In recent years, businesses have modified the way they work in order to attract and retain millennials. Now, there’s a new tech-savvy generation entering the workforce with their own needs and expectations
Next year, millennials will make up more than half of the workforce. Understandably, the drive towards attracting, retaining and engaging this generation has taken precedence for human resources (HR) leaders.
But just as flexible work, technological advancements and contemporary office design are beginning to align with millennial expectations, HR professionals now have another transformative generation to comprehend: Generation Z.
Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2010) may not yet be the dominant generation in workplaces today, but an increasing number are taking their first steps in organisations across the globe. Getting to grips with what attracts, engages and motivates Gen Z employees are essential for HR leaders, particularly if they want to mould a workforce for the future.
Ignore the cliches: Gen Z are the hardest working generation
Generation Z often receive a lot of criticism, particularly when it comes to their work ethic. Young people are often chastened for their poor attitude to employment, their lack of loyalty and their penchant for overpriced avocado toast and matcha lattes.
However, these flimsy stereotypes simply do not match up to reality. According to a recent study from The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc, nearly one-third of Generation Z consider themselves to be the hardest-working generation in the workforce.
Likewise, a Monster survey revealed 76% of Gen Z workers described themselves as personally responsible for their own career, with 58% saying they’d be willing to work nights and weekends for higher pay. Compare this with Generation X and Baby Boomers, where this figure drops below 40%.
The myth that Generation Z are lazy is just that — a myth. Knowing that Gen Zers are the opposite of sourdough slackers, how do HR leaders make sure they attract the best Gen Z talent to a business, and how should they motivate them?
What motivates Generation Z?
Though millennials and Generation Z are often placed together in the same bracket, a number of motivations are distinctive.
Firstly, Generation Z are more concerned about their financial security than millennials. As children of the financial crisis, record student debt and economic uncertainty, they understand the pitfalls of spending beyond your means.
They have also seen their millennial counterparts struggle to get on the career ladder. Because of this, Gen Zers are independent, hard-working and willing to work to pay off their debts and achieve individual career success.
But they expect a lot in return, particularly when it comes to flexible work schedules, company culture and technology.
Another major motivator for Gen Zers is climate change. You may ask yourself: how does this relate to the world of work? Well, we’re likely to see Gen Z assessing a business’ green credentials before committing to a long-term career with an organisation.
Gen Z are the most research-driven generation, growing up with the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. In the case of eco-credentials, green-focused businesses will not only have to have a mission statement but will need to prove that they are taking measurable steps forward. The same goes for diversity and inclusion (D&I) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
Structure and direction
Whereas millennials value independence and freedom at work, Gen Zers prefer structure and direction in their day-to-day roles. Though they may prefer to work remotely, or at least have the option, they also need to understand their roles, when tasks need to be completed and how their work impacts the business.
The age of anxiety
Though Generation Z are confident in their abilities, believe themselves to be hardworking, and have the drive to succeed, they often suffer from career anxiety. The Workforce Institute alluded to earlier reveals that, globally, 34% of people in Generation Z state that anxiety is holding them back from job success. In the US and the UK, this figure increases to 40%, with female anxiety (39%) more prevalent than male (29%).
How should businesses adapt?
Much of the groundwork to attract, retain and engage Generation Z employees for most HR leaders will already be in motion reacting to the needs of millennials. But there are some differences which need to be acknowledged.
Flexible working is a must, with the option to work remotely being a major plus point for Gen Z employees. The rise of “digital nomads” is a reflection of Gen Zers choosing alternative modes of working.
For many businesses, this transition may be difficult, particularly for legacy businesses who still operate set working hours. Many businesses are already making the transition to a more flexible approach due to millennial demands, but to ensure a skilled talent pipeline for the future, HR departments within businesses may have to drive for more radical change.
Workplace development is also a huge motivator for Gen Z employees. To facilitate this, businesses should put further focus on professional growth. Generation Z understand that to achieve the success they crave, they need to embrace a lifelong learning approach. HR professionals can approach this in a number of ways: from mentoring to industry-specific training opportunities.
The good news for employers is that Gen Zers are highly adept at researching complex topics, using a number of formats. Due to high tuition fees, they also have a comprehensive understanding of the value of education.
Employers can harness this energy to ensure that their businesses keep on top of market trends, and if investment in learning and development is high, they also have a workforce that can quickly upskill, particularly when new technology enters the business.
For Generation Z, technology is at the heart of everything they do. Not only are they highly adept at using tech, they quickly adapt to new iterations. The rapid rise of social media platform TikTok in the past few years is a prime example of accelerated technological adoption.
This is great news for businesses, particularly as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution. For HR departments, technology will also impact the way they attract smart Gen Z candidates. Whereas previous generations may have relied on job boards, social media attraction campaigns will have a wider impact for Generation Z. VR and AR technology could also enter the fray in the coming years.
Businesses of all stripes should also look to improve their employer brand through their social media, as well as managing their Glassdoor and Google reviews. We have already seen a shift in candidates researching businesses online with millennials, and this is set to grow with the first true, digital natives entering the workforce.
For Generation Z, simply being a big player within your industry is likely to have little impact if your business is not authentic. Misrepresenting yourself, or exaggerating the work you do simply won’t wash with Gen Zers. If you are to attract the best candidates of this generation, you need to be honest not only about the positive elements of a job, but also the potential downsides.
To sum up
As Generation Z enters the workforce, we will see a big change in the way HR departments approach employee attraction, engagement and retention. With their unique skill sets, their culture of hard work, and their desire for cultural change, they may pose some challenges for businesses.
Ultimately, however, they like millennials will change the world of work for the better. After all, improvements that benefit Gen Zers will also benefit everyone else.