Still Adjusting to Millennials? Well, Get Ready for Generation Z

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Nov 13, 2014

As the Millennials populate the workforce, employers are looking at the next wave of employees – Generation Z.

Born after 1994, Gen Zs are different from their predecessors in a number of ways.

While the Millennials grew up with the World Wide Web, Gen Z grew up with social media and smart phones. However, Gen Zs are discriminating users of social media and favor more visually engaging platforms that accommodate their eight-second attention span.

Prudent and pragmatic

A new global study, Gen Y and Gen Z Workplace Expectations, co-produced by Millennial Branding and Randstad, shows a generation more rooted in prudent and pragmatic notions about how work gets done and what’s needed to succeed than its predecessors.

“Gen Zs have a clear advantage over Millennials because they appear to be more realistic, are likely to be more career-minded, and can quickly adapt to new technology to work more effectively,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding. “Also, Gen Zs have seen how much their parents have struggled in the recession, so they come to the workplace well-prepared, less entitled and more equipped to succeed.”

The mind-set of Gen Z was shaped by nearly a decade of war and economic uncertainty, and they graduated from high school just as the economy was on the verge of collapse. Now, they’re entering the workforce amidst constrained resources, increased requirements placed on workers, fewer promised rewards and an overall climate of lower expectations for nearly everyone.

What the Gen Z study shows

Key takeaways from the study show Gen Zs:

  • Have even more of an entrepreneurial spirit than Millennials and want to be hands-on with projects;
  • Are most motivated by opportunities for advancement, followed by more money and meaningful work;
  • Are mature, self-directed, resourceful and dedicated to making a difference in the world;
  • Expect to switch employers several times in their careers, but less often than Millennials;
  • Have a preference for human connections and face-to-face communications;
  • Want to collaborate in a team, with managers listening to their ideas and valuing their opinions;
  • Find some technology distracting, but like to work with it to help them accomplish their goals;
  • Don’t especially like to multi-task or work in a fast-paced environment.

Adjusting to a new generation

“They witnessed homes being foreclosed, so they’re going to be savers, realistic about how things get done and how hard they’re going to have to work to get them done,” says Jim Link, Chief Human Resource Officer, Randstad North America. “Which will make them more open to new ideas and ways of doing things” and even less inclined to adapt to a hierarchical environment than Millennials.

From day one, Gen Zs are bumping up against a crowded field of “career-delayed” Millennials and plenty of older workers who themselves have had career setbacks and are now competing with younger workers for entry-level jobs. However, as long as Gen Zs have the same chance to succeed as everyone else, all will be well with them.

Expect this population segment to gain a lot more attention as it becomes more influential, represents more revenue to brands, and more challenges – and opportunities – for employers.

This study provides an insightful picture of what employers can use to motivate, drive and inspire this new generation as part of their overall recruitment and retention strategy.

A different version of this was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.