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What's in Store for Generation Z in the Workplace

May 18 2015

A recent Time Magazine article on Generation Z predicted that "most intend to attend traditional college, but it's as much (if not more) for the social benefits and networking connections as it is for skills. Many know what they want to do and already have the means to do it."

Two educational trends are picking up steam: online learning and vocational training. "The costs of traditional college keep increasing, so many will price out and take a technological shortcut," says Erica Orange, executive vice president of New York business consultancy The Future Hunters. "We're now calling it competency-based education, which focuses on the mastery of work-related skills rather than command of a particular academic discipline."

According to the BBC, employers in the UK are already bracing for a change, and they predict that more students will go straight into apprenticeships or internships around the age of 16 or so instead of taking a more traditional higher education route. "We'll see more of this generation not going to university because of the high cost, but going straight into the workplace - and maybe doing some online studies, states Daria Taylor, co-founder of Talented Heads, a digital marketing and youth insights agency in London.

In addition, Generation Z is going to be a smaller group than the Millennials, so employers could find themselves with talent shortages in the future. And, as we learned in my blog posting two weeks ago, Gen Zers also want to start their own businesses and charities, so the implication for corporations and nonprofits is potentially profound.

So, how should businesses and charities think about attracting and retaining Gen Zers into their workplaces? Margaret Jacoby, founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, had the following suggestions in a recent Huffington Post article [March 19, 2015]:

  • Create high-intensity relationships. Gen Zers react better to highly defined, small work groups that have a strong peer leader. There must be an easy to identify chain of command. They respond best to managers that teach while leading.
  • Invest in training. Gen Z workers may need more training, especially in the area of interpersonal and communications skills.
  • Provide lots of awards. This generation has grown up used to rewards for even the smallest accomplishments. So, employers need to offer periodic rewards and redesign award programs continuously.
  • Offer dream positions. Gen Z workers thrive on opportunity. If you want to keep them invested and motivated, employers will need to show them that their dream jobs are within the business and help them get there.

Because they've grown up with terrorism and global recession, Gen Zers are expected to be more cautious and more skeptical than Millennials. This may make them less willing to take risks. On the other hand, they may make them more pragmatic than Millennials, and they may have more realistic expectations about their careers opportunities.

Angela Siddall, global talent acquisition and marketing manager at British American Tobacco predicts that staff retention may be a bigger challenge than ever even though Gen Zers could seek more stability and security than Millennials. This is because Gen Zers will want to give themselves a secure future by getting as much experience in as many different jobs as possible so that "if a job doesn't work out, they'll be sure to have something up their sleeve."

And, finally, employers may find Gen Zers clashing with Millennials as "members of Generation Z say they can work better if they go back to their cubes alone or work from home, while Millennials will want to work in teams and collaborate" according to Tammy Hughes, CEO of Claire Raines Associates, a generational consulting firm in Arizona.

As we at American Express focus on training the next generation of nonprofit leaders, we're keeping some of these challenges in mind. That's why we are working with the Presidio Institute and a consortium of nonprofit organizations and foundations to create an online platform for leadership development programs. While the current Millennial Generation may thrive on the face-to-face leadership programs that we sponsor, it's possible that the next generation will prefer more solitary, technologically savvy ways to develop their leadership skills.

If you have a question or comment, please follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and let's connect there.

In two weeks: They Told Him Not to Take That Job


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