Are You Ready for Generation Z?

If you’re like many organizations, you may still be trying to figure out the Gen Y millennials and how to manage them, a topic that has been written about frequently on this site. Now to make things really complicated, the savviest companies are already courting Gen Z. Gen Z includes people born from 1994 to 2010. Obviously, the young end of that spectrum is only turning five right now, so they really aren’t on the radar screen (thank goodness). But the older members of this new generation are college seniors, and even the high schoolers are fair game at this point.


Really? High school? Yes, because when you’re trying to find the very best talent, building brand awareness as early as possible is the key. In a way, this should come as no surprise, given how talk of going to college has gradually made its way down the education ladder all the way into middle school (or further), as scary as that feels to parents of young children.

If you read my earlier article, Why Obama’s Free Community College Plan is a GREAT Idea, then you know that there’s a growing skills gap that’s not being filled by the educational pipeline, in spite of many reforms to boost STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills. The latest kids to come through these reforms might very well have a better set of STEM skills, and companies want those skills.

That’s why a joint study of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, and, the world’s largest internship marketplace, found that as many as 50% of companies surveyed were planning to create high school internship programs. The list of companies is impressive – Deloitte, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn, just to name a few.

Getting Gen Zers into the workplace is one thing, but making them successful isn’t going to be easy street.

They’re incredibly savvy when it comes to technology, which is incredibly important. But you also have to realize that Gen Zers having grown up with a lot more uncertainty and vulnerability, from the rise of global terrorism as well as two substantial recessions, one of which rose to a level to deserve the title of Great Recession. Gen Zers have been subject to a level of “helicopter parenting” never seen before. What this strange mix results in is that many from the Gen Z group lack interpersonal skills, critical thinking skills, and even problem-solving skills.

Gen Z is the epitome of a particular style of communication best described as casual, personal, and direct. This is just one thing that sets them apart from other generations, though Gen Yers are similar in that respect, but not to the same degree. There are plenty of differences, however, to account for when planning for Gen Z relative to Gen Y. One is that the Zers are even more entrepreneurial than Gen Y, and at the same time money is less a motivator for them than it is for Gen Y. Gen Z is also more open to non-traditional work environments, including telecommuting from home.

Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, gives the following interesting summary of this new generation compared to the previous: “Gen Z has a clear advantage over Gen Y because they appear to be more realistic instead of optimistic, are likely to be more career-minded, and can quickly adapt to new technology to work more effectively. Additionally, since Gen Z has seen how much Gen Y has struggled in the recession, they will come to the workplace well prepared, less entitled and more equipped to succeed.”

Gen Z is arriving to a workplace near you very soon, and may already be present in your own organization. Are you ready to integrate them into your multigenerational workforce?

January 17, 2015   Updated :March 14, 2015   generation y, generation z, millennials, recruitment, talent management   

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