Generation Z Prepares to Enter the Workforce, But They’re Different From Millennial Workers

Generation Z, or those born in the mid-1990’s, won’t be swarming the workforce in droves for a few more years but the first crop will be graduating this spring. With the millennials busy transforming the workplace, employers can only wonder what changes Generation Z will bring when they graduate. It turns out the qualities Gen Zers possess look a lot different than the generation before them.

“This generation is more conservative than their counterparts,” says Susan Ruhl, president and chief financial officer of ICC Inc., a career consulting company. “They share more characteristics of those during World War II than any other generation, particularly from a financial aspect.”

It’s not surprising that Generation Z would be more cautious. They grew up in a period of heightened terrorism and a financial crisis that left many Americans jobless and out of their homes. That has created a need for safety and security that translates into their work ethic, which is much different than millennials who are known to job hop every few years. “They are much more loyal than millennials and they are also really entrepreneurial within a company they really like,” says Elaine Varelas, managing partner at Keystone Partners, the career management services company. “They are very hard working. They want to be an expert at something.”

Generation Z wants to learn, get paid

While millennials are very focused on choosing companies that are doing right by the environment or society and want to make an impact beyond just a high salary, Generation Z is more focused on their income. It’s a byproduct of growing up in a time of record unemployment and foreclosures. “Millennials like believing that their company is working toward a greater cause where Gen Z tends to equate success with money,” says Ruhl.

Similar to how millennials are very comfortable with technology, Generation Zers are also very tech savvy and tend to overshare on social media. After all, they are the first crop of kids to have social media in their face 24-7. According to Ruhl, while they can and want to use pretty much any technology thrown at them, the reliance on social media, the Internet and texting has made them a lonelier generation than the ones before them.

“Because they have been raised completely in a digital world, they have a warped perception of ‘friends,’’ says Ruhl. “They tend to overshare on social media. They are more technically savvy and therefore hold a lot of sway over the Internet but with that comes a downside that they are exposed to way too much.” It’s easy for this generation to feel left out and that their counterparts are leading a much more exciting life. If they get excluded from a party they can view all the action real-time online, adding to those feelings of loneliness.

Generation Z prefers face-to-face communications over texting

But while they may be using social media and technology in their everyday lives, when it comes to communicating with employers or co-workers Generation Z prefers face-to-face interactions. That could throw employers for a loop who have just got used to dealing with millennials who would rather text than pick up a phone or have a conversation with the person sitting next to them. Varelas of Keystone Partners says Generation Z may prefer face-to-face interactions because they were raised differently than millennials.

While people call millennials entitled and point to the fact that many were raised having a say in family decisions, Generation Z grew up in a team-oriented environment whether that was group projects at school or team projects outside of the classroom. That team focus has taught this group how to work well with others and collaborate.

So what should employers expect from this group of new workers? While the jury is still out since they are in the early days of entering the workforce, they do require a career trajectory that will keep them safe and secure and will favor the companies that offer that. “They are lifelong learners, getting continuing education is almost a demand,” says Kathy Downs, vice president at Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a staffing company. “They also prefer medium-sized companies because they want to be able to make a difference and they want to be heard.” Companies who are able to continue to provide training, can give their employees good healthcare benefits and the freedom to harness their entrepreneurial spirit will do well with Generation Z workers. Sure, they need to be kept busy but they aren’t going to jump ship for the next opportunity if you keep them happy.

Varelas said smart employers are preparing for Generation Z by taking their recruitment to the high schools, sending business volunteers to talk about the kinds of careers they have and offering them summer internships to try to get them ready. “A lot of companies are still thinking millennials are hard to manage and hard to make happy,” she says. “Generation Z will be loyal if they give them transparency.”