The oldest members of Gen Z — the generation after Millennials — are graduating from college and entering the workforce. This group which makes up 27% of the U.S. population is often defined as people born from roughly 1997 to 2012. Gen Z is the most diverse cohort yet, with 48% identifying as ethnic or racial minorities.
What kind of workers are Gen Z professionals and how can employers update their offices to attract top talent? This article offers helpful insights into what makes these youngest workers tick and covers practical recommendations for boosting Gen Z employee engagement.
Gen Z workplace experience priorities: financial stability and open communication
Members of Gen Z are considered the first true digital natives — that is, they’ve been brought up in a world with the internet and smartphones. Raised by Gen X, they witnessed their parents, and Millennial peers, go through hard times during the Great Recession, the financial downturn from 2007-2009 which at its peak saw 10% unemployment. As a result, they’re more financially pragmatic than Millennials. Gen Z values financial stability, and according to a Monster study, 70% list “salary” as their top motivator when looking for a job. In fact, 58% say they’d be willing to work evenings and weekends if it meant getting higher pay.
Hardworking and competitive, they’re also independent: 76% feel they’re responsible for driving their own careers and 42% want to start their own business someday.
It’s unsurprising then that Gen Z views communication and problem solving as the two most important skills in the workplace. This could be because as a diverse generation with access to so much information, they’re more open to and used to encountering differing perspectives. Gen Z also prides itself on being adept multitaskers, bouncing between different communication channels to stay connected.
Set Gen Z workers up for success
Your workplace design should help balance the different ways this generation prefers to engage and work, creating opportunities for social interaction as well as solitary focus. For example, make physical spaces in the workplace which facilitate collaboration and socializing, as well as spaces for quiet, independent work. Doing so will help demonstrate to prospective and current Gen Z employees that you are keeping their working styles top of mind to improve their workplace experience and boost employee engagement. Additionally, since so many Gen Z have an entrepreneurial spirit and dream of starting their own business, you can help them stay engaged at your company by offering opportunities to “own” their work and be more autonomous.
Unfortunately, while Gen Z see themselves on expert multitaskers, multitasking doesn’t work. Studies show that each time we jump between tasks we lose some focus and energy, and when we try and do two things at once, we end up doing an inferior job at each task, as well as retaining less in our short term memory. For this reason, it would be helpful for people managing Gen Z employees to give them clear deadlines and help them prioritize their workload. Workplace technology such as project management software can help Gen Z employees visualize what projects have been assigned to them and keep track of when everything is due.
Focus on employee engagement to recruit and retain the next generation for your workplace
What can businesses do today to successfully recruit and retain Gen Z employees? The company culture you create –– and the workplace technology you provide that impacts this company culture –– are key factors in attracting the next generation to your company.
A Deloitte survey discovered that in addition to valuing competitive pay and positive company cultures, Gen Z job seekers also want to work for –– and will be most loyal to –– companies that actively and intentionally foster diversity, equity, and belonging in their workplace experience strategy. This makes sense since Gen Z is so diverse and grew up and is contending with significant social, political, and cultural movements. In this digital information age with increasingly fast news cycles, social media, and greater access to information, these digital natives are politically aware and open to new ideas.
For example, a study by the Pew Research Center found that 35% of Gen Z know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns (like they/theirs) and 59% feel forms should include options other than “male” and “female.” This means Gen Z employees will appreciate if your company invests in a workplace experience that speaks to these ideas, such as all-gender restrooms, and application forms and other documents or processes that don’t make assumptions about personal pronouns.
Put professional development on the table early –– and meet Gen Z employees where they are
Gen Z employees are passionate about professional development and progressing in their careers. While Gen Z often prefers to work independently, they value feedback and want to be coached by their manager. In fact, 40% want to interact with their manager on a daily basis and might be concerned if this doesn’t happen. As a whole, Gen Z values face-to-face interactions, maybe because they’re so embedded in technology. In fact, one study found that 37% are concerned technology is weakening their ability to maintain strong interpersonal relationships and cultivate good people skills.
Consider offering a training for Gen Z workers that emphasizes interpersonal skills such as how to communicate effectively and professionally in meetings and over email — especially important since they’re likely more adept at texting. Offer in-person training complemented by a format that works well for them, such as in the form of short videos.
While workplace technology helps all employees do their jobs more efficiently and effectively, as digital natives, Gen Z workers especially appreciate these tools. For example, streamlined communication tools, brainstorming apps, and mailroom software, can all contribute to better employee engagement for them. Give Gen Z candidates a positive first impression of your company by showing off your brand immediately as modern and forward-thinking from the moment they arrive for an informational interview, job interview, or to visit your workplace.