Generation Z, also called the iGeneration, is the cohort of post-Millennials born between mid -1990s and mid-2000s. They comprise of the school going students, under-graduates and graduates. Moulded by different upbringing, values and experiences, generation Z has characteristics distinctive from previous generations. Considering that this generation has started entering the workforce now, the time is ripe to understand them better and align organizational strategies to achieve effectiveness through them.
Key characteristics of Generation Z
Generation Z is individualistic with a strong sense of identity. High self-esteem and over-confidence in their own abilities and skills give them a feeling of entitlement. They have high expectations from others and are prone to taking things for granted. Awareness of and access to multiple options make them more demanding. They cannot take failure in their stride but are not perseverant about succeeding too. They give immense importance to feedback and want to be appreciated at every step of life. They are also judgemental and want to react to everything happening around them to make their presence felt.
Generation Z appreciates genuineness and consistency between what is asserted, and what is delivered. They respect authenticity in all their interactions, and are unwilling to compromise on values and beliefs. They are inclusive and open minded about people from diverse backgrounds and interests. They find it easy to accept different opinions and reject stereotypes.
Born in the era of high speed internet and advanced telecommunication, Generation Z wants to evaluate large amount of information and complete information to take decisions. The digital natives easily process information, adapt to new digital technologies and adjust to change. Access to YouTube and do-it-yourself videos make them self-directed and self-motivated, and reliant on self-learning. They are comfortable with moving between different activities, and excel at multi-tasking. However, for the same reason, they have a lower attention span and a tendency to seek instant gratification. This makes them less focused, easily distracted, impatient and dissatisfied. Besides, over use of technology makes it difficult for them to form strong inter-personal relationships. They face challenges in face to face communication and collaboration with others (Kick et al., 2015), although they can interact with online communities easily.
Inclination for work
Generation Z prefers employment over spending money and time in education. They seek a job that is unique and relatable, has a purpose, offers scope for creativity and individual expression, and provides learning opportunities. They are interested in work that poses challenges, provides independence and allows experimentation. They want to perform tasks that are significant. They like volunteering for activities that make a difference. The desire for creating an impact and future orientation makes them entrepreneurial. The cohort also looks for work-life balance (Francis and Hoefel, 2018).
What organizations need to do?
These characteristics of Generation Z create certain challenges as well as opportunities for the top management. Organizational leaders have to manage their individualistic personality and provide appropriate and genuine attention and concern. They have to identify innovative ways to effectively utilise this cohort’s proficiency with technology and comfort with diversity. Most importantly, they have to make the work interesting and meaningful enough to keep this generation sufficiently engaged and committed. Two ways in which they can achieve these goals is by focusing on job satisfaction and employee engagement.
The executive management needs to ensure that employees have a positive job experience. This would require them to align jobs to capability and talent through competency mapping, rather than thrust work on the employees based on position. Jobs have to be designed for individual contribution. Team work, if required, can be encouraged in a virtual setup. Jobs should provide scope for creativity and innovation, and opportunity to learn and apply new skills. They should promote independence, empowerment and complete ownership of assigned tasks.
Senior management can employ job crafting tool to involve the employees in defining the components and key result areas of their job based on the assessment of their own strengths, motives and passion. They can also utilise the participative approach to identify ways to enrich the jobs. They can operationalise horizontal mobility to enable experiential learning through job rotation (O’Boyle et al., 2017). Besides, they can create volunteering opportunities that allow employees to learn essential job skills from each other. They can also sponsor higher education to add the required skills to employees.
Personal well-being is important to Generation Z. Top management can formulate employee-friendly policies which makes the employees perceive that the leaders care for them and are willing to provide support as required. Examples of such policies are paid time off, wellness program, family leave, and flexibility of location, working hours and working arrangement.
The executive management also needs to ensure that the Generation Z employees are committed to the overall vision and contribute productively to it. This would require them to primarily focus on communication. Organizational leaders should adequately and appropriately communicate organizational vision, performance management and development, and strategic and tactical decision making (O’Boyle et al., 2017). They can communicate the impact of individual roles on the overall objectives to make employees understand how their own goals are aligned to organizational goals. They can generate self-awareness in the employees, help them identify their strengths and weaknesses and provide direction for developing their potential (Bencsik et al., 2016). Top management should clearly discuss opportunities for personal and professional growth and development. They can formulate training, appraisal and feedback programs based on clear, specific, objective and quantifiable parameters and performance outcomes. They can institutionalise coaching and mentoring to enable sharing of tacit knowledge and experience about processes and organizational culture. Besides, they can encourage employees to use social media platforms to network with others in fruitful ways. They can also involve employees in modernising communication systems. It is important that all horizontal and vertical communication is transparent, two-way and continuous.
To promote learning and knowledge sharing amongst employees, top management would benefit by adopting digital platforms. They can also formalise unconventional methods like gamification, experiential learning and design challenges for professional development.
Most importantly, the top executives have to demonstrate authentic leadership. Generation Z is more likely to be committed to leaders who endorse values that reflect in their behavior as well as enterprise-wide policies across hierarchical levels.
Synergy is built when employees from different generations work together to utilise their complementary skills and competencies. With the entry of Generation Z in the workforce, top management can tremendously gain by investing in plans that promote constructive involvement of different generations. We hereby suggest some distinctive strategies that they can devise to enhance employees’ job satisfaction and engagement levels, which would help not only in retaining them, but also in enhancing their contribution to organizational effectiveness.
Kick, A. L., Jonna C., and Brennan T. (2015), "How Generation Z's reliance on digital communication can affect future workplace relationships", Competition Forum, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 214-222.
O’Boyle, C. Atack, J. and Monahan, K. (2017), “Generation Z enters the workforce. Shifting generational expectations and a potentially alarming skills gap”.
Bencsik, A., Horváth-Csikós, G., and Juhász, T. (2016), “Y and Z generations at workplaces”, Journal of Competitiveness, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 90-106.
Francis, T. and Hoefel, F. (2018), “True Gen’: Generation Z and its implications for companies”.