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Columns, Leadership

Welcome, Generation Z

The newest wave of employees is looking for fun workplaces, ethical brands and more interaction with supervisors.

Welcome, Generation Z
Gen Zers have always lived in a world where information comes at them fast and furious.

Millennials are often in the news and have been for quite some time now, with countless articles discussing their effect on the workforce. But what about Generation Z, the group born between about 1995 and 2010? They’re in or entering the workforce, and their perception of the world is different from that of the millennials who came before them. Gen Z is about 57 million strong in the United States. Other names include post-millennials, founders, plurals, the iGeneration and the Homeland Generation.

This article will describe their general values and how they perceive life. Of course, not everyone in Gen Z, or any other generation, for that matter, thinks exactly alike.

Core Values and Behaviors

An in-depth survey conducted by McKinsey & Co. determined that members of Gen Z have several common core behaviors:

  • They avoid labeling, opting instead to focus more on individuality, honesty and a person’s competence. This makes them more willing to understand different types of people and interact with organizations that don’t match their values.
  • They want to spend their energy on causes that matter, such as homelessness, poverty, world hunger, identity, human rights and gender equality.
  • They want brands to behave in ethical ways, be transparent and match their actions with what company officials say.

As such, the fact that this generation considers diversity to be the norm makes sense, to the degree that Gen Zers often don’t readily think about group demographics, whether that means racial makeup, religious preferences or sexual orientation. To put this into perspective, Business Insider and Axios predict that by 2045, the United States will be majority-minority, meaning Gen Z might be the last generation in which the majority of people in the United States identify as white.

Additionally, Gen Zers express a desire to be financially stable. This, combined with an appreciation for diversity and changing demographics, likely attributes to their overall mix of beliefs and can include fiscally conservative points of view as well as socially liberal ones.

Overall, Gen Zers can be considered pragmatic, practical and analytical. They believe that most conflicts, including global issues, can be solved through effective communication. Through simple conversations, they can learn, strategically gather information and make highly informed decisions about the next steps.

Workplace Values

About 36% of Gen Z will be in the workforce by 2020. According to statistics quoted by HR Magazine in November/December 2018, 58% of Gen Zers hope to own a business someday.

When looking for employment, here’s what matters to Gen Z:

  • Good salary: 35%
  • Enjoyable work environment: 26%
  • Flexible schedule: 14%
  • Opportunity to create new products: 11%
  • Chance to learn new skills: 8%
  • Community focus: 7%

Most have been exposed to the internet and social media their entire lives, making Gen Z very comfortable with the virtual world and able to seamlessly cross from online to offline experiences. This ease will certainly affect how technology will continue to evolve in the workplace.

More specifically, Gen Zers have always lived in a world where information comes at them fast and furious. They’ve learned to rapidly process information, but they might not have long attention spans. They multitask, shifting from one activity to another, sometimes in a way that people in previous generations find distracting.

Transforming the Workplace

Millennials have done well at shedding light on the growing costs of higher education and student loan debt. From this observation, many in Gen Z might choose to not pursue traditional educational pathways. Instead, they might opt to go straight into the workforce, attend classes online, pursue entrepreneurship or choose paths that vastly differ from those of previous generations.

Assuredly, Gen Z will have a significant effect on the development of the workforce, as companies need to manage multigenerational teams consisting of younger baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials and Gen Zers. Each generation has different values, workplace expectations and life goals. For example, people of Gen Z have a strong desire for work-life balance and appreciate developing and maintaining personal technological connections.

Adweek magazine reported that Gen Zers are 1.3 times more likely to buy a product if their favorite celebrity advertises it on social media. This is important for companies, as branding and marketing primarily occur on social media, and if your company has no social media footprint, your chances of reaching Gen Z diminishes. This represents a significant shift from strategies enacted by past generations.

In light of this, companies must find strategic ways to take advantage of their human resources. For instance, employ a strategy that combines mentoring and reverse mentoring, where Gen Zers can educate members of older generations and vice versa. This can prevent generational gaps and conflicts that damage productivity.

Alternatively, you can cater to Gen Zers’ interest in forming personal connections. When they work for a company, Gen Zers have been shown to prefer regular, in-person feedback from supervisors. The feedback can be short and sweet as long as it’s prompt and regular. They also want to interact directly and often with managers, even multiple times a day. This shouldn’t be surprising given that they are used to real-time conversations through texting and social media.

When Recruiting

When your practice is recruiting a Gen Z job candidate, thinking of the clinic as a brand and demonstrating it visually can help. Think about what makes your practice unique and interesting. How can the candidate you’re interviewing contribute to your practice? Make that clear.

Gen Zers typically read online reviews about companies before the interview, and they like reviews that show how the workplace can be a fun place, even when working hard at the job. Flexible schedules and paid time off are attractive to many Gen Zers.

Young adults from this generation often make great employees, especially because they can adapt to change in ways that might make some people from older generations uncomfortable. You can consider Gen Zers to be radically inclusive, meaning they value individual expression and don’t readily distinguish their online and offline experiences in the way other generations do. They don’t differentiate between friends in the physical world and those known only online.

Although Gen Zers bring strengths to the workplace, they might need guidance and training on soft skills that previous generations possessed so readily — like how to handle callers and how to respond to clients by email. Instructional videos, role-playing and one-on-one training could be appreciated by this tech-savvy generation.

H.R. Huddle columnist Dr. Charlotte Lacroix is founder and CEO of Veterinary Business Advisors Inc. She serves on the Today’s Veterinary Business editorial advisory board.