Millennials Are Old News: What Do Gen Z Workers Want?

Leaders have spent so much time focusing on how to engage Millennials that most of them forget about Generation Z — the next wave of people (those born between 1995 and the mid- 2000’s) just beginning to enter the workforce.

Gen Z is already separating itself from Millennials when it comes to workplace demands. According to Accenture, the number of college graduates in the U.S. wanting to work for large companies rose 37 percent last year. They see the underemployment struggles of their Millennial predecessors and want to avoid that fate.

To appeal to a new wave of workers, employers must offer training and skills development opportunities to stand out from other recruiters and continue to attract top talent.

How to Appeal to the Next Generation

Gen Z is not entirely different from the Millennial generation. This younger class shares the entrepreneurial drive of their older siblings, with around 72 percent of current high-school students hoping to start their own companies.

Many, however, will not end up as founders of new startups, and they are fine with that fate — if their new workplaces facilitate their success. According to Adecco Staffing USA, 32 percent of Gen Z workers expect to be working in their dream job within 10 years. New college graduates name career growth as their top desire from their first jobs, with fulfilling work and stability tied for a distant second. These young workers are hungry for success, and they expect their employers to let them capitalize on that drive.

Leaders can connect to this workforce by delivering on that expectation, providing Gen Z workers the resources they need to reach their career goals. Follow these tips to position your company as a top destination for the next wave of rising talent:

1. Ask them about values and provide relevant experiences.

Discover what young workers want to do and bring them in to experience a day in the life. Steve Robertson, CEO of Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs and a Gen Z expert, advises company leaders to “Get in touch with Gen Z today. Invite employees’ children or local students to explore the workplace. Make the event meaningful for everyone by showing them career offerings. Let them react and ask them what they value.”

Sponsoring pre-professional programs can be a great way to not only train the workforce of tomorrow, but also keep your company top of mind when program graduates enter the workforce. “These events are great opportunities for Gen Z to collaborate, communicate, and create connections,” says Robertson. “They will come away feeling like their opinions matter and, in turn, you’ll be better prepared for their arrival.”

2. Establish CSR programs and charitable partnerships.

Corporate social responsibility and charitable impact appeal to Gen Z, just as they do to their Millennial predecessors. According to Marketo, 60 percent of Gen Z workers want their work to have a positive impact on the world. Look at brands like TOMS and Apple — both popular Gen Z buys — to see the types of outreach this generation admires.

3. Evaluate company culture.

Gen Z is made up of a diverse group of people, all of whom — despite their commonalities — have different motivations and desires. Create a company culture that rewards curiosity and ambition by providing the social rewards, mentorship, and feedback Gen Z craves, along with the transparency and flexibility they and Millennials both cherish.

Successful organizations today are not only building this rewarding culture, but upholding it as a key identifier for their brands. For example, the media intelligence company Meltwater designed its culture around building and reinforcing an entrepreneurial spirit in its people. This culture, represented by MER — which stands for Moro, Enere, and Respekt — is the Norwegian word for “more,” and it helps the company celebrate achievements without losing the passion to succeed.

4. Add technology to the workplace.

This new generation started using advanced technology in elementary school. Smartphones and iPads are second nature to them, and they become frustrated quickly when companies fail to address simple problems with obvious technical solutions. You won’t need to spend much time training them on technology use, but in exchange, they demand that you keep your company up to date.

5. But prioritize face-to-face communication.

In the office, where most companies now use email and apps like Slack to enable communication between co-workers, Gen Z kicks it old school by favoring more face-to-face communication. Although Gen Z workers were raised on social media, they prefer in-person conversations with their leaders. Treat them with respect by listening to their goals and ideas, then provide consistent feedback so they know their voices are heard.

Just as not all Millennials are the same, not all Gen Z workers want the same things. However, these trends indicate a shift in the demands of the next wave of workers, and companies must adapt to the new environment to attract the best Gen Z talent. Follow these strategies to address the needs of the new generation and create an environment that tomorrow’s workforce would happily call home.

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