The first wave of young adults from Generation Z are entering the workforce, and believe it or not, they are different from the Millennial Generation, who are a bit older than they are. Generation Z is the population who grew up during the first fifteen years of the 21st century. Although those years involved economic recession instead of economic expansion (like the Millennials enjoyed), within the last three years the pendulum has swung once again. The economy is growing again, allowing Generation Z to be “choosy” when it comes to jobs and employers.
So, What Can Employers Offer That Attracts Generation Z?
1. Focus on Inclusion.
While inclusion was more important to Generation Y (Millennials) than to Gen X, Generation Z is absolutely focused on it. It is a central issue. In previous decades, issues like the gender pay gap, racial equality, and marriage equality marched into the spotlight. For Gen Z, these topics are not historical landmarks in a decades-long cultural conversation—they are norms. Generation Z grew up with a black president, they saw the LGBTQ community expand into prominence and helped as the #MeToo movement was launched and celebrated. Gen Z is the most diverse generation to date. They expect to see this diversity and inclusion in the workplace. While the environment was the number one social issue for Millennials, studies show that equality is the top issue for Gen Z. So, how can leaders communicate this to young team members? For starters, focus on closing the pay gap in your workplace, on hiring with diversity and inclusion for open positions, and on starting conversations that celebrate the diverse identities already in your workplace.
2. Do something that matters.
Second, Generation Z has a difficult time imagining they’d work for a company that merely “makes widgets.” They want to feel like what they’re doing somehow changes the world; that it matters to the future of humankind. This may sound syrupy and even unrealistic to some seasoned veterans—but it’s actually “the norm” for teens today. So, even if your product is a “widget” and you find it hard to argue that it changes the world, why not get involved in the community around you? Offer charitable giving opportunities, participate in a jog-a-thon or donate time with a service project as a work team. Or, how about paid time off for volunteer work on their own? Be sure to communicate and demonstrate you are about improving the community and making the world a better place.
3. Offer incentives from the beginning.
Today, we live in a “buyers market” and an “employees market.” By this I mean, jobs are readily available and young job candidates know they have options. Employers can no longer offer some low paying job with pitiful health benefits. Young professionals will simply hop around to a new position and company. Offer tangible opportunities for autonomy, personal growth, and continued education to appeal to this incredibly motivated group. Treat them with respect, even though they may offer little job experience from the beginning. Our focus groups revealed students want supervisors to “demonstrate respect to them and treat them with dignity.”
4. Include technology in as many ways you can.
You already know, young adults have grown up with social media. It is a second language to them and their phones are an appendage to their bodies. Companies that retain young employees include social media platforms to accomplish their mission and leverage digital platforms as often as they can. “American Genius” reminds us that “this generation grew up with social media influencers and young CEOs rising to fame, so they’re quite independent and motivated. Gen Zers don’t want to feel like part of the machine, they want to make a real impact—even at an entry-level position.” And their natural way to do that is to utilize technology. They are hackers who often figure out how to get behind the “system,” so find ways for them to do that and help you achieve your organizational mission.
Gen Z makes up around a quarter of the population, and employers who put in the effort to reach this group will benefit as more Gen Zers enter the workforce.
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