Generation Z – Just What Do They Want?!

Your employee demographic might already or soon will include those in the post-millennial Generation Z.

Does it matter?  Do you need to pay attention to their wants and needs or should they fall in line with how you currently do things?

Do you really need to treat Generation Z differently to your Generation X and Y employees?

I’d say yes you do!

Have you seen how teenagers operate?  Phone in one hand keeping in touch through snapchat or instagram (forget facebook that’s so old news), music streaming direct to their ipad, whilst they are mid-way through a computer game and live chatting with friends through the headset all at the same time.

I hear lots of chatter about Generation Z being easily distracted or unable to concentrate on one thing due to the multiple inputs they receive constantly – I say rubbish – I think they are amazing!   They have evolved the ability to multi-task to a whole new level right under our noses while we fretted about the damaging impact of too much screen time!

So the challenge for the canny employer is to consider how to turn that multi-tasking to best advantage.  Ensure your younger workers have plenty of tasks to complete to give them the variety and enable them to plan how to achieve them all in the required time.

Generation Z have grown up not knowing a world without the internet or mobile phones – they have no concept, and let’s face it, probably no interest whatsoever in the “good old days” when we could switch off, go on holiday & be out of communication for a fortnight.  Postcard from your travels?  What on earth is the point in that when I’ve already uploaded last night’s photos for all my friends to see?!

The savvy employer will be considering how to exploit this constant connectivity for business advantage – managed wisely, your employees can be your positive online presence, your ears to the ground, your trend spotters and your greatest advert. 

Flexibility and trust are key to this succeeding.  I’m a big fan of trusting employees to do the right thing, with the safety net of knowing that you will take decisive action if they let you down of course, so think about whether it is really important for you to monitor personal social media use or if your efforts would be better spent measuring the outcomes of the work you require each employee to do.  Does it matter if your employee orders those new trainers at 10:30am if they meet their deadlines, and they will stay late to finish a project when required?

They’ll also be the first adopters of new technology so consider how you can utilise their knowledge and skills, as well as their enthusiasm for innovations, to roll out the implementation of introducing new technology across your business.

Having grown up in a time when TV, shopping and entertainment are available 24-7, and contact can be made at any time and most likely responded to within minutes, your Generation Z workforce may not see the need for a 9-5 work pattern. 

Could your business benefit from a more flexible approach to working hours?  Can you reduce office space requirements through home working and hot desking, and can you stay ahead of the competition by offering extended operating hours?

However, for those employees who are used to almost instantaneous communication at any time of day or night, consider the boundaries you may need to put in place about working times, acceptable levels of communication, expectations on response times and the need for ret time away from work.  I’d suggest you may need this for your own sanity as much as to ensure the wellbeing of your employees!

Generation Z are also facing a working world where the jobs they might do in ten years’ time quite possibly don’t even yet exist.  Exciting times but also full of uncertainty.

Is there really much point in you focussing the annual appraisal on asking for specific long term goals when the future is so unknown?  In the era of immediate gratification, your development discussions, whilst focussing on what your business needs, are likely to be effective if focussed on what employees want to achieve in the next year with a commitment to enabling the development of skills that are transferrable and that will open up potential opportunities.

At the same time, research suggests that Generation Z are very much focussed on finding their “dream job” with potential for career growth ad this is often cited as more important than money, so it’s essential if you want to retain top talent that you ensure there are the opportunities to progress in line with their aspirations.

So it’s not about painting the office walls in funky colours, having quirky gaming style furniture or providing an X-box in the staff room; to engage Generation Z in your business, you need to recognise the unique skills that they bring to your workplace and take advantage of the ways in which they have learnt to operate.

What are you doing to ready yourself for a Generation Z workforce?

Sam Swinstead