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Generation Z or Gen Z is considered to be a diverse and socially aware group that comprises the workforce. Born in the years 1997 to 2012, Gen Z grew up in an “all-digital” space and is uniquely different from their predecessors (Barnes and Noble College, 2019).
Because they’re different from millennials, Generation X, and boomers, some businesses spend time and effort to research how best to work with, engage, and manage Gen Zs. This generational shift calls for a more unique and updated approach in management and retention.
In this blog, we’ll share some insights we’ve gathered from different blogs and articles, as well as our experience in working with the newest generation.
What defines Gen Z
While we all know that all Gen Zs aren’t built the same, the majority of them share a few defining characteristics. Whether you’re a business owner, leader, mentor, or manager, it’s important to understand the values of Gen Z to help you best integrate their talents and personalities in your workplace.
1. Self-starter mentality
Despite growing in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Gen Zs are known for being independent, creative, and having a “self-starter mentality” in how they handle work.
With the availability of technology, Gen Zs often research and find innovative solutions to existing problems. Taking a step further, Gen Zs are more entrepreneurial than their predecessors. And if such business opportunities aren’t available, Gen Zs are driven to create these opportunities themselves.
2. Desire for a healthier workplace
In a 2020 Gen Z research done by the Center of Generational Kinetics, Gen Zs chose scheduling flexibility and workplace culture as the most important factors in choosing a job. Compared to millennials who chose their employer based on compensation, salary and job perks only come third for Gen Zs. For the new generation, work-life balance holds more value than earnings.
3. Technologically savvy
We can’t go by Gen Z’s introduction without mentioning how technologically savvy they are. Growing up in a world of smart technology and alternative education models, Gen Z is also referred to as the “digital natives” or the “IT generation”.
Gen Zs are familiar with a direction that most businesses are taking: online. According to Duke Corporate Education, Gen Z’s facility with IT and social media will enhance the business space because they generally know how these platforms work, and that adds value to modern business processes.
4. Social consciousness
Because of their access to information through digital mediums, Gen Zs are aware of the existing socio-political and environmental issues globally: acts of societal upheaval, racism, and economic uncertainty (Business News Daily, 2020). Gen Zs grew up conscious of the world around them and strive to make it better.
This social consciousness also translates itself to Gen Zs work and consumer behavior. Brands and companies that are purpose and sustainability driven appeal more to Gen Zs. In a 2019 study by Porter Novelli Company, they found that 90% of Gen Zs believe that companies must act to help social and environmental issues and 75% will research if a company takes a stand on important issues. Gen Zs are shown to crave more meaningful work and take into account the company's values and social mission.
5. Love for learning and feedback
Gen Zs in the workplace aren’t your typical plug and play employees. They love learning and thrive in feedback-oriented cultures. In a 2018 study by the Center of Generational Kinetics, 66% of Gen Zs need feedback from their supervisors to stay at their job.
Gen Zs also prefer that their managers don’t just manage them, but mentor them. In an interview done by Forbes with Mike Tinney, the CEO and Founder of FIX Health stated that the younger generation tends to flourish when mentored. He adds that this is a stark contrast to older generations who prefer stricter parameters.
Working with (and keeping) Gen Z
To appeal to the new generation, leaders and HR teams may have to revisit their retention programs and management approach to incorporate the values of Gen Zs.
Read on to learn how we work and bring the best out of the Gen Zs among our teams. We gathered insights from several 1902 project managers and head of talent and culture who constantly collaborate with Gen Zs.
1. Embrace diversity and inclusivity
Gen Zs are champions of diversity and inclusivity—so when it comes to job hunting, they look for these values in a company. We recommend companies and organizations to incorporate diversity and inclusivity in your recruitment process, welcoming individuals of diverse gender, political, and religious background.
Ryan, one of our technical project managers, shared that in the same way he works with clients with different cultures and backgrounds, it’s also important to be flexible with your colleagues. There’s value in getting to know them, along with a system to help them integrate smoothly with the team.
Once they’re part of the workplace, Gen Zs appreciate the experience of their company showing fairness and openness and eliminates biases against particular groups.
2. Give meaningful work and feedback
One of our project managers, MK, advises that when working with Gen Zs, it’s best to give them detailed instructions and set the goal for their task so they see its purpose. She shares that giving direct, constant feedback is an effective approach to mentoring Gen Zs. She encourages managers to make their younger teammates aware of their shortcomings to help them learn and move forward.
3. Embrace technology and social media
As a software development company, we can attest to the effectivity of this approach. Gen Zs grew up with digital tools, technology, and fast-paced services and they don’t remember a time without them. More likely than not, Gen Zs have already researched your company online before applying so it’s best to have an updated website, especially your careers page.
Gen Zs have high expectations when it comes to technology in the workplace. Most Gen Zs are impatient with slow internet speed or too many manual processes (especially when they know these can be automated). You may consider investing in a project management software, productivity and collaboration tools, or streamlining processes.
When it comes to recruitment, Gen Zs also expect a faster and more flexible process amid a vast array of communication mediums at hand like e-mail, video communication services, messaging apps, online tests. It’s best to cut-down a long hiring process or at least keep applicants updated through your preferred communication channel.
4. Don’t micromanage
As we’ve mentioned, Gen Zs prefer mentors over managers. They’re an independent generation and enjoy more space to express their ideas and creativity. It’s important to strike a healthy balance between mentoring and giving them the space to think, work, and share their ideas.
5. Care for Gen Zs like all other generations in your company
Take it from 1902’s head of talent and culture, Pam. Nothing beats a good company retention program. It’s guaranteed to make talents happy across all generations. After all, motivation, reward, fairness, growth, and constant challenges are universal approaches that bring out the best in all employees, regardless of age or background.
Realistically, a company cannot give everything that makes all employees happy, but while organizations create policies that enhance productivity, they should equally think of programs that promote employee recognition, growth, and happiness among teammates. This will translate to satisfaction and retention regardless of generational demographic.