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Updated 29 Feb 2020


Everything you need to know about the next generation of employees: Gen Z

The next generations of workers are here. It’s time to rethink your company’s strategy otherwise you could find yourself behind the curve when it comes to attracting and retaining new talent. 


Nicole Crampton, 15 May 2017  Share  0 comments  Print


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Are you prepared for the next generation of employees? They’re entering the workforce, and if you aren’t ready for them, you could be missing out on talent. These groups of people have different outlooks on what they want out of their careers compared to the employees you’re used to.

As the Millennial generation (born between 1982 - 2000) grows in the workforce and Baby Boomers retire, your managers and human resources teams will need to develop new engagement models to take into account the differences in generational motivation.

Also, the soon-to-be professionals from Generation Z, those born between 1994 and 2010, are coming, and they’re driven by money and ambition.

70% of next-gen workers surveyed in a recent study say that money is their top motivator, compared to 63% of employees from previous generations. You’ll need to plan ahead to factor this generation of employees into your strategy as well.

But, you can’t just focus on attracting people with money, as these generations are passionate about their work. 42% of Generation Z, said the ability to pursue their passion is a top motivating factor, compared with 32% of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials, for example.

Your company needs to be making an impact that will entice Gen Z employees to take up your cause and remain loyal to your business.

Find out all you need to know about the next generation of the workforce from this comprehensive guide:

Who are your next generation of employees?

In the next decade, you will experience both Millennials and Generation Z employees walking through your door. Here is what you need to know about them:

Who are Millennials?

Millennials are different from who you’ve previously worked with. This new group is well educated, skilled in technology, self-confident, have the ability to multi-task, and have plenty of energy. They have high expectations for themselves and prefer to work in teams, which differs from Baby Boomers who would rather work as individuals.

Millennials seek challenges, yet prioritise work/life balance above all. This group does, however, realise that their need for social interaction, immediate results, and a desire for speedy advancement can be seen as weaknesses by older colleagues.

This generation is the largest age group to emerge since the Baby Boomer generation, and will make up a bulky portion of the workforce over the next 20 years.

Related: Know the true cost of employee disengagement on your business

Who is Generation Z?

If you don’t think you need to prepare for this generation, consider that the oldest of them is already in their 20s this year. This means they’re already making up a portion of your entry level workers, or will be in a few years’ time.

Instead of overhauling your engagement model again, when you start hiring Gen Z’s, why not implement characteristics that will appeal to both them and Millennials?

"We're seeing drastic differences between what drives employees in Gen Z compared to previous generations like Millennials," says Seth Matheson, director of talent fusion. "At this stage in the recruiting game, employers looking to attract future talent need to expand their focus beyond Millennials to understand the next generation's unique, practical job must-haves, and proactively develop a working environment that will keep them happy and motivated."

Generation Z’s are more than willing to put in the extra effort to achieve goals. 60% of those surveyed said they would work nights and weekends for higher pay, compared to the 45% of Millennials, 40% of Gen Xers and 33% of Baby Boomers.

This new workforce will also move anywhere for a job they want. 70% said they would move for a good job opportunity, with the other generations averaging at 52%. This means, if the only deciding factor is the fact that the Gen Z lives far away and other candidates live closer, keep in mind that they Gen Z candidate will most likely move closer if you offer them the job opportunity.

Related: How to cultivate creativity in your business for the year ahead

What characteristics can you expect from your next gen employees?

You’ll need to know what you can expect, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Otherwise you could be playing to their weaknesses instead of their strengths, which will frustrate both them and you.

“Businesses are still finessing how to accommodate multiple generations in the workplace, and the addition of Gen Z adds yet another layer for consideration,” says Jim Link, chief human resources officer of Randstad North America. “However, companies really can impact their recruiting and retention success by paying attention to what makes each generation tick and speaking directly to each group’s motivators.” 

What you can expect from a Millennial

This group has no problem leaving a job for one that will be more accommodating to their personal values and ambitions, holding these at a higher priority over career advancement in their current company. 91% of Millennials expect to stay in the same job for less than three years according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey. While Millennials do want to advance in their careers, loyalty to a specific organisation is not a particularly strong value.

You’ll need to understand what they need to keep them engaged in your business, or you could be looking at high staff turnover and high costs associated with training new employees. Irrespective of the long-term aims and ambitions of an individual company, the ability to attract and retain Millennial talent will be a vital step to achieving it, according to PwC’s 14th Annual Global CEO Survey.

Here are five key personality traits about Millennials that will help you retain and engage your new workforce:

1. Millennials are motivated by meaning

Millennials derive a sense of meaning from helping others with 84% agreeing with the statement:

“Knowing I am helping to make a positive difference in the world is more important to me than professional recognition,” according to the New York Times.

2. Challenging hierarchical structures 

This new workforce isn’t afraid to share their opinions or ideas, nor challenge those of their superiors. This comes from a notion that the best possible outcome from the company will come from listening to everyone’s point of view.

3. Technology savvy

53% of Millennials said they rather get rid of their sense of smell than their digital devices, reports NewsCred Insights. Millennials have a solid understanding of technology and how it can be used as a tool to build relationships, crowdsource solutions and research information on demand.

4. They are flexible

Millennials don’t go along with something just because that’s how it’s always been done. They recognise that the business and technology landscape is evolving and that companies should change with them.

Related: How to hire the right people for your business

5. Task, not time, orientated

69% of Millennials say they believe office attendance on a regular basis is unnecessary and 89% prefer to choose when and where they work rather than being placed in a9-to-5 position. 

What you can expect from Generation Z

Gen Z employees appear to be more entrepreneurial, loyal, open-minded and less motivated by money than Millennials, according to a study conducted by Millennial Branding, a research and consulting firm, and Randstad, the third-largest HR services and staffing company in the United States.

Here are three key characteristics about Generation Z, which will help you retain and engage your new workforce:

1. Appeal to their entrepreneurial side 

Create a culture that enables them to focus on new projects directly tied to business success.

2. Less influenced by money

34% say that they are most motivated by opportunities for advancement. This generation realised that they need to get a job and advance by learning as much as possible, and they know that learning sometimes doesn’t come with a bigger salary.

3. They prefer to communicate traditionally

The majority of Gen Z respondents say they prefer in-person communications with managers (51%), as opposed to emailing (16%) or instant messaging (11%). 

What do they expect from the workplace?

Millennials and Generation Z candidates expect a variety of qualities to appear in their ideal workplace. If you wish to attract them to your business, you’ll need to ensure you offer at least some of these elements.

Related: 21 Ways to reward your employees

What Millennials expect from the workplace

Millennials are changing how work gets done, as they prefer team-orientated methods and use more technology than previous generations.

This generation group’s social mindset is something you will need to take into consideration. As Leigh Buchanon writes in Meet the Millennials: “One of the characteristics of Millennials, besides the fact that they are masters of digital communication, is that they are primed to do well by doing good. Almost 70% say that giving back and being civically engaged are their highest priorities.”

This group grew up in a time when information became readily available, through platforms such as Google and Wikipedia. This has allowed Millennials to want to work on newer and tougher problems, which usually require a creative solution. According to a Harvard Business Review article,a Millennial who had been struggling in her role, admitted to peers that: “I guess I just expected that I would get to act on more of my ideas, and that the higher ups here would have figured out by now that the model’s changing.”

These employees are interested in feedback on their performance, with semi-annual reviews being too infrequent for Millennials. They want to constantly know where they’ve gone wrong or right so they can perform optimally. Not only do they require a lot more feedback, but they also need it delivered in specific ways that they are receptive to. 

“Instead of feeling appreciated, however, the few short accolades of “good job” were overshadowed in the employee’s mind by the more frequent criticisms they received – without guidance as to how exactly they could improve,” says Joanne Sujanshy’s report –Don't be so touchy! The secret to giving feedback to Millennials.

Sujanshy reaches an insightful conclusion in her report too, saying that whether positive or negative, feedback needs to be structured in a way that leaves no room for misunderstanding. Feedback needs to be clear and specific to be effective for your new Millennial recruits.

What Generation Z expect from the workplace 

When it comes to what Gen Z’s are looking for in a job, their attitudes are similar to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers when compared to Millennials. Health insurance, a competitive salary and a boss they can respect are the top three priorities for a Gen Z employee.

“As I talk to many employers, the focus is still on Millennials. There are a lot of questions about perks like nap pods and free lunches,” says Matheson, previously mentioned. “However, a common theme we saw in the report is Gen Z's emphasis on some of the more 'traditional' benefits like health insurance and a quality, two-way relationship with their potential manager.”

Related: 10 Hacks to hire your next best talent

To keep your Gen Z workers interested, you’ll need to keep your technology up-to-date. This generation grew up immersed in technology, to the point that majority of them believe that having access to the latest technology will make them productive, and mobile.

Additionally, you’ll need to create a solid brand in order to appeal to the Generation Z workforce. “The key to successfully attracting and engaging Gen Z throughout their candidate journey will be a strong employer brand that is consistent across technologies,” Matheson said. “Organisational brands will need to be transparent, adaptable, personable and memorable; targeting the brand's ideal Gen Z employees through tools like social recruiting.”

How do you attract and retain the next generation of employees 

If you want to attract and retain the next generation of employees, you’ll need to incorporate what they’re looking for into your current strategy otherwise they might come, but they won’t stay.

How to attract and retain Millennials

Here are three elements you’ll need to thread into your business to both entice and retain Millennials:

1. Let them share the responsibility

Millennial employees are looking to feel like more than a cog in a massive machine. “Try to create opportunities that give Millennials the chance to take responsibility and find success on a micro level before they move on to larger roles,” says Jay Coldren of EDITION.

For example, adds Coldren, “Make one small team of employees responsible for handling the ordering and stocking of the office supplies. In a restaurant, a small team can be made responsible for ordering the wines, while others are deputised to handle the stocking and ordering of the service-ware. Offering up such areas of micro-responsibility will keep your new workers engaged outside of the normal scope of their day.”

Related: Why accountability for success drives ongoing output improvements

2. Help support their work/life balance

It’s well-known that Millennials strive for a work/life balance. This is, arguably, because they watched their ‘boomer’ parents delay happiness in return for career advancement, which is a trait they’re not willing to buy into for themselves.

Shelley Meszoly, regional director of sales and marketing at Fairmont Southampton, says: “My younger staff will work their rear-ends off for me when they're here, but they’re also all about having their nights and weekends entirely free and clear.”

This is a challenging obstacle that even the largest businesses haven’t yet overcome. However, if your business was to find a way to balance your workers, it would improve the performance of the workforce.

3. Be an ethical organisation

Just like your Millennial customers, your Millennial employees want to work for an organisation with ethics and social responsibility.

Doug Carr of FRHI Hotels & Resorts says that: “[In recruiting], we work very closely with schools such as Cornell. The students who’ve been coming out of university for several years now are very focused on the social responsibility profile of any organisation they’re considering working for. They want to know your company’s stance on the environment, on community involvement and social responsibility, whether your company wins awards for its eco-tourism or green lodging. All of this plays a large role in whether or not they're interested in coming to work for you.”   

How to attract and retain Generation Z

Here are four elements that you’ll need to thread into your business to both entice and retain Generation Z workers:

1. They want offices, but with flexibility

41% of Gen Z respondents said that a corporate office is at the top of their preference, compared to only 28% in 2014, according to Future Workplace’s survey. On the other hand, "I have always been motivated by those working around me which influences and encourages me to push myself," says David James, a venture capital equity sales rep at Manhattan Venture Partners and Gen Z individual. 

Gen Z’s also want to collaborate and learn from their peers. You’ll need to take this into account when designing your physical workspace and how your business functions. "Flexibility, especially having the comfort to take time off in an emergency is very important to me," says Robert McCormick, a Gen Z paralegal at McGivney & Kluger. If you wish to retain your Gen Z talent, you’ll need to come up with a flexible programme that works for both your business and your new workers.

2. They want face-to-face communications, but also for you to embrace social media 

Gen Z workers, prefer face-to-face communications, catch-up sessions and performance reviews instead of instant messaging or emails. "In-person communication is always ideal for me," says Peter Hulburt, at Club Monaco. 

Agreeing with Hulburt, McCormick adds that: “I prefer to communicate with my co-workers in person because it is important for developing an effective co-worker relationship.” With the evolution of technology, people will continue to seek connections with others instead of remain detached and isolated.

43% of Gen Zs want their employers to incorporate social media into the workplace. "I do use LinkedIn quite often at work to network and connect with potential business and personal relationships," adds James. Attract young talent and enable collaboration by embracing new technology and modernising your workplace.

3. They’re world travelers

Gen Z’s travel more and more each year when compared to any other generation. In a study by Expedia, it was found that Gen Zs 30 and under travel 4.7 times per-year on business compared to 3.6 years for 30 to 45 year olds.

60% of Gen Z’s want to work in more than one country in their careers too. "Living and working in another country would be great for my resume, and would be a chance to develop a broader worldview," says McCormick. While larger companies can offer global rotation programmes, smaller companies will either need to band together or find another option to entice Gen Z employees.

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Nicole Crampton


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