27 September 2023

Riding the wave of Gen Z workers

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Deep Patel* says employers need to monitor the subtle and not-so-subtle changes that occur as a new generation of workers enters the workplace.

Generation Z is composed of those born between 1995 and 2010, which means that the oldest are about 22 and are just entering the workforce.

The media has focused a lot on Millennials in recent years, but it’s time to turn some of the attention to the Millennials’ future co-workers.

Gen Zers have a lot in common with Millennials, but there are also many ways in which the two generations differ.

These young people were still kids during the Great Recession, which means they may have seen their parents take huge financial hits.

A significant portion of their lives may have been defined by struggles related to that.

While millennials are often seen as more idealistic, and more motivated by purpose than pay, Generation Z may lean more toward security and money.

They care about making a difference, but are ultimately motivated by ensuring they have a secure life outside of work.

As a cohort, Millennials are said to be collaborative and teamwork-oriented. They want to work in an environment where inclusion is a priority.

Gen Z, on the other hand, is said to be defined by its competitiveness.

They want to work on their own and be judged on their own merits rather than those of their team.

Gen Z also understands that there’s a need for constant skill development in order to stay relevant.

This generation is willing to work hard, but they expect to be rewarded for it.

Gen Zers’ independence ties into their competitiveness, but they generally like to work alone.

Many of them prefer to have office space to themselves, rather than an open, collaborative workspace.

They do not want to depend on other people to get their work done.

More of them are skipping higher education than their Millennial counterparts, and moving straight into the workforce.

They’d rather avoid the years of debt and try one of the newer, more affordable options.

Don’t disregard a potentially great employee just because they don’t have the credentials you usually look for.

If you thought your Millennial employees were easily distracted, always flipping between texts and emails, just wait until you start working with members of Gen Z.

These young people have always lived in a connected world, and they’re used to constant updates from dozens of apps.

Switching between different tasks and paying simultaneous attention to a wide range of stimuli comes naturally to them.

If you see them looking at their phone during work hours, don’t assume it will distract them for ages — they’re used to spending five seconds checking for updates before returning to the task at hand.

You may have just gotten used to your Millennial employees preferring to communicate over email or Slack, but be prepared to switch again.

Generation Z likes to talk face-to-face. Some 53 per cent of Generation Z said they prefer in-person discussion over instant messaging or email.

This can be attributed to the technology they’ve grown up with (Skype, Snapchat) has allowed people to communicate with a full range of sound and motion, instead of just text.

Millennials have long been described as digital natives, but they actually grew up in a world that was still full of landlines and dial-up internet.

They’re used to progress taking time, and are just as confused by some of the newest apps as Baby Boomers are.

Gen Z, on the other hand, has been living in a world of smartphones and free Wi-Fi for as long as they can remember.

They easily flit between platforms and technologies and pick up new software quickly.

Gen Zers expect the workplace to conform to their needs. They are similar to Millennials in this way, and are actually fairly similar to Boomers as well.

There are some clear generational differences between Millennials and the young people just entering the workplace today.

Of course, every member of a generation is an individual and will have their own unique traits, but keeping these generalisations in mind could help you prepare to welcome this new generation to the working world.

*Deep Patel is an entrepreneur, marketer and bestselling author of A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success. He works with organisations from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. He can be contacted at deeppatel.com.

This article first appeared on the Forbes.com website.

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