It’s 2019, which means there are now adults who have only lived in the 21st century. Today’s 18- and 19-year-olds have never experienced a world without the internet, hybrid cars, or camera phones. They’ve probably never had to turn a record over, rewind a VHS tape, wait for a photo to develop, or watch MTV until their favorite video aired. They have no memory of horrors and crises such as the Vietnam War, the Cold War, Watergate, the Y2K bug, parachute pants, or Pogs.
They’re the members of Generation Z. And they’re about to invade a workplace near you.
Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. They might sound like baby cyborgs with rainbow hair and nanosecond-long attention spans, but Gen Zers are (allegedly) as human as the rest of us. They want engaging, meaningful jobs that offer the usual rewards: security, respect, room for development, and so on.
That said, there are certain widespread attributes of Gen Z that employers should recognize and start planning around now. According to Edelman Digital’s 2019 Trends Report, Gen Z is more technologically savvy than any prior generation, including millennials. They’re a generation that “expects organizations to have this all figured out” and whose members “don’t know a time when information wasn’t readily at their fingertips.”
These inherited beliefs and familiarity with technology influences “how they work, what they value in an organization and how they imagine their careers.” And businesses that don’t adapt are going to get left behind:
“In a nutshell, leaders today have a choice: Empower and enable Gen Z to make your entire business better. Or stifle them with the wrong roles, systems and technologies, and risk becoming the next wave of corporate bureaucratic dinosaurs.”
How can an organization avoid bureaucratic dinosaurification at the hands of an army of rainbow-haired baby-borgs? Edelman urges employers to understand how Gen Z’s upbringing shaped the group’s motivations:
“Gen Z’s life as a digital-first worker started way before they earned a salary. Driven by social mechanics, the instantaneous feedback loop is a big part of their experience—whatever ‘work’ they do, they expect to see an immediate social outcome. They course-correct the work they’re doing based on that outcome and optimize their lives to game the system and learn from their mistakes.
All this innovative industriousness is born out of necessity—the first time they really started thinking about money was in the wake of the 2008 recession. They’re less optimistic and live more cautiously than the previous generation. Self-reliance and pragmatism guided their choices about college, after- school gigs and their most recent side hustle. While millennials value more of a work-life balance, Gen Z is going to drive change in the substance of the work itself. Diversity is a big part of that and a major factor when they pursue new positions.”
The conversation isn’t all about what employers should do for their youngest employees. Organizations have plenty to be excited about in regards to this new generation:
“Gen Z expects to be a part of the conversation, and when they feel change is necessary, they will drive the conversation. For instance, the students of Parkland, Florida, traveled across the country to talk to fellow Gen Zers about issues that resonate with them and encouraged them to vote to have their voices heard. They’ll work for a seat at the table, and this should inform the way brands define entry-level and junior roles.
In other words—Gen Zers are DREAM EMPLOYEES.”
For employers looking to attract these dream employees, Edelman offers 3 recommendations:
- Move toward an instantaneous review cycle.
- Transform new employees into consultants.
- Feed self-directed self-improvement with strategic internal communications.
Read more in the full report here.
Want to create a workplace that’s engaging, respectful, and, uh, lit for employees of all ages? Check out our 4 Generations in the Workforce worksheet.