(By Dr. Diane Specht, MST HR Solutions Consultant & Educator )
A new workforce is beginning to sprout and bloom. This new crop of workers are known as Generation Z or sometimes referred to as Global’s. Being born in 1990-1999 and always having the latest advancements of technology at their fingertips, these rising young adults cannot go a few minutes without their digital devices. Checking information on the infamous Google or Bing search engines is so etched into their natural routine for gathering facts or solving a problem that it becomes difficult for them to reach out to other sources to validate their findings. Social media is their source for communication and for many the foundation for interacting with their peers. This is the generation where many did not learn cursive handwriting, the importance of spelling words correctly, and did not have to memorize multiplication facts past the third grade. Does Generation Z come to the workforce with limitations than the generations before them?
Generation Z is highly diverse and quite capable of multi-tasking with digital devices; however, their attention span is short which means they are easily distracted (Randstad, 2014). This new generation wants a work space that allows for digital devices and collaboration, while at the same time, they want a space where they can relax comfortably while working. Face-to-face communication is valued by Generation Z, unlike Generation Y who prefers to use social media as their preferred method of communication (Half, 2015). Training is important to Generation Z, but college might not be their first choice to receive their knowledge foundation and skills. Generation Z is cautious of the cost of college and the debt they will obtain once completing their college degree. Also, working is not feared by this new generation, but the type of work wanted is usually service or technological, not hard manual labor.
Since Generation Z grew-up during the economic slowdown, which started in 2008, many did not get the opportunity to work while in high school. During this time period, schools quickly begin to adjust their graduation requirements to include Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses. This allowed students to get some specialized training in a career field and develop their soft skills. Unfortunately, many young Generation Z’s are still lacking the professionalism needed within the workforce and the essential soft skills that are critical to success of a global worker in the 21st century. High schools across the United States are returning to the work-based learning curriculum. This allows 11th and 12th graders to do an apprenticeship or work with a company as they gain high school credits as well as the obtaining real world work experience (Zinth, 2015). Generation Z students embrace going out and learning about their potential career because they want to be confident in achieving their dream job in a relatively short period of time (Crouch, 2015). Work-based learning is rapidly returning to secondary education because local industries are realizing investing in the youth of their communities secures a workforce that is within reach and strengthens the community by providing a connection-based among its local residents.
What does the Z generation expect to receive from their employers? They want to be ensured that they have career advancement opportunities (Randstad, 2014). Interestingly though, longevity at their first job is not a priority because they only plan to stay one to three years (Crouch, 2015). This is a downside for hiring a first-time Generation Z worker. Companies will be faced with the increased cost for having to hire and train new workers for the job recently given up by a Generation Z employee (Randstad, 2014). However, in contrast to Generation Y, which is the generation having to hire and train Generation Z, this new budding Generation is more structured and looks for only having three to four jobs over the life time of their career (Crouch, 2015).
Additionally, the Z generation wants to be in leadership and start their own businesses relatively early in their careers (Crouch, 2015). Money is highly important to them and they are realistic with balancing their wants with their needs (Half, 2016). Keeping Generation Z learning, providing timely feedback on their ideas/projects, and providing the challenges and rigor they seek will be just a few differences companies will need to keep in mind when hiring Generation Z (Half, 2016). Preparing for a highly diverse technological advanced generation will require new methods of collaboration, training, motivation, and work space changes. But, most importantly companies will need to ensure that there are optimal opportunities for the Z generation employee to advance within the company and seek various levels of leadership positions in a shorter period of time then previous generations before them.
Is your company ready for this new crop of technological savvy digital natives emerging into the workforce 2016? Because Generation Z is ready for work to tackle the enormous challenges facing them locally, nationally, and internationally and they are willing to work harder than the generations before them as long as the work is meaningful and provides a ladder of successful learning. It will be up to companies to adjust to this new type of worker—one that does not want to just change rules, but wants to make new ones (Half, 2016). This new crop is sprouting and has many ideas and experiences to harvest.
Crouch, B. (2015). How will Generation Z disrupt the work place? Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2015/05/22/generation-z-in-the-workplace/
Randstad USA. (2014). Gen Z: what keeps them on the job? Atlanta, Georgia. Retrieved from https://www.randstadusa.com/workforce360/workforce-insights/employee-retention-for-gen-y-and-z/242/
Robert Half International Inc., (2016). Get ready for generation z. Toronto, Ontario Robert Half International. Retrieved from https://www.roberthalf.com/sites/default/files/Media_Root/images/rh-pdfs/rh_0715_wp_genz_nam_eng_sec.pdf
Zinth, J. (2015). Aligning K-12 and postsecondary career pathways with workforce needs. Education Commission of the States. Retrieved from Eric Database. (ED560767)