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  • Writer's pictureAlan Shoebridge

Gen Z enters the workforce: Don't panic!

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

Hype. Fear. Breathless prognostications. Gen Z is beginning to overtake the Millennials as the next generation that will “revolutionize the workplace” with their overwhelming demands for accommodation. I’m gauging this by the increasing number of articles with headlines that state something along the lines of, “Adapt to the Gen Z workforce or die. Your choice.” Well maybe not quite that extreme, but close.

If you aren’t up to speed on your generations, Gen Z is the newest generation to be named and its members were born between roughly 1997 and 2012. They are currently between 8 and 23 years old and make up around 25% of the U.S. population. This generation will have massive influence in coming years, but with Gen Z’s oldest members just starting to enter the professional workforce, there is no need to panic. In fact, Gen Z’s supposed demands actually sound pretty reasonable to me.

A recent study by nintex brings up some interesting points about what Gen Z is looking for in a career:

"Gen Z is a driven generation with clear career goals," says Nintex CEO Eric Johnson. "To retain and grow Gen Z employees, company leaders will need to instill modern HR practices and nurture strong workplace cultures that support in-person collaboration and meaningful work."

According to the survey, they also want more face time with their managers and loyalty from their companies. If treated right, they want to stay at their jobs for at least two years.

I can’t help but think what Gen Z is really asking for isn’t all that different from other generations when they were at similar stages in life.

In my opinion the key to getting the most out of your co-workers and employees is relatively simple:

  • Be honest

  • Live your organization's mission and values

  • Provide a fair salary and compensation

  • Allow people to have lives outside work

  • Encourage experimentation

  • Be flexible to human needs

  • Provide the resources needed to do the work

  • Give regular, useful feedback

  • Listen to what people tell you

Which of the current generations in the workforce would reject any of those qualities in an employer?

As a Gen Xer, I like to poke fun at the other generations a lot. I mean, a lot. Yet, I am also going to stand up for the Millennial generation for a minute. They’ve gotten tagged with being called “job hoppers,” but I’m not sure that’s fair. Is moving from job to job some inherent trait in that generation’s DNA or is it really more a combination of the rollercoaster economy during their lifetimes, typical life-stage developments and working for too many organizations that don’t offer the traits listed above? My guess is the latter.

Changing jobs is difficult and sometimes risky, but worth it for the right incentives. Also, when you’re young, job hopping just makes sense. I think I had three or four different jobs between age 24 and 30. It was simply the function of changing from working jobs just to get by to working jobs that were starting to form my long-term career.

Even as the headlines scream about “workplace disruption” from Gen Z the reality is more subtle. The key takeaway from the nintex study reinforces that by saying:

“Gen Z won’t disrupt the workforce, they’ll quietly elevate it. Through a combination of tech aptitude, pragmatism and collaborative spirit, Gen Z has the DNA to drive the next generation of enterprise efficiency. But companies must provide them with an environment to grow — and an opportunity to work with AI and automation, rather than have it loom as a threat.”

That sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Coming up next week (don’t hold me to it), I’ll tackle the Gen Z “assault” on healthcare norms.

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