Generation Z: Are you ready?

Generation Z. Who? Born when? In our workplaces already? And what do they want from their employers…? Good questions, all…

By: James Blair on

At the end of January, I looked at what Millennials want from their employers and the importance of attracting this large portion of the workforce to our businesses.

So, this article, then, is the obvious sequel.

First up: a reminder of the timeline for those that need it:

  • Generation X were born between 1965 and 1980.
  • Generation Y (aka “the Millennials”) were born between 1981 and 1996.
  • Generation Z were born somewhere between 1997 & 2010.

My calculator tells me that the oldest Gen Z folk are now 24 years old!

The biggest question (apart from where the hell do we go next with the naming, now that we’ve foolishly used up the last three letters of the alphabet) is this: what will (or do) Generation Z want in their workplaces? And are we ready for them?

After all, it is an undeniable and inescapable fact that the number of Gen Z folk in our workforce is only going to increase from here.

Here’s a brief summary of what we know so far:

Human interaction still really matters

These guys may be the first fully “digital generation” (it sometimes feels like they were born with an innate knowledge of touch-screen technology), but - shock horror! - they still crave some human interaction at work. A little bit like employees currently wanting to work flexibly but not alone, our Gen Z colleagues want some human element included in their work, comms and interactions as a complement to their tech’-enhanced workspace.

At the simple end of the scale, this could include video chats instead or (or at least as well as) phone calls & e-mails. But a more in-depth comms health check could highlight areas where that human touch can be integrated into the tech’ that allows for a dispersed, even international, workforce. Similarly, embracing audience engagement tools for remote meetings or large-scale events can add the extra interactivity they need.

Recognition and appreciation, both from above and peer-to-peer, are a fundamental part of that human interaction, and are worth their weight in gold for Millennials and Gen’ Z. Giving recognition and appreciation can be as important to these guys as receiving the love! It’s human interaction of the most rewarding and motivational kind!

Work-life balance is crucial

The younger generations are, quite rightly, more focused on actually getting the job done than on clocking in and out at set times. As with their older Millennial friends, a healthy work-life balance is expected by Gen’ Z to go hand-in-hand with this. Flexible working is more of the norm’ for this generation, and they are highly likely to be tech-savvy enough to work seamlessly with whichever platforms they are presented to facilitate this.

They have a surprisingly healthy view of failure

According to research by EY, Generation Z are unafraid of stepping outside of their comfort zone or of making mistakes. In fact, they see making mistakes as a way of learning, rather than something to be ashamed of.

Perhaps this is a viewpoint that would benefit more of us! But very much tied in with this is that…

Feedback is an absolute necessity

That EY research showed that a huge 97% of Gen Z are receptive to receiving feedback “on an ongoing basis or after completing a task”. 63% prefer to receive timely feedback throughout the year, so relying on the old Annual Appraisal just won’t cut it with these young folk. In fact, the State of Gen Z report claimed that 2/3 of Gen Z workers “need feedback from their supervisor every few weeks or more to stay in their job”.

As well as frequent, your Gen Z people will want feedback that is measurable and trackable. Forward-thinking employers that want to get ahead now could revisit their comms strategy to ensure they have the channels or platforms to make this a pain-free reality.

A final word about their apparent preferences for management:

Unsurprisingly, over three-quarters of Gen’ Z said they would prefer a Millennial manager over one from Gen’ X or before. If you find yourself managing those from Gen Z and you’re not a Millennial, you may want to embrace the things that make Millennials tick – and so I refer you back to the article with which I opened this piece!