Gen Z blue valley

Get to know Gen Z, the latest generation to join the workforce

Gen Z is the demographic cohort after the millennials (aka Generation Y). There is not a hard start or stop date to define the cohort known as Generation Z, but many demographers use birth years from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s.

This cohort is currently entering the workforce and will impact the way we conduct business for decades to come.

RELATED: Future entrepreneurs: Area programs prepare high school students to take the reins in business

What are the characteristics of Generation Z?

» As children of Generation X, Gen Zers are reluctant to embrace the concept of the American Dream. The Great Recession taught them to be independent and entrepreneurial after seeing parents and siblings struggle in the workforce.

» A growing trend among Gen Z is to skip or defer higher education in favor of moving straight into the workforce. This allows them to gain experience and credentials and avoid years of debt.

» They are coming of age in a post-9/11 world and they are living in a country that has been continually at war. As a result, they are more cautious, less optimistic and less naïve than millennials.

» Gen Z are digital natives, having had internet technology from birth. They have always lived in a highly connected world. Multitasking across digital platforms is second nature for them. Their attention spans are short, but their demands of technology are high.

» Gen Zers are educated, industrious and eager to build a better world. This is in contrast to millennials, who were said to be overconfident and entitled.

What does that mean for the workforce of tomorrow?

» Members of Gen Z are defined by their competitiveness. They like to work alone and want to be judged and rewarded on their own merit. They will want equal time for group work and independent work. This will impact the way you structure work groups, as you will need to balance Gen Z needs with those of millennials, who seek collaboration.

» Gen Z will flourish in the workplace with less hierarchy and more autonomy. Corporate “fit” means everything to them.

» You cannot bribe Gen Zers with cool incentives. Don’t try to woo them with sleek furniture, gaming consoles and beer on Friday.

» They seek purpose-driven work that promotes social change.

» While millennials came of age during a time of economic expansion and were shocked to find an unwelcoming job market after college, Gen Z has been shaped by the Great Recession and is prepared to fight hard to create a stable future for themselves.

» Given the trend in deferring higher education, don’t disregard potentially great candidates from Gen Z just because they don’t have the post-secondary credentials you usually look for. They might have all of the skills you need, just from a different source.

» Don’t assume that their use of technology is distracting or unproductive. Rigid use policies will undermine their organizational effectiveness. Give them the latitude to use technology as they see fit.

» Gen Z values authenticity and transparency. They can handle the truth.

» When it’s time to talk about big issues or ideas, Gen Zers prefer face-to-face interactions.

Bottom line

» A new workforce generation has arrived.

» Their motivation is vastly different from the generation preceding them.

» Their relationship to and use of technology is unprecedented. Don’t try to understand it; just let them get the job done.

» To effectively leverage their potential, seek to understand their motivations and work preferences, and adapt the work environment accordingly.