It’s the start of a new year (what’s 16 days between friends?) so looking forward seems both natural and right. Looking forward in business isn’t just advisable; it’s essential. It’s true that life throws us curveballs, and there are many unknowns that we can’t necessarily foresee or plan for. I think the past three years are hard evidence of that! But that makes not planning and preparing for what we do know is hurtling our way not just foolish, but downright reckless and irresponsible.
Generation Z describes those born between 1997 and 2012. That places the upper end of the generation in their mid-twenties and very much of working age. They are already amongst us and will make up about a third of the workforce by the end of the decade. And they bring with them a strong sense of identity, and some robust wants and needs to accompany some fabulous new thinking. The ones I have had the pleasure of working with have shown an inspiring fearlessness and a confidence I’m fairly sure I didn’t have when entering the workforce! This is most probably down to their healthy view of failure, which they see as a way of learning and driving innovation, rather than something to be ashamed of.
So, as we often hear businesses talk about future-proofing their operations, how can we future-proof our businesses to attract and keep the best talent from the next generation?
Human interaction and feedback are fundamental
Gen Z may be the first fully "digital generation" (they have only ever known a digitally connected world, and are seemingly born with an innate knowledge of touch-screen technology), but they still need meaningful human interaction at work. In fact, because of their desire to learn from mistakes, providing regular feedback on how they are doing is a necessity. According to research by EY, a gigantic 97% of Gen Z are receptive to receiving feedback “on an ongoing basis or after completing a task”. Similarly, 63% prefer to receive timely feedback throughout the year. So, waiting to give some stale platitudes or non-specific pleasantries in the old Annual Appraisal will have your freshest talent scouring the opportunities on LinkedIn before they log off for the day. To hammer this home, the State of Gen Z report claimed that two-thirds of Gen Z workers “need feedback from their supervisor every few weeks or more to stay in their job”.
The flip side of this coin is that they will also want to be able to give feedback to you on how they are finding things. They need a voice that will be heard. Frequent and informal “My Time” meetings with leaders, brief but recurrent pulse surveys, and digital two-way comms tools are all worthy additions to your comms arsenal if you want to keep the future of your workforce happy and learn from their youthful perspective.
If all of this sounds alien and a little bit scary, a comms health check will provide you with a painless audit of your systems and setup and make recommendations for remedial actions to bring you bang up to date!
Social matters matter
For the younger generations, their personal alignment with their employer’s mission, culture and values is hugely important. They want to feel a higher sense of purpose towards their work and are motivated by opportunities to contribute to a bigger cause.
Gen Z are not afraid to job-hop, and they won’t stick around if your vision and values are unclear, unshared, or unrealised. Communicating your business vision and strategy is more important than ever if you want to appeal to the pick of the Gen Z crop. Not only are Gen Z already more willing to change jobs than their Millennial counterparts, but they’re also willing to change career paths entirely if it means they find a position that better suits their interests or values.
DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is also of great importance to our youngest workers. Monster found that 83% of Gen Z candidates said a company’s commitment to DEI is important when choosing an employer. The importance of this to them is obvious when you consider that they are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation yet, with just under half of them identifying as an ethnic or racial minority. They are also far more diverse in their gender and sexual identities, so companies that do not fully commit to all aspects of DEI will suffer in the long run.
Also, pay close attention to the promotion and maintenance of good mental wellbeing. These guys are starting as they mean to go on by placing significance on this right from the off. As they should!
It will come as precisely no surprise to anyone to read that flexible working and a healthy work-life balance matter hugely to Gen Z. According to ADP, a whopping 70% of Gen Z say they’ll look for another job if their current employer wants them in the office full-time. However, making friends at work, being properly mentored, and meaningful networking are just as important to them. This means that hybrid working opportunities and a robust combination of digital platforms that allow and encourage collaboration and networking are essential. A next-gen comms strategy that caters for the next gen’ is, therefore, key. The technology is out there and widely available, but it can be bewildering and even overwhelming if you’re not sure how to bespoke it to your business and set-up. That’s why reaching out to a comms expert is such a worthwhile action when setting up.
Keep them learning
And finally, as we’ve already established, learning new skills is crucial to Gen Z. Most are pretty new (if not brand new) to the workforce and they are keen to learn all they need to know to progress their fledgling careers. NSHSS report that two-thirds of Gen Z workers want to work at companies where “they can learn skills to advance their careers”. We’ve already established their willingness to job-hop, so this is another area that is ignored at peril!
In short, this is the future of our workforce. We should give them the tools and opportunities they need to connect, learn, collaborate, support each other, and share their thoughts and ideas. We must prioritise their wellbeing and protect their DEI. And we should shout about the good stuff we do, always keep them informed, and never stop feeding back to them on how they’re doing and how they could improve.