We've all been hearing about millennials for what may feel like our entire lives — for some, that's actually the case. But students who graduate from college this May will mark the first from Generation Z to hit the job market. What can you expect to change or stay the same, and what do you need to keep in mind for your office?
The modern office is already going through changes, and you can expect even more to come along with the next group of eager workers. There are a few key events that have helped shape Gen Z: The Great Recession and economic insecurity, the election of America's first African-American president, and the rise of technology and social media. They're also about to be the most diverse generation to be entering the workforce.
These factors contribute greatly to how businesses will transform, particularly the omnipresence of technology. Because they've grown up with phones essentially in their hands, Gen Zers are used to processing information quickly. This will play into how companies need to advertise to and attract their talent — and their clients.
Of course, technology has empowered Gen Z, also known as the iGeneration, in more ways than one — loyalty is going to be big, but maybe not in the way you'd expect. Marcie Merriman, executive director of growth strategy at Ernst & Young explains: “They expect businesses, brands and retailers to be loyal to them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they’re going to move on. It’s not about them being loyal to the business.” This concept began with millennials, but Gen Z is going to take it to the next level. Make sure you show employees you appreciate them and that you see value in the work they contribute.
The Great Recession created a deep feeling of economic insecurity for children who grew up watching parents lose their jobs and their homes. Because of that, Gen Z is looking for stability, in both paychecks and benefits. Above all, 20-somethings are looking for a company that will value them, provide a competitive salary, and benefits toward building a future. It might sound obvious, but it really isn't — you may be used to millennials who were more focused on jobs that would give them a sense of purpose as we explained before.
High-speed connections has also enabled the new workforce to expect flexibility, not just ask for it. This generation has an intense entrepreneurial spirit; they don't want to be chained to conventional ways of working like sitting at a desk from 9 to 5. In order to thrive, companies will have to allow employees to work from home, work remotely, or just offer more space for workers to move around and get comfortable. Companies that stick to old habits, like assigned individual offices and limited ways for employees to express their own preferences will eventually lose out.
Individuality is at the heart of much of these technological changes, from social media to personal branding to increased diversity of thought. Saturation is a hell of a thing; it can take something unique and make it old news in a matter of seconds.
Uniqueness is exactly what these soon-to-be college grads are expecting out of brands, whether they're working for them or buying from them.
In addition to offering the amenities and expectations discussed earlier, you can also achieve this through your company's voice and mission. There are so many companies out there that to compete with for talent, so it's not enough to just have an open office plan or a 401K. Making your brand something people can be passionate about will set you apart, and find employees who are in it for the long haul.
This also isn't a generation that thinks staying old school in the modern age is cool. They expect to work in an office that's not just digital, but is actively keeping itself up-to-date with tech trends. You'll be seeing more positions like PwC's Chief Digital Officer role popping up in the workplace as companies work to make sure they're providing what their talent needs.
Being digitally-conscious in your office won't just benefit you when it comes to snagging these new workers, it'll also help your company with its processes. That's what Gen Z is looking for: efficiency and dependability. Make sure you have the best tech for you and your employees, and they'll be happy they chose you as their employer.
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As Generation Z enters your company's workforce, make sure you keep these factors in mind. At the end of the day, they're more than just the job they do — they're people. The more you understand them, the happier you'll be able to make them.