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Welcome: The Selfie Generation?

Posted on in Talent Strategy

Generation Z also referred to as iGen, Centennials, the Selfie Generation, and a whole host of other names is generally defined as those who were born around 1996 through 2010.  It’s estimated that there could be as many as 60 million Americans in this demographic and they’ve grown up during interesting times.  Most in this demographic only know about 9/11 from history books and they grew up during a time when the US was (is) always at war (on terror, climate change, you name it).  They’ve lived through the Great Recession and have likely seen their parents face financial hardships.  Many have seen millennial siblings struggle and boomerang back to live at home. They are also the first true digital natives as they’ve always had access to the internet, smart phones, apps and loads of other technology.

Research suggests that those experiences have created a group that “appears to be more realistic instead of optimistic like millennials.  They 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 Millennials have struggled in the recession, they will come to the workplace better prepared, less entitled and more equipped to succeed.”  They’ve been further described as self-starters, autonomous, entrepreneurial and debt-adverse.

This is enough for me to get excited about them joining our teams.

Now, I’m not so naïve to think that there aren’t going to be some drawbacks and challenges to how this plays out in the workplace.  In the book “Gen Z @ Work: How The Next Generation Is Transforming The Workplacethe authors share a few fun facts including that 40% of Gen Z said working Wi-Fi was more important than working bathrooms.

Sigh. We’ll chalk that up to them being “kids” and hope for the best. 

Seriously though, there will likely be a myriad of other things that will only be revealed once we have a few years of experience with them.  I’m still optimistic.

I could go on and on with more data and fun facts, but the truth is there are still a lot of unknowns.  But, based on what we do know, here are three things I’m encouraging clients to start focusing on today.

1. Internship programs – I’m not talking about the traditional program where you hire college juniors and seniors. This generation is career focused and an estimated 77% is eager to start interning with prospective employers as early as high school.  If you have an internship program, you need to consider how you can redesign it to gain earlier access to this talent pool.  If you don’t have a program, now is the time to build one…you’ll thank me in 2020.

2. Work Environment – Flexibility is going to take on new meaning. Having grown up in a hyperconnected world, they know they can work at different times and different places and still achieve results.  They will further erode any remaining notion of a 9-5 work day.  And the open workspaces you’ve invested in?  Only 8% want to be in one.  I’m not saying we go back to the awful gray cubicle labyrinth, but we need to create balanced space.

3. Employer Brand Experience – The experience this demographic has with your brand must be intentionally designed at every touchpoint. They grew up in a period of heavy customization and will expect it from their experience with your company as well.  They’ll use a variety of platforms to learn about your company and chances are they aren’t the ones you are using today (they call Facebook Mombook.  Enough said.).  They are seeking “snackable” content (remember, they have an 8-second attention span) and prefer video and images.  Once you have them in your tribe, the interview and onboarding processes must also be personalized yet varied in how it’s delivered.

We have to learn about Gen Z and with the first wave entering the workforce now, the next few years will prove to be interesting.  But the bottom line is this….every generation has been stereotyped, criticized and lauded and much of what “they” say is an overgeneralization.  When it comes to what we expect out of the workplace, I believe we all have more in common, regardless of the demographic, than many want to lead us to believe.  Stay tuned.

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