edge.
Who are these guys?
Generation Z, born between 1996 and 2012, also referred to as Digital Natives, Gen Wii and the iGeneration. If you do the math, they are currently between seven and 23 years old. Many are only now entering the workforce. To understand these Digital Natives, you need to start by looking at the technological developments that took place from the time they were born until now.
Between 1996 and 2012, we went from our first handheld Nokia that knew how to call and text to smartphones that allowed us to virtually manage all facets of our lives. With smartphones came apps, apps that identify songs, play games, chat, get a date and find a job. It wasn’t until 1997 that wireless internet was first developed, and it took a few more years for the technology to become mainstream. As a member of Gen X, I clearly remember the nuisance of dial-up, Gen Z can’t even imagine a pre-wifi life. Telling them we rode dinosaurs to work would be more believable. Cloud computing is another biggie, saving photos, music and videos in the cloud is second nature. Hands up who remembers the floppy disc? Once upon a time we saved documents on floppy discs, hard drives or massive company servers. I remember a spare room in the office aptly named ‘The Server Room’, a creepy room with a large machine and countless wires everywhere. Gen Z cannot fathom life without The World Wide Web, for Gen Z, a Google free world is hard to imagine. This radically different digital context is what separates the Millennials from Gen Z. While most Millennials were born into a world that was still analog, Digital Natives were swiping on iPads in their strollers.
Having this backdrop for reference, let’s look at what these Digital Natives want and how recruiters and hiring managers can tailor their hiring strategies to attract them.
They are tech savvy
They were born into a digital world so know perfectly well how to navigate this kind of technology. As a result, they use it for virtually every aspect of their lives, and they expect nothing less from their workplace. They expect everything to be stored in the cloud and paperless environments are a given. Gen Z sees video as a big part of their lives so hiring managers will have to accept CV’s in video format because it seems that Gen Z are going to submit them in this medium. Recruiters can take this into account when interviewing, instead of a plain old-fashioned telephone call, use a video application app like FaceTime, Zoom or Hangouts. Don’t worry about the lack of formality, this is the way Gen Z likes to communicate so meet them where they are at.
They want constant feedback
Generation Z want feedback and they want it often. They want to interact with their boss several times each day and two-thirds of Generation Z say they need feedback from their supervisor at least every week in order to stay at their job. Feedback delivered to Generation Z should be prompt, short and tracked. The same applies to recruiters. When Gen Z sends a CV, reply immediately. If you interview the candidate, keep them in the loop throughout the process and give relevant, succinct feedback regardless of the outcome. Smiley face emojis are welcome. For companies employing Gen Z candidates, frequent feedback will improve retention.
They are multitasking champions
Being born into a technologically advanced world, their brains are wired to not only absorb countless amounts of information, but to take it in instantaneously. More so than any other generation before them, Gen Z are used to a constant barrage of notifications. For them, switching between email, apps and reminders comes naturally and as the world continues to be inundated with more and more information, companies will need employees who can keep up. They are hardwired to multitask so when hiring Generation Z employees, feel free to give them various duties at one time. Bear in mind that offices that ban devices and mobile apps at work will struggle to hire and retain this generation as they see their devices as an extension of themselves and necessary in order to function.
They love video
This generation LOVES video, probably because they grew up with cameras on their phones. To target these visual creatures, ad campaigns should contain interactive graphics, photos, and videos. Generation Z’s top platform to learn more about a company is YouTube, followed by Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, and then Glassdoor. Generation Z’s job search approach is a lot different from Millennials’, who prefer to use job boards and job sections in company websites. YouTube is a must for organizations wanting to build a strong employer brand aimed at Generation Z. It would be wise for recruiters and companies to start uploading short videos on YouTube highlighting different roles and promoting their companies. Adverts should be mobile-friendly, and websites should be optimized for mobile. When you’re hiring Generation Z employees, you need to include videos. It’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your office and company culture.
They are surprisingly serious
They know a recession when they see one. Many Digital Natives still vividly remember the financial crash of 2008. They saw firsthand what happened to their parents and for this reason they tend to be quite risk averse. Although the job itself is important, the level of security it offers is paramount. When selling a job, stability should be emphasized. At the interview, show them examples of employees who have developed and progressed within the organization and how the company has grown and will continue to grow. If the company has external funding or investors, highlight this. Any training and development programs on offer should be mentioned too.
They are independent players
It is well documented that Millennials value collaboration in the office. Think open plan offices, bean bags and foosball tables. Millennials are more likely to use online collaboration apps and prefer text and email communication to one-on-one meetings. It is wrong to assume that Gen Z is the same. According to research, Gen Z is more independent than previous generations. In fact, Generation Z would rather share tissues than an office space. Workplaces have become so used to Millennials’ collaborative style that this may need to change. Team working Millennials insisted on open plan offices where they could all work together, Gen Z’s independent nature doesn’t jive in an open space. Recruiters may be more successful promoting private offices than teamwork and constant collaboration. Companies, it’s time to start putting those partitions up! As an employer looking to hire Generation Z employees, it’s good to keep this desire for independence in mind.
They have an 8-second attention span
If you’re hiring Generation Z employees, it’s important to be aware of their relatively short attention span. This generation is used to having everything at their fingertips and they have zero patience for slow loading things. With so much information open in so many tabs, long convoluted text is not the way forward. Gen Z is very image orientated so think about how you can make this work for you. If, for example, many of your potential candidates use Instagram, you can create an engaging infographic or meme with bullet points.:) For companies, when training new hires, instead of hard copy manuals with large swathes of text, think brief video and infographics. The last thing you want is to lose their attention before week one.
They want a mentor
Like generations before them, positive relationships at work is ranked highly among Gen Z. Despite being characterized as the Snapchat generation, these Digital Nomads crave human connection in the workplace. Strong relationships with colleagues and regular interactions with supervisors are important. This generation wants to engage one-on-one with their leaders and management should be actively involved in the progression of their careers. Creating an effective strategy to allow this generation to receive mentorship and guidance from leaders is a good approach. Companies should aim to adopt an open-door policy in the office and set aside time for frequent one-on -one chats.
They want a healthy workplace
With so many lifestyle blogs and Instagram followings dedicated to health and wellness, it makes sense that this would filter into work life. For Generation Z, health benefits are important when choosing a place to work. This is easier to implement than you think. The beauty of employee health and wellness programs is that they don’t need to be expensive or complicated. Offering fruit baskets on Monday or a free healthy lunch once a week could work. Ideas like yoga sessions or company participation in community marathons would appeal. Offering an array of almond milk, lactose free and coconut milk with coffee in the kitchen is a simple and cost-effective idea. If free gym memberships are too costly, company walks during lunch breaks are good ideas.
For us to reach these multi-tasking mavens who pride themselves on independence yet insist on regular feedback, we need to adapt our recruitment and hiring strategies. With eight-minute attention spans and a preference for image over text, recruiters and companies have their work cut out for them. Like it or not, Gen Z is now walking off the graduation stage and into the workplace so invest in video, embrace their independence, utilize their multitasking capabilities and give frequent feedback. If we engage their curiosity and utilize their tech-savvy minds they will inevitably become much valued members in the workplace family.