There is a new generation of workers in town. Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2012, just graduated from college. With their arrival, managers and supervisors could be managing employees of four to five generations at the same time.
David Stillman, a researcher on generations and the co-author, with his son, of Gen Z @ Work: How The Next Generation Is Transforming The Workplace (Harper Business), explains that Gen Z is quite different from the Millennial generation. Lumping them together as "young people" is a mistake similar to overlooking the arrival of Generation X into the Baby Boomer era.
Millennials, generally speaking, sometimes get a bad rap from employers. Stereotypical comments include "entitled, demanding, unprepared, or unwilling to perform tasks they consider beneath them." Comparing Gen Z to Millennials and other generations, the researchers set forth seven key traits of Gen Z:
- "Phigital": Gen Z is the first generation to be born into a world where nearly every physical aspect has a digital equivalent. Their physical and digital worlds overlap; thus, the term "phigital."
- Hyper-Customized: Gen Z people strongly value customization, and they cannot see why this should not be extended to job titles and career paths.
- Realistic: Gen Z has been influenced by the recession such that they feel fortunate to have a job rather than believing the employer is lucky to have them.
- "FOMO": Gen Z suffers from a "Fear Of Missing Out." This means they stay on top of trends and competition, but also may worry about whether they are moving forward fast enough.
- "Weconomists": Having grown up with Uber, Airbnb, and other examples of the shared economy, Gen Z will push to break down external and internal barriers.
- "DIY": Growing up with YouTube in the "do it yourself" age has convinced Gen Z that they can do almost anything.
- Driven: Growing up in a recession and being told by Gen X and Boomer parents that life is about winners and losers, rather than just about participation, has made Gen Z eager and competitive.
Roger Trap "The Next Generation Of Workers Seeks Good Jobs And Private Offices," forbes.com (Mar. 22, 2017).
The Gen Z generation is even more comfortable with technology than Millennials because it the first generation to know only the connected world. However, they may be more private because they have also grown up learning the dangers of too much sharing on social media.
Gen Z does not want or expect to be constrained by workplaces. They are not interested in constant collaboration or shared office space, and fitting in is of no interest to them. Gen Z is pragmatic, having been educated on principles of discovery and problem-solving.
Managers and supervisors can benefit by paying attention to generational studies, especially given the nearly 73 million Gen Z people and 83 million Millennials projected for the workforce. Understanding the different generations can help maximize productivity and innovation, while avoiding conflicts and costly turnover that can happen when generations collide.
For instance, don't assume that a Millennial is going to be a good fit as a team leader for Gen Z employees, or vice versa, simply because they are close in age. Their styles and priorities may collide more than the more pragmatic styles of Gen X and the older generations. The same goes for creating teams.
In another example, don't assume a Gen Z employee is being lazy or disrespectful if he or she shows up to a meeting via Skype or Facetime. They may see the virtual option as the most efficient, cost-effective way to communicate. If you expect a physical appearance, make it clear to Gen Zers at the outset.
At the same time, as a manager or supervisor, you should never make assumptions about any individual employee based on generational stereotypes. Know your employees individually and watch closely how they interact with others on a daily basis.
Is your HR program ready for Generation Z? Ask DDM for a complimentary review today.