Remarkably health-conscious, radically inclusive, highly entrepreneurial and competitive. These are just a few of the buzzwords floating around when it comes to typifying and categorizing Generation Z. These characteristics are important to recognize when considering Gen Z’s overall impact on the workforce, but it is also important to consider what other traits they exhibit that could considerably jolt an organization. This generation is already larger in number than millennials and, therefore, is truly the future of the global economy, an economy that is already at our doorstep. Is your business prepared to attract, retain, develop and engage them? What makes this population so unique, and what does this mean for your company?
Generation Z is the purest of pure digital natives. They can’t fathom a world without technology because they never lived without it. Rather than seeing separate worlds as many others do (the “digital” world versus the “real” world), they see a new integrated world where technology, life and work meld together to construct an entirely new reality. Having lived in an atmosphere with Wi-Fi, iPhones and apps for as long as they can recall, these “native speakers” of the digital language can learn new platforms and trends at the drop of a hat, and 92% of them already have some sort of digital footprint. According to a recent article, their relationship to technology may be “even more instinctual than that of a millennial in their late 30s,” as over one-third state that they use technology as frequently as possible, are eager adopters of wearable technology and aren’t the slightest bit intimated by job automation and AI.
The impact? Companies will be forced to adapt to a more “pragmatic, tech-savvy generation that isn’t easily wowed or won over,” if they don’t want to fall behind, according to VisionCritical. This group’s shrewdness in the digital sphere is certainly something organizations need to consider and embrace if they want to engage and retain this generation. Sources note that because this group is so technically competent, they are able to “pick up on some aspects of the job more quickly than their counterparts,” which could be a major benefit. This can be a double-edged sword, however, as they may also be “ill-equipped for jobs requiring high customer interactions and may require more training in this area” due to that saturation in the digital world.
Garrett Gatlin, leadership psychology and life design expert, states that this group of individuals has a “dramatically different world view than previous generations, as they have been able to construct multidimensional identities and pursue self-directed and broad-ranging experiences.” Their world no longer operates under limitations and boundaries and, consequently, employers need to “reimagine opportunities and structures” that support a diverse set of career experiences.
“Where baby boomers, Gen X and millennials (to some extent) entered the workforce with traditional pyramid structures, modern organizations are moving toward inverted pyramids with fewer and fewer opportunity for entry-level jobs,” he states. This shift is deeply impacted by technology advancement and automation, and employers must reimagine what is possible for entry-level work to create experiences that secure the future talent pipeline.
“While Gen Z are the most equipped to lead into a disrupted technological future, there are skill gaps that will need to be addressed, such as social and emotional intelligence, fluency and originality of ideas and complex problem-solving,” Gatlin states. According to a recent study, over 90% of Gen Z and HR leaders view these social and emotional skills as a pressing area for development. Forbes echoes this as well, noting that management should be “actively involved in the progression of their careers,” developing opportunities for mentorship, sponsorship and one-on-one guidance from leaders to ensure those soft skills are groomed.
Knowing how to develop Generation Z is cardinal, but how do you get them in the door? A recent article states that showing commitment to a social ethos, developing a culture of entrepreneurship and having a mental health support system to combat their technology tether can be major incentives. Gatlin’s top tip for attracting and retaining Gen Z is having the creativity and, even more than that, courage, to rethink the traditional paradigm of talent and work. He recommends shifting from careers to experiences such as stretch assignments, gigs, job rotations, and learning assignments. By focusing on broad experiences, he states, you “speak Gen Z’s world without boundaries and, in the process, prepare the future professional with knowledge and skills to be adaptive in a disrupted future.”
Interested in hearing more tips? Gatlin is hosting an entire workshop on how to manage the future Feb. 13 at CU South Denver. Learn more and register here.