For those unfamiliar with the term Gen Z (Generation Z) these are your youngest employees, born between 1997 and 2012. I bet our current millennials (b. 1980-1994) are feeling a tad old by that stat!!
Before we launch into what Gen Z needs in the workplace – just a few fun facts for you. The average Gen Zer received their first mobile phone at age 10.3 years. Many of them have grown up playing with their parents’ mobile phones or tablets. They have grown up in a hyper-connected world and the smartphone is their preferred method of communication. On average, they spend 3 hours a day (pfff I think it’s more than that!) on their mobile device. Members of the Gen Z were just beginning their career journeys when we went into lockdown last year – and those in school were suddenly confined to their homes. Collectively this group is experiencing the greatest national trauma since the Great Depression and World War II. Ultimately, workplaces need to be equipped to move forward and thrive and employers will need to address the fallout resulting from Covid on their youngest, and future employees. How can we support Gen Z employees?
Workplace culture is hugely important to Generation Z employees as they care less about the brand or reputation of a business, and more about a sense of community and wellbeing (things like paid time off and a focus on healthier lifestyles and mental health). They feel highly connected to social issues and want to make a difference in their jobs, as opposed to climbing the corporate ladder. In fact, 30% of Gen Z employees would take a pay cut to work for a cause they care about, craving in-person connection and wanting to feel they belong. With all that in mind, Gen Z employees are entering a very uncertain time in the workplace, and so to attract and engage them, businesses must connect their work to purpose, practice modern leadership, and focus on wellbeing. They must also train leaders on modern leadership skills like mentorship, coaching and teaching, as well as having a robust recognition programme.
For more than a decade, researchers have noted an alarming trend: Gen Z reports higher levels of anxiety and depression than other generations. Studies also tell us that childhood exposure to significant stress can impact brain development and affect mental and social development. If Gen Z’s baseline already shows high levels of stress, what will the impacts of this pandemic be when it comes to their work and careers? Many companies are unaware that unaddressed employee and anxiety can result in higher levels of absenteeism, turnover, and lowered productivity. For Gen Zers many started their career with higher levels of anxiety exacerbated by Covid and business owners should be acutely aware of what impact that may on their business.
Research tells us that emotional intelligence; consisting of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills, is a critical element of effective leadership — and can be taught and learned. In having to cope with a lockdown life at such a young age, many Gen Zers have experienced a massive interruption in their ability to discover what motivates and fulfils them. Because of this, they’ll need more time in their young adult years to undertake this self-exploration. You might consider helping to fill this gap by offering training that helps build emotional intelligence from the outset of their careers -not once they hit 30. Employers will benefit from Gen Z’s entering the workplace with a greater level of empathy and adaptability, qualities that are critical components of emotional intelligence.
Right now, businesses have a great opportunity to help Gen Zers become authentic and inspirational leaders. Having been tested at a very young age, they will bring a special blend of resiliency and humanity to the workplace. Just what we all need in our Covid ridden world.