The oldest members of Generation Z will turn 22 this year. Will they follow their millennial counterparts’ lead in changing jobs every two years? It may be too early to tell, but with the unemployment rate remaining at record lows, businesses will soon be competing for this young talent. Much discussion has been had about how to prepare members of Gen Z for the workplace. But perhaps we should instead be asking ourselves, “how can we prepare our workplaces for Gen Z?”
For us as leaders, it’s less about filling entry-level positions, and more about selecting candidates with the best potential for future leadership within our organizations. To attract this talent, the first step is identifying what they value most.
Technology that works for them
Members of Generation Z are true digital natives. They have never known a world without the iPhone, WiFi, and high bandwidth cell service. They navigate digital communication channels with ease and are astute judges of an application’s user experience and effectiveness. If an app falls short of expectations in the first 10 seconds of use, they will delete it without thinking twice. Teenagers and early twenty-somethings are not the only people who do this. How many times have you downloaded an app, used it for 13 seconds, and thought to yourself, “well, this is terrible?”
There’s a general misconception that this mindset shouldn’t apply in the workplace. Many are of the opinion that, at work, “technology just is what it is.” But not Gen Z. Eager to perform and hungry for excellence, Gen Z wants technology to work for them, not the other way around.
At KSMC, we take an empathetic approach to technology—our own and our clients’. This means considering the real people that will use the technology. When you think about the end user and try to put yourself in his or her shoes, you realize the need for support beyond the implementation phase. Change is hard. But making organizational changes to modernize with the technology is important for a workforce that has true integration of technology with their life and work.
Empowerment to make a difference
A recent survey revealed that members of Gen Z believe the purpose of business is to "serve communities and society." They want to align with organizations that make a positive impact, or support social cause doing just that. However, authenticity is key. A corporate program that prescribes two days of community service each year to “check the box” won’t do it. Instead, empower employees to choose community causes that are important to them, and allow the use of company resources to support those causes.
In July 2019, KSMC hosted BraveCamp launched by Brave Initiatives from Chicago, a program in which 10 high school girls learned coding and problem-solving skills, for the second time. It wasn’t the leadership team that initially decided to support the initiative. Our employees took the lead in identifying BraveCamp as a cause they wanted to support with their time and resources. All we had to do was let them.
A clear growth path, but with flexibility
When my generation first entered the workforce, organizations would lay out what many would call a “typical” growth path. It was clear, but there was rarely any flexibility to pursue other avenues along the way. Members of Gen Z fear getting pigeonholed. They want flexibility in their growth paths, but with clarity. The best way for organizations to accomplish this is to be communicative with young employees about the directions they could go within the company. Max Brundige, a senior consultant at KSMC and 2015 college graduate, can perfectly articulate the Gen Z appetite for flexibility and variety.
“Every project I work on feels like a new ‘job,’ because it gives you exposure to new challenges and opportunities, minds, growth opportunities, and itches to scratch,” Brundige recently shared. “I can’t even think about going elsewhere merely because of the FOMO [‘fear of missing out’] on that next outstanding project and opportunity.”
The bottom line: Every future VP will start out in an entry-level position. What steps can you take now to make sure your organization is at the top of their list?