How can employers get the best out of their Generation Z employees?
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With their own ways of doing things and attitudes to work and technology that differ from their parents, Generation Z represents a challenge for businesses.
One fundamental difference for young people entering the world of work for the first time today, compared with their parents and grandparents, is that the concept of a lifetime’s employment with a single employer is outdated. Generation Z know full well it is highly unlikely they will work at one company or location their entire life and that instead they will move through a number of situations during their working life.
This means young people are entering the workplace with a different mindset than previous generations, says Carole Burman, managing director of MAD-HR, a human resources consultancy in Ipswich.
“What they want from their first jobs is an opportunity to gain practical experience that will enable them to advance themselves and earn a larger salary at their next job even if that it is not with the same employer,” she said.
Therefore, employers who want to attract the best talent from Generation Z need to be clear about the opportunities they can offer their new recruits.
“They’ll be consistently trying to enhance their knowledge and ultimately develop their skill set. Therefore, they’ll be a great addition to any business” added Burman.
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But while gaining valuable experience is regarded as important, Burman says, Generation Z “don’t perceive that they need to be shown what to do”.
She explained: “In the good old days, a young person joining a company would learn how to do a job by working through a set structure and adhering to standard operating procedures.
“Young people today are far more likely to want to work out how to do it themselves.”
The implication for employers is that to get the best out of their young people they should focus on the outcome rather than the process, and then support employees as they move towards this goal, says Burman.
Employers who are able to do this could find they are rewarded by having a motivated young person, who has brought some agility to a process through the use of technology and social networks
“Generation Z can help companies in areas such as product innovation and the agility to move with the times. But employers need to show them what success looks like – then let them know what they are empowered to do and then enable them to do it.
“Much of this can be made clear at the recruitment stage – employers should spend some time being clear about the role they are offering and the kind of person they are looking for.”
A level of trust has always been important between employer and employee but for Generation Z trust is paramount, says Burman.
She continued: “It is important to ensure that expectations are managed and so we would always counsel regardless of age never to make promises or give assurances unless you can be certain of delivering on them”.
“For example, there may be a mismatch in expectations over remuneration between what a young person is expecting to earn and what they are being offered but if you can offer them a chance to gain experience and training, and a chance to work towards qualifications or an exposure to projects - then for many new entrants it can be viewed as a more attractive offer.”
“It’s important that you are clear and transparent about the timing of what you are offering as you may not want to make the investment in further training etc. until they have completed their probationary period.”
But, warns Burman, if a young person is not happy at work or feels like a trust has been broken, they will soon walk out of the door.
“Young people have fewer commitments than previous generations,” she said
“If you consider someone at the age of 25 – there was a time when people of that age would have settled down with their own home and family and have a mortgage but today many people are still living with their parents at 25.
“They have more freedom and will vote with their feet, so it’s important that employers recognise the fragility of the relationship.”
Employers keen to attract the best talent from Gen Z should also think about what their workplace looks like, advises Burman.
While office lay-out trends in recent times have seen people spending their working day in work pods and open plan offices, Gen Z need communal areas to be at their best.
“Pods won’t work for most young people today - they create barriers,” continued Burman.
“Gen Z prefers to work collaboratively, so what’s important to them is having areas in a premises where they can come together over a coffee; creative spaces that are more informal than the formal desk spaces.”
Gen Z are also “mindful of well-being and work-life balance” said Burman.
“Offering young people a degree of flexibility can be important – this could be flexible hours during the week or the potential of extended leave or holidays.”
But before employers start re-arranging the furniture in their office, they should think about how they are going to reach out to young people and make them notice their business in the first place.
Generation Z’s use of technology and the vast amounts of digital content they consume on a daily basis means employers who try and recruit using the traditional channels of engagement and brand building could be missing out, according to Michelle Pollard, managing director of Spider, a recruitment specialist in Ipswich.
She said: “Young people don’t watch TV anymore, they stream programmes on Netflix; they don’t use the telephone, they message each other on whatsapp: they don’t read a newspaper, they watch YouTube: they are also unlikely to listen to the radio - employers need to be savvy or they won’t be able to tap into young candidates.”
What’s more, if an employer e-mails back a potential Gen Z candidate to ask them in for an interview, don’t be put out if you don’t hear from them straightaway, advises Ms Pollard
“Young people aren’t checking their e-mails every day anymore as they are communicating on social media,” she added. “Phoning them up out of the blue is not going to appeal to them either, as they don’t want to be thrown into a situation they aren’t ready for.”
And if you are going to engage with Gen Z on social media, you need to know which channels are being used by the youth.
Ms Pollard says LinkedIn is “not relevant” to Gen Z while Facebook is more likely to be used by “aunties and mums” these days.
Instagram and Snapchat are where most Gen Zers spend their time, so businesses looking to attract young recruits are advised to familiarise themselves with these platforms.
With all this technology at their disposal, young people today are more independent than any generation that has come before them.
“They have so much information at their fingertips - if they want to know something they Google it,” added Ms Pollard, who says Gen Z people are about “passion and purpose” and “want a sense of self-worth and belonging”.
One tip she offers is that employers could put their new Gen Z recruits in charge of any CSR initiatives being run by the business, to give them more of a sense that they are working towards something that matters.
“Gen Z are the generation that really cares and a CSR project, maybe supporting a charity or a good cause, is something that is likely to tick a box for them,” she said.