Meet Gen Z, Your Future Co-Workers

Gen Z co workers

Imagine you buy a shiny new car in a new model, and unusual colour you’ve not seen before. Then once you’re on the road, you see their sibling around every corner you turn. What’s going on?! You aren’t crazy. This is called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, otherwise known as the frequency illusion. This term describes the phenomenon of when the thing you have just noticed or been told about, suddenly crops up constantly.

I’ll get to my point. Whether I heard it on the radio or read it in an article, the word ‘millennial’ seemed to be everywhere last year. Being known as someone who gets my words mixed up, aka a ‘Lilyism’ I probably thought people were talking about the Millennium, as in, the year 2000.

It was only when I asked my manager at Madison what the word ‘Millennial’ means, that I learned that it wasn’t anything to do with those New Year celebrations some time ago! It is fact the generation of people born between 1980 and the mid-1990s. Following on from the Millennials, are those people born from the mid 1990s until the mid 2000s and this segment of the population have been nicknamed Generation Z, also known as post-Millennials. These are our future co-workers; the young adults who are newly entering the workforce, or will be doing so over the next five years.

Characteristics of Gen Z

Unfamiliar with Gen Z, I decided to do a bit of research to understand the traits of this newly-working generation. The consensus is that our future co-workers  are the first true ‘digital natives’ and of course are tech experts. Growing up with vast amounts of information at their fingertips, they are pragmatic and highly analytical when making decisions. This generation care about making a difference, but are ultimately concerned about their job security. As people who have entered adulthood in times of economic instability, they want to carefully plan out their futures.  All of which, employers will consciously need to take into consideration when hiring a Gen Z candidate.  I’ve identified three key areas that employers may need to think about when recruiting this young generation.

1. Reaching and recruiting Gen Z

Just recently, I was browsing Instagram, and someone I follow had posted on her story that she was looking for work during her university break.  I private messaged her, and asked if she would be happy for me to pass on her details to the appropriate team here at Madison—she really appreciated me reaching out to her. This goes to show that Instagram can be utilised in other ways, not just to post the perfect selfie.

Gen Z are on multiple platforms, spending up to ten hours a day on social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. This may sound like it will be harder for recruiters to reach these candidates, but fear not, they are using their mobile device as a preference over watching TV. As long as the way we advertise is compatible with smartphones, then we should be ok.

Vine, Periscope and Meerkat are all live video streaming apps (which I had never heard about before-have you?), and along with YouTube, may be useful tools for creating video content to advertise roles, and reach our target Gen Z candidate, who in general subscribe to the motto ‘show me, don’t tell me’.

2. Building a Gen Z-friendly workplace culture

I don’t know about you but I’ve been guilty of asking the rhetorical question ‘What is the world coming to!’ when I see some of the behaviours of young people out there, even though I’m borderline Millennial/Gen Z myself. Writing this blog has made me realise that I’ve been a little pessimistic. Much of the research into generational characteristics suggests that up to 60% of Gen Z have a strong desire to change the world for the better. With increasing globalisation, and as we become more (digitally) connected than ever before, we are witnessing an evolution in empathy and social consciousness amongst this younger generation. So how does this focus affect culture in the workplace?

I think it’s fair to say that Gen Z are more likely to be fully aware of the repercussion of mental health issues. Having had the enhanced support in this area from their educational institutes, and with their consciousness of this issue, they will most likely enter the workforce with the ongoing expectation of mental health support. Therefore, those organisations who offer Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), other benefits focused on mental health, and are able create environments that embrace mindfulness, will be the ones that successfully attract Gen Z.

In early October, Madison participated in Mental Health Awareness Week, and raised a considerable amount for the Mental Health Foundation from activities organised by employees across the country. These activities were the kind of things that I foresee will become key differentiators between employment offerings for Gen Z candidates. One idea that I personally enjoyed, was when a group of my colleagues from the South East Branch converted our boardroom into a temporary chill-out zone in, where we were able to take a step back, unwind and reset ourselves to keep motivated. It was so effective, that we all agreed that we should do it on a regular basis.

3. Retaining Gen Z

Are you familiar with games like Candy Crush Saga and Bejewelled Blitz? Both are examples of highly addictive games which give players a great sense of achievement when you see that you have smashed a level. In general, it’s younger people who enjoy this type of recreational activity, so why not consider leveraging this approach in your retention strategy for Gen Z. I’ll explain. Have you heard of the term gamification?  This is the application of typical elements of gaming such as point scoring, to other areas of activity, in order to encourage engagement and motivation.
An example of this would be the ‘All-Star’ function on your LinkedIn profile.  Once you have completed all the information required for your profile page, you get a notification saying ‘Take a moment to enjoy your accomplishments, you’re in a league of your own’. Instant feel good factor.

It’s said that Gen Z know what they are capable of, and take ownership of their work. If companies were to use gamification similarly to the example I have just given, it would allow employees to track their progress, and understand what areas of work they need to develop. Why would this help retention you might ask?… because it taps into the Gen Z focus on career progression and growth. These factors are said to be more important to this generation, than even the initial salary on offer.

I hope these points might provide a bit of thinking material on how recruitment, and workplaces, might change with the addition of our new Gen Z workmates. Personally, I feel lucky to have a job where when I wake up in the morning, I look forward to the day ahead.  I can only hope that our future co-workers will find themselves getting their foot in the door to a career where they experience the same feeling, and enjoy their working environment. No matter which generation you belong to, I believe we all have a common goal which is to work to live, not live to work. If you are happy in your job you’ll be productive, if you are productive you will be successful—and to me that looks like a bright future. I look forward to Gen Z joining us!