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Get Ready for Gen Z

Generation Z includes those born since 1996 and unlike Millennials with protective, self-esteem boosting parents, Gen Zs are self-reliant and tech savvy.

Generation Z includes those born since 1996 and unlike Millennials with protective, self-esteem boosting parents, Gen Zs are self-reliant and tech savvy.

Hiring a “Gen Z” candidate -- born since 1996 -- to fill a vacancy on your sales, administrative or professional team? If so, you’ll want to do a little homework.

Gen Zs are, after all, our first true digital natives. They’ve grown up with smartphones and full 24/7 access to information. While that’s an advantage for some Web-savvy employers, others struggle with how to integrate and effectively recruit, train and build cohesive teams that include Gen Z workers. 

The nation’s newest demographic is large: almost 73 million strong. Its members will follow the more protectively-raised Millennial generation. Gen Z’s first wave graduated from college this spring and is entering the job market. Like their Traditional (born prior to 1946), Baby Boomer or Gen X predecessors, they reflect new experiences and values. 

Human Resources professionals have taken note. They know that in order to succeed as a Gen Z employer, it’s necessary to understand how the group differs from other workers. Demographic researcher and Generation Xer David Stillman and his 17-year old son, Jonah, recently authored Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation Is Transforming the Workplace. In an interview published by the Society of Human Resource Management, young Jonah provided a candid take on his own generation. “…We have our own conditions that have shaped us … Where Millennials [born 1980 until 1995] were raised by self-esteem building, optimistic Boomers, we were raised by tough-love, skeptical Gen Xers.” He explains that at a young age Gen Zs learned from their parents about winners and losers – and about tough Post Great Recession financial woes. “While this makes us very resourceful … we also suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out)…” And research shows FOMO contributes to a historically short 8-second attention span. 

As a result, Gen Z trainees may be more impatient, sober and practical. They will start adulthood with almost three times less debt than Baby Boomers according to Experian data. Sophisticated technology in a workplace is a draw. It appeals to those conditioned to follow their counterparts’ every move on social media. Highly structured jobs can be frustrating. In fact, the Stillmans predict some will pursue multiple paths at the same time. “… 75 percent of Gen Z would be interested in a situation where they could have multiple roles within one place of employment,” notes David Stillman. 

Another distinguishing characteristic: low levels of interest in collaboration. “Millennials pushed for the open office concept where teams could work together,” Jonah notes. “Gen Z’s independent nature doesn’t work in an open office. Thirty-five percent would rather share socks than an office space.” 

Many industries are coaching management on how to incorporate this evolving generation.

Vectra Bank of Colorado, for example, is creating a task force focused on building a talent pool that includes Gen Zs. “Fifty-percent of our workforce is now Millennials, and we will soon start hiring the next generation -- Gen Z,” Recruiting Director Trina Eyring writes, adding that bank marketing experts believe their industry could face a crisis “… which translates into difficulty attracting and retaining the younger workforce.”

Vectra Vice President Shawn Gullixson heads the Colorado Springs market. As an early Millennial, he now supervises younger employees and will join the task force. “I understand my counterparts want to make a difference,” he says, adding that he’s learned it’s important to identify an applicant’s personal passions and interests. He has also adopted a “playing field” rather than a hierarchy management model. That includes mentoring and helping young employees succeed. “A teller may not understand their impact on the bank, but when I show them how their work directly influences our success, it helps keep them engaged, motivated, and loyal to Vectra Bank.” Gullixson also sends promising employees to corporate training courses for personal development and to learn the business. “That’s real value. I’m investing in their growth, empowering them,” he says. 

Another industry ready to harness Gen Z energy and talent is Hospitality. Broadmoor Hotel Vice President of Human Resources Cindy Johnson says her team manages recruitment and training of 1,800-to-2,600 employees. Seasonal jobs often attract high school and college students who ultimately join a five-generation workplace. “Hospitality is ideal,” Johnson explains, noting the field delivers the fast-paced, varied environment young workers seek. 

Within their first 90 days, a new bellman, housekeeper or other frontline hire gets 100 hours of five-star hotel training. New Gen Z employees who thrive on change, variety and activity get an additional bonus: immediate customer feedback and results. Because the hotel’s brand now includes the Broadmoor Wilderness Experience, Millennial and Gen Z applicants often gravitate to active outdoor positions offered at Emerald Valley Ranch, Cloud Camp, Fishing Adventures on the Tarryall or Seven Falls Park, she explains. Like Vectra Bank, The Broadmoor also conducts special “Managing Multiple Generations in the Workplace” classes in-house. Johnson believes her industry not only provides Gen Zs an income, but a place to grow, advance and contribute.

“We welcome all ages. If they have the heart and attitude for excellent customer service, we have opportunities,” she says.