What is your impression of Gen Z? You just have to see clips like the below (and there are many others) to understand how my generation (born in the 70s) views Gen Z.
It is easy (although incredibly unfair) to be dismissive of Gen Z. Gen Z are tech savvy, know they have to work harder and longer to achieve the same as previous generations, are very resourceful and want to have an impact on the world. This is an incredible generation and ensuring that you as an employer can make the most of what Gen Z has to offer should be a key part of your strategy to ensure you recruit and retain the best.
The starting point is to ensure you know what Gen Z are looking for. What makes them tick, and how do you engage and keep them engaged? This is a highly mobile population often unafraid to start afresh in a new location, so retention is a key aspect.
One important question to ponder is: does Generation Z even want to be employed? Recent research from the Brighton School of Business and Management found that 62 per cent of Gen Z would rather run their own business than work as an employee. This is an interesting proposition for employers. How do you employ and engage a group who want to run their own show? It would be interesting to know whether that 62 per cent actually want to own and run a businesses, with all the strains, stresses and risks that involves, or whether “running their own business” is more about “ownership” and “control”. The same research states that many of Gen Z are “jaded from the recession and suffer student loans” and that “28 per cent say that balancing work and personal obligations is their top future career concern”.
With this in mind, employers could offer the best of both worlds; ownership via a path to an equity shareholding and control in their working day via a level of flexibility. Employers need to focus on this aspect; providing Gen Z with a path to ownership, but also the ability to have flexibility and control of their working day.
Once employed, how can employers make sure they making the most of this savvy generation, “60 per cent of whom want to have an impact on the world with their jobs”? If we look at the list of leading employers, Google reigns supreme. Google’s SVP of people operations, Laszlo Bock, has stated that he believes in three main components: mission, transparency and voice. These three components are not just a great starting point but key to successfully recruiting and retaining Gen Z.
It is essential that Gen Z employees have a clear idea of what the company’s mission is, and its place in the world, as well as what their individual mission is within the company. This cannot be simply addressed via a mission statement on a website; it must be ingrained in the culture and the strategy of the business. Gen Z understand that just sending a Tweet is not enough, you need action. As an employer, you have to make sure the mission flows though how you operate and engage.
Transparency is essential for Gen Z but for many companies transparency does not come naturally. My profession for example, the legal profession, is a very secretive environment. The terms of my career progression and pricing structures were rarely made clear to me. This would not be acceptable for Gen Z. This may mean a shift in how many employers operate. For example, some law firms may need clear guidelines on how career progression and even pricing and profit allocation works.
And lastly but by no means least, Gen Z want to have a voice. This is counter intuitive for many employers who try and monitor and control “the voice”. For companies like Google, employees are not only given a forum to collaborate and communicate but also to share feedback on managers and the company, to ensure everything is constantly improving. For a generation who want to be involved and engaged this is key not only for retention but also to ensure you are making the most of what they have to offer.
Understanding the values and motivations of Gen Z should be a fundamental pillar of management thinking to ensure you are recruiting the best and that you have the right succession planning in place. Working out who Gen Z are and what makes them tick is just the first step in the process of maximising their talents, and future-proofing your business.
Janvi Patel is chairwomen and co-founder of Halebury.
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