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The Rosetta Stone of Gen Z: Your Inter-Generational HR Guide

In the alphabet soup of generations in the workplace—Gen X, Y (Millennials), and Z—Generation Z has received the least amount of attention. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see HR departments and employers treating their youngest employees like Millennials, offering flexible schedules, ping-pong tables, and happy hours.

This approach unfortunately backfires every time. While close in age, Millennials and Gen Zers are driven by opposing desires, meaning companies must dangle an entirely different set of carrots to appeal to them. Read on to find out what you need to know about this up-and-coming generation, as well as how to attract and retain all-star Gen Z employees who can become your organization’s strongest leaders.

The Millennial Mantra: Freedom and Flexibility

Born roughly between the early 1980s and late 1990s, Millennials grew up as technology quickly evolved from Walkman to iPod and landline to smartphone, making them early adopters of technology. Living through a period of rapid transition has made them value flexibility and freedom much more than earlier generations. You might recognize Millennials by a few of these defining characteristics:

  • Confident and often termed “entitled” and “hipster” due to adoption of particular attitudes/trends (avocado toast, anyone?)
  • Passion for social responsibility and wellness
  • Willing to “job hop”— 60% of Millennials are open to new opportunities, according to Gallup
  • Desire to work for purpose-driven companies who offer flexibility, work-life balance, and strong workplace cultures (hint: cultureboarding is incredibly important!)

Tip: Check out our guide to engaging Millennial employees here!

See It Like Gen Z: Security First

The cohort after Millennials, Gen Zers were born starting in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Unlike Millennials, whose childhood years spanned a technology transition period, Gen Z are true digital natives who grew up with nearly unlimited access to technology.

This not only affects how they view communication and community, but also means they were bombarded with news of economic and political instability during and after the Great Recession. Overall, this has made them much more cautious and security-driven than their Millennial counterparts. Overall, Gen Z tends to:

  • Be more concerned with financial security than flexibility and freedom
  • Dislike some of the social media platforms preferred by Millennials, such as Facebook—they prefer to keep  their online lives more private, although they do use social media for brand research and news
  • Act more competitively than Millennials, whose preference for collaboration spawned the sharing economy
  • Prefer companies and roles that provide mentorship, opportunities for development, independence, and rapid growth

4 Ways to Build Your Gen Z Dream Team -->

With an estimated 72.8 million individuals who are determined to advance at work, Gen Z is one of the largest and most motivated cohorts in society. They’ll soon be flooding your workplace (if they haven’t started already) and vying for leadership roles. Don’t let the opportunity to create a dream team of managers pass you by! Here are a few secrets to attracting and retaining the Gen Zers that can take your teams to the next level.

1. Make a good impression online

Nearly half of Gen Zers are connected online for 10 hours per day! Your company must make a good impression online or risk alienating potential employees. Be sure to keep an eye on online reviews, such as those posted to Glassdoor by current team members, and quickly respond to any negative press to minimize fallout.

2. Get to the point

Direct communication is key with Generation Z. They are an impatient generation (the average attention span is just 8 seconds) and one that was raised understanding that not everything they see online is true. Honesty and transparency is the best way to win them over.

Also, you may want to reconsider annual performance reviews. This generation prefers to receive feedback and mentorship on an ongoing basis.

3. Give them autonomy

Teamwork, shmeemwork. Gen Zers crave opportunities to own their projects, prove their worth, and advance up the ladder. While many of these young professionals are willing to work with others to accomplish their goals, independence and autonomy tend to be higher on the list.

4. Perk up

As job and financial security is paramount to Generation Z, offering benefits such as competitive compensation, bonuses, and health insurance is a must. We’ll let you in on another secret as well: these perks alone aren’t enough to attract and retain cream-of-the-crop Gen Zers.

Be sure to combine offerings with a strong, culture-centric onboarding process that helps them make the most of benefits, such as optimizing their retirement account and pairing them up with the best mentor for their position and personality. Cultureboarding is a triple threat—it engages impatient Gen Z employees from the get-go, demonstrates that you’re committed to providing the opportunities they want, and quickly brings new coworkers into the fold to shorten the learning curve.

Did we mention that cultureboarding can also mean more productive employees and greater company revenue?  Download our free white paper about the relationship between onboarding and your bottom line now!

Want to turn your Gen Z employees into your customers and brand ambassadors some day? Try part 1 in our 3 part on-demand webinar series!

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Topics: HR
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