Welcome to Generation Z, those born between 1990 and 2010 and whose oldest members are beginning to enter the workplace and spend their own money. Now with Boomers, Gens X, Y, and Z in the adult population, you as a manager face the challenge of effectively integrating a broad range of people and their characteristics into your organization as well as selling your products and services to them. To do so, it’s wise to understand their attributes, how they think and react.
The actions and traits of a similarly-aged group are broadly defined by two factors:
• The social and historical events experienced growing up. The impacts of wars, the economic cycles, and natural disasters on people obviously differ over time.
• Their stage of life. People’s needs, wants, and dreams change with age. The young often become more like the old as they move from childhood through the various stages of adulthood.
While we should be careful to generalize about people, here’s what the experts say about Gen Z that will affect their work and spending habits:
Z’s are digitally competent and connected. Technology is part of their DNA – they simply don’t remember the world before the internet. They communicate information with friends incessantly through social media like Facebook and Twitter. They love to share their knowledge and experiences on line. The extraordinary speed with which information goes viral in our society and trends reach their tipping point reflects Gen Z’s reliance on social media rather than other forms of promotion.
Their technology bent, however, has come with a price. Teachers are reporting that their skill to identify answers quickly in a morass of data is offset somewhat by an inability to communicate them clearly in writing.
Z’s prefer to multi-task. Along with their technology focus comes the habit of tackling multiple connections and tasks at once. Unfortunately research shows that thinking and work quality suffer as people grapple with more than one job simultaneously. The brain simply doesn’t handle multiple tasks well especially as we grow older. Errors increase exponentially, and the time to complete a job often doubles versus when tasks are handling sequentially. As one expert says, “You can’t talk to yourself about two things at once.”
Multi-tasking mirrors Gen Z’s preference for speed over accuracy. They seek fast, simple answers and struggle with complex situations where facts are not black or white.
Z’s are socially responsible. Gen Z’s are growing up in an environmentally conscious world. They are fully aware of climate change and carbon footprints and aim to leave the world a better place than the one they found.
Z’s like flexibility. First and foremost they abhor fixed work schedules. And they will find working at a number of jobs and even careers during their working life to their liking.
Z’s are impatient. Eager to contribute from day one, this generation is reportedly less willing to wait their turn in an org chart. They are generally better educated than previous generations and confident in their native intelligence.
Z’s are less trusting of large organizations. The recent economic bust has shown them that many institutions are less stable and supportive than originally assumed. The delayed recovery has also convinced them that they will be less well-off than their parents.
Z’s are optimistic. They are confident in their future success.
Z’s are not brand loyal. Carefully crafted marketing campaigns are less important to them. It’s the product and what they hear about it on social media. Z’s evaluate products and services incessantly, share the results willingly, and depend on one-to-one contacts to guide their buying decisions.
Implications for managers
What are the implications of these traits to you as a manager?
Online Marketing and Sales. To sell this generation, you must reach them online through social media and other tools. Interactive online media portals containing detailed product information are a must for any company aiming at their wallets. You cannot count on more conventional channels like bricks and mortar to deliver orders for your products from Z’s. And don’t forget to keep your online presence up to date and easy to use.
Green Products. To sell this generation, you must consider offering green products. Supporting and promoting your internal efforts at sustainability are also musts. And you must be sincere about this effort.
Life Beyond Technology. Gen Z can teach those of older generations what technology can do. As their employer however, your job is to show them there’s more to life and work than what can be found on a computer screen and to succeed there are rules and structures that must be observed. To maximize their productivity, you must convince them to fit relaxation time into their work day.
Focus on Task. As an employer, you must design processes that ensure their concentration on the one task at hand and demand accuracy over speed. After all, to succeed you must perform at least as well as your competitors. The best solutions usually involve the input of everyone, young and old, in their design.
Work Organization. To deal with Gen Z’s impatience, companies should develop flatter organizations with less bureaucracy.
In general, with the broad age diversity found in today’s workplace, sound communications are a must. And the delivery of your messages should employ all available tools. Email is fast becoming an obsolete form of contact with members of Gen Z.
Remember too that the youngest employees at your company have limited experience in a business environment. Your network of suppliers and customers most likely covers the entire range of ages and cultures. Your company’s brand is impacted by the behavior and actions of all of your employees. You are right to enforce rules of etiquette and dress that reinforce your company’s reputation.
Your goal should be creating a working environment that considers the generational differences and balances their strengths and weaknesses. Intelligent change is a clear necessity in building a company that is attractive to all of its employees and its customers. And being open to change is a sure-fired way of attracting Gen Z employees.
Bottom Line: If you are not paying attention to generational differences in age groups, you risk missing the next important trends affecting your business. Get on board – learn about and prepare for Generation Z. But don’t forget the other three generations populating your workforce and marketplace.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.