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The Expectations of Gen Z in the Workplace

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Social scientists argue that each generation can be distinguished by traits shaped by the times and experiences of their formative years. Consequently, as businesses, we’re convinced different age groups with differing attitudes need different management approaches.

Researchers and writers paint interesting pictures. But are these observations and presumptions truly unique? Author and Wharton School Professor of Management, Peter Capelli, suggests, young employees today appear to be remarkably like young employees decades ago. But there are distinct differences to be sure. Digital savviness is chief among them when it comes to Generation Z, the first true digital natives who don’t know a world without the internet or mobile devices.

So what does Gen Z value or look for from an employer and bring to the workplace? Several sources agree on the following:

Soft skills training is huge

Dr. Janice Gassam writes in Forbes how this generation values insights on-demand and is accustomed to consuming vast amounts of information from many different platforms, simultaneously. Because this generation is so tech-savvy, she says, they may pick up on some aspects of the job more quickly than their counterparts.

On the flip side, because this generation spends more time in isolation on smartphones and less time on in-person social interactions, those high-demand soft skills needed for next-gen leaders are fast fading. Training plays a huge role in professional growth and development. Budgets need to address increased internal and external learning requirements.

Workplaces must provide personal connections

A lot has been written implying that social isolation has led to pronounced feelings of loneliness among Gen Z. A survey of 4,000 Gen Z’ers revealed this group crave human connection and rank positive relationships at work as one of their main priorities in a prospective job; 16% emphasized the importance of relationships with coworkers.

This generation also wants to engage directly with their organizational leaders. Creating an effective strategy to allow them to receive one-on-one mentorship from leaders and designing spaces that encourage collaboration and openness while allowing for independent breakaway work, may prove beneficial to recruiting and retaining this group.

Give diversity and inclusion priority

Gen Z is the most racially diverse generation in America. The U.S. Census Bureau found that 48% of Gen Z is non-Caucasian. Members of Gen Z are also the most likely to say they have friends of different sexual orientation (59%). Reports suggest they’re a remarkably diverse cohort, on track to be the last in America with a Caucasian majority. Generation Z will expect their egalitarian racial, sexual and gender principles to be mirrored by their employer.

Motivate via compensation and security

This demographic cohort aren’t big spenders. They’d rather save. It’s thought the cautious thrift of their parents during the financial crisis of 2008 may have shaped this generation’s finance fixation. Gen Z places a premium on a stable paycheck and a secure job. Compensation is a key recruiting, engagement and retention tool.

Be mindful: formal education isn’t everything

Many will opt out of traditional post-secondary education to avoid the associated debt load that comes without a job guarantee. They’re motivated to start their careers and build their bank accounts as early as possible.

Organizations may miss hiring self-taught, evolving top talent if applicants without formal higher education are overlooked. The recent surge in gamification software offers a unique way to facilitate self-learning, competition, and fun among this competitive demographic.

Use digital communication channels

Reaching potential Gen Z recruits means connecting with them in their digital world. Use social networking forums for recruitment marketing. This generation is visual, so campaigns should contain graphics, photos, and videos.

Keep in mind this hyper-digital group also expect everything to be available “now.” Lengthy corporate commentary won’t fly; deliver important information with brevity. This demographic is also the mobile generation so outreach should be mobile-friendly and company websites should be optimized for mobile viewing.

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