Welcome to the Workforce, Gen Z: What to Expect and Tips to Adapt

From tips on millennial recruitment, engagement and retention to adjusting employee benefits and company culture, millennials have been a key topic of conversation in the labor market for several years – which makes sense given they’re currently the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, according to Pew Research.

While millennials will continue to remain a majority of the workforce for several years, a new generation is beginning to enter: Generation Z (Gen Z), defined as anyone born after 1996. And many employers are not ready.

CNBC reports that employers feel managing and training Gen Z employees will be more difficult than older generations because they grew up using mobile devices, tablets, technology and social media. Thus, employers feel Gen Z does not have the same social interaction skills as millennials and boomers.

With around 17 million Gen Zers entering the U.S. workforce, it’s time for companies to prepare and adapt.

What to expect when Gen Z enters the workforce

In September, The Wall Street Journal shared results from several national surveys and studies in an article that recaps Gen Zers’ behaviors, characteristics and attitudes towards the workforce.

When working with and training this population, keep in mind that Gen Zers:

  • Depend on a safe work environment and expect management to step in and handle conflict among employees.
  • Are the most racially diverse generation in American history and grew up with a more inclusive and accepting attitude towards sexual preference and identity.
  • Grew up attached to smartphones, tablets and other devices. They learned to socialize through social media platforms and text messages, lessening their natural, face-to-face interactions and decreasing social skills.
  • Need constant feedback and individual recognition.

Preparing your company for Gen Z

To address the key takeaways above, here are a few tips and ways to prepare your company for Gen Z employees.

  • Provide a safe work environment – The best way to handle bullying, harassment and other forms of unwanted interactions in the workplace is by getting ahead of it. Be sure your company has a documented no-tolerance policy and that all employees receive training. Larger organizations generally rely on their human resources department to handle these types of issues, policies and training, but smaller companies often don’t. Fortunately, there are several resources and organizations that provide workplace harassment training and will work with companies to create or revamp workplace harassment policies and processes.
  • Review and revamp diversity and inclusion policies – Diversity and inclusionin the workplace goes beyond company culture and creating a safe, inclusive environment for employees. There are several areas where the two can slip through the cracks. Take a look at your company’s leadership team and account teams. Does your relocation policy accommodate different needs, like employees with two-parent households versus single parents. Does your parental leave fairly accommodate all caregivers? And does your company’s scheduling accommodate religious holidays and traditions, child care, medical needs and appointments? There are several factors that define diversity and your policies might not cover them all.
  • Create tech-based processes for Gen Z to utilize – From hiring to employee performances to exit interviews, create alternative processes for Gen Zers. For example, some companies are reworking training videos to replicate YouTube-style videos that appeal to Gen Z workers. Apps like Sling are a great alternative for employers to communicate things like scheduling, tasks, company news and more. Other alternatives for employee communication include tools such as Slack, where employees can chat text-messenger or direct messenger-style without the distraction of a social newsfeed.
  • Provide Gen Z employees with regular feedback – About 40% of Gen Zers want daily interactions with their boss or they will think they’ve done something wrong. However, daily feedback from the boss might not be realistic in most companies. Scheduling check-ins with Gen Zers will provide a time and place for regular feedback. Assigning Gen Zers to a senior employee who can act as a mentor is another way they can receive feedback from seasoned employees throughout the organization.

Company policies should be everchanging and flexible to adapt to employees

It’s important to adapt and accommodate this new generation entering the workforce, but more importantly, your policies should address the employees for whom they are created. Be sure not to jeopardize millennial and boomer needs when implementing practices that cater to Gen Z. And keep in mind that while several studies show Gen Zers’ general characteristics and behaviors, their needs will vary on a case-by-case basis.

The best way to keep up with employees’ needs is to create an environment where two-way communication (from the top down and bottom up) is welcomed. Be sure HR, management and supervisors of all levels are receptive to employee feedback and create regular opportunities to engage and even encourage employee feedback.

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