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Generation Z and the Workplace: What You Need to Know

Generation Z (1995-2010, according to Huffington Post) is the next group of employees that will soon be entering the workforce, and they are bringing countless new ideas with them.

Similar to Generation Y (also known as Millennials) in a number of ways, Generation Z is driven and motivated. They believe in the importance of honest leaders and prefer face-to-face communication over email and instant messaging in the workplace. Unlike Millennials, they are motivated by career growth instead of more money and Gen Z would much rather work for themselves after graduation.

Studies have shown that Generation Z is much more prepared to enter the workforce as compared to the previous generation.

“Gen Z has a clear advantage over Gen Y because they appear to be more realistic instead of optimistic, are likely to be more career-minded, and can quickly adapt to new technology to work more effectively,” Dan Schawbel, founder of Gen Y research and consulting firm Millennial Branding, said. “Additionally, since Gen Z has seen how much Gen Y has struggled in the recession, they come to the workplace better prepared, less entitled and more equipped to succeed.”

Gen Z’s Entrepreneurial Mindset

In a study conducted by Millennial Branding and Internships.com called “High School Careers,” 4,597 college students were asked about their plans after graduation, and 64% said they planned to start their own business one day. Additionally, 43% said they would rather own their own business instead of working for someone else after graduating. Two things inspire Gen Z’s entrepreneurial spirit:

  • Better Access to Resources – Online content has introduced Gen Z to a whole new world of education, much of which is available for free. As many are constant users of mobile devices and computers, accessing information from other entrepreneurs online has become second nature to them.
  • Feeling the Extra Pressure – As a part of the “High School Careers” study, 55% of 179 high school students that participated in the survey admitted to feeling pressured by their parents to acquire professional experience during their high school years. However, while their parents seem to be applying a large amount of pressure, they’re not helping their children acquire it. Instead, they are forced to figure it out on their own, making them more independent and causing them to lean more toward the career path of an entrepreneur.

Gen Z Wants Honest and Transparent Leaders

In a 2014 Pew Research Center study, 84% of the survey’s 1,835 respondents chose honesty as the number one trait for a leader to possess, a sentiment Gen Z shares. In the Millennial Branding survey, 52% of Gen Y and Gen Z respondents chose honesty as the top leadership trait.

“Gen Z sees leadership as a privilege,” said Jim Link, chief human resources officer for Randstad, the third-largest HR services and staffing company in the U.S., according to Forbes. They are looking to their leaders to prove their honesty and integrity, and to be open and transparent with them no matter their age or title.

Employers looking to win over Gen Z should encourage leaders to not only be honest with their employees, but interact with them in person in lieu of email or instant messaging. Increasing transparency between leaders and their employees involves constant communication, and Gen Z has made it clear they want their leaders to speak with them openly and face to face.

Gen Z Prefers to Communicate Face to Face

Gen Z is known for their expertise when it comes to technology and their avid use of social media. When asked about their preferences concerning communication with their managers at work, 51% opted for face-to-face communication over email (16%) or instant messaging (11%).

“They’re [Gen Z] looking to make connections now in ways that are more personable,” Link said. “Things like face-to-face mentoring, coaching, and advisement are going to become more important to this generation.”

With the implementation of new technologies like instant messaging, a lot of companies have begun to give their employees the option to work remotely, which may have a negative effect on employees’ face-to-face time with their coworkers and managers.

Even though about 30 million Americans work remotely at least once per week, managers still believe that communicating in person is better for an organization’s culture, which is why companies like Yahoo and Best Buy require their employees to come into the office every day. While technology is convenient and useful, the benefits are limited, making face time in the workplace important.

As the knowledge of technology and social media continues to increase with each coming generation, the desire for face-to-face communication remains unchanged.

Gen Z is Not Motivated by Money

Gen Z is more motivated by opportunities for career growth instead of a higher salary. The Millennial Branding survey reported that 28% of Gen Z respondents considered more money as an incentive for working harder or staying with their employer longer, as compared to Gen Y (42%). Link from Randstad encourages business owners to provide Gen Z with numerous opportunities for mentorship, giving them access to regular feedback concerning their performance at work.

“These folks are going to want to come into your organization and learn everything that they can possibly learn,” he said. “If I were an entrepreneur, I’d be out there trying to hire these people tomorrow to teach them about my company and the organization in which I work because I think they’re going to make great employees.”

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