Workplaces across the US are running into unprecedented issues in integrating more than one generation of employees into a cohesive work environment. Improved safety in the workplace; technological innovations in the fields of health and medicine; economic uncertainty; and stagnating wages have prompted employees to stay in the workforce longer. This has led to a larger overlap of multiple generations than ever before.
Over the past decade, US employers have worked tirelessly to integrate the 53.5 million millennial workers with mixed results. This massive demographic shift has forced employers to modify the work environment to accommodate the new workers. From a financial standpoint, such efforts can often backfire and cost companies millions in lost productivity, increased turnover, and failed strategy implementation. As the millennial workforce begins to settle into their roles, employers must gear up for Generation Z.
Who is Generation Z?
Gen Z-ers were born between 1995 and 2007. This means by 2017, the first wave of them will have entered the workforce. This generation is currently the third largest group in the US, behind Baby Boomers and Millennials. However, it is projected that by 2020 this population will surpass the Baby Boomers to account for 24.7% of the US population. Keeping this in mind, employers must proactively recruit Gen Z talent to maintain their competitive edge.
The environmental factors impacting these employees will shape their workplace desires; for example, witnessing the turmoil caused by the Great Recession has made this generation place less value in job security while increasing work culture expectations. This will likely result in job and career changes at a higher frequency than any generation prior to them.
With this in mind, it is important to also understand the common traits of Gen Z-ers. They are a tech savvy breed, always connected to the virtual world. According to a study by Forbes, the advent of the Internet has allowed Gen Z-ers to become “prematurely mature;” not necessarily a bad thing, this vast accessibility of information has made them more resilient and pragmatic. Further, continued integration of the Internet into our daily lives will lead to the creation of more virtual job opportunities – in which Gen Z-ers will have the skills needed to thrive.
This generation is more comfortable taking on challenges and prefers a flexible work schedule to suit their dynamic, ever-changing lifestyles. They are strongly passionate about social and environmental sustainability, allowing their personal values to direct their professional trajectory.
All of these factors together illustrate the ability of Gen-Zers to adapt and prosper in an ever-changing world.
How to Integrate
Early reports have indicated immediate concerns with Gen Z employee integration, as employers have failed to properly identify their needs. More traditional industries, such as finance and banking, run the risk of losing the benefits of having young employees as the company may not be designed to accommodate them. A Ricoh Europe study reveals how various aspects of employment differ dramatically across generations: Gen Z employees desire a strong work life balance, access to a flexible work schedule, and the ability to work remotely as key components of their prospective jobs.
One of the main considerations for organizations is how to implement forms of communication that help employees of all generations work together. Growing up using multiple mediums of communication, Gen Z-ers have more refined communication skills. A lack of feedback and/or poor information sharing within an organization can lead to frustrated employees, reduced productivity, and company losses. Instating a flat organizational structure removes barriers of communication, encourages information sharing, and promotes positive discussions. Fostering a “results only environment” can further allow employees a flexible schedule; employees are able to work anytime, anywhere as long as they meet predefined outcomes.
Before companies dismiss the nontraditional demands of Gen Z-ers, consider that they have unique acumen when it comes to utilizing technology to solve problems or streamline processes. Companies looking to capitalize on the potential of Gen-Zers must understand competitive offers are only enticing when the company culture is a great fit. To make themselves attractive, employers must not only meet traditional assurances – competitive salaries, benefits, health insurance, and retirement packages – but also strive to create a dynamic work culture.
By being proactive, companies will be able to create a culture that fosters and attracts the best and brightest minds from a generation of untapped potential. With Generation Z employees spending more time holistically understanding their prospective employers, now more than ever, employers must invest in doing the same.