No two generations are the same. The attitudes, passions, strengths and weaknesses of each generation are molded by the world around them. Political influence, economic factors and technological change all converge and produce a new set of individuals who see the world in a way that generations before them never have.
Forward-thinking organizations acknowledge this. They know that this will ultimately impact the way they work and, as such, they adapt their company’s processes to recruit and get the most out of younger generations.
Right now, millennials are the focus of most organizations, but there is a new generation just around the corner, ready to take the corporate world by storm. This is, of course, Generation Z, who will constitute a fifth of the workforce by 2021. Famously, Generation Z is the first to grow up completely immersed in technology. They are accustomed to abundant, free information and instant, real-time feedback.
If you anticipate hiring members of Generation Z, it will be important to know their talents, adapt your performance management processes and engage young talent. Here are a few trends to keep in mind as Generation Z enters the workforce.
The relationship between manager and employee will be more important than ever
Generation Z will have a serious impact on the relationship between manager and employee. Sources agree that as a generation, they have high expectations and are unlikely to remain with a company if managers are aloof and detached. Companies have already begun eliminating yearly performance reviews and replacing them with more regular feedback sessions. This is a great sign for Generation Z, who have grown up in an age where advice and feedback are easily requested and readily given. To keep their generation satisfied and motivated, managers will need to be constantly available.
Generation Z isn’t fragile. They desire feedback regardless of whether or not it is good; they only ask that it is constructive and instructive. According to one source, 52% of Gen Z and Millennials believe honesty to be the most important quality in a leader, which means that managers will have to be specific with their feedback. Generation Z is also extremely project-oriented and efficient, as long as they know what is expected of them and how they are performing. For this reason, it is likely that weekly feedback sessions will become the norm. During this time, Gen Z employees and their managers should discuss current performance and any relevant issues, as well as both short-term and long-term goals.
Managers will have to be less hands-on
Though managerial input is important for Generation Z, as a whole, they are generally self-reliant. They work best with an element of personal freedom and don’t wish to be micromanaged. For this reason, managers will have to act more as a coach than a strict authoritarian. Managers will get the most out of their Generation Z team members if they simply give instructions, then take a step back and allow them to achieve that goal without constant supervision. On-demand feedback and check-ins will help to keep performance on-track, but hovering over shoulders will only result in frustration and disengagement.
Work-life integration will become more common
Everyone knows the concept of work-life balance, but this is quickly becoming an outmoded concept. This is due in no short part to the prevalence of technology and the ease of communication. We no longer work traditional 9-5 hours — 24% of employees check work emails during their private time and one in three employees check their work emails every single day while on vacation. Similarly, we want to keep in touch and utilize social media at work. This is particularly true of Generation Z, who are regularly referred to as ‘digital natives’. They have never existed in a world without mobile phones and computers and for this reason, they don’t understand why there should be such a division between play and work.
Moving forward, it is likely that rather than having a solid barrier between work and home life, they will be integrated. Traditional office hours may fall by the wayside and, to compensate, there will be a higher emphasis placed on the achievement of goals. We are already seeing examples of this, with companies such as Netflix and Virgin, who have introduced the idea of ‘unlimited time off’. Staff can take off as many vacation days as they like and the time isn’t tracked, but managers keep strong tabs on whether objectives are being met on time and to standard. Policies such as this require higher amounts of trust from the company and an equal amount of responsibility from the employee.
Organizations will need a clear route of progression
For Generation Z, career progression is a critical aspect of performance management. They are generally known for their entrepreneurial spirits; they’re driven and want to succeed. They also place a huge emphasis on personal growth. This means that rather than trying to attract them with the promise of money, a larger focus will likely be placed on a clear path to leadership; this is the only way companies will have any hope of retaining determined, ambitious workers of the new generation.
The good news is, Generation Z are prepared to work for it. In fact, over 75% of them expect to have to work harder than previous generations to achieve career satisfaction. Performance management systems of the future will need to emphasize ways by which employees can diversify and take on new responsibilities, which will do far more to motivate them than a simple yearly bonus.
Generation Z want to know they’re making a difference
In a very significant way, work will play a large part in the average identity of a Gen Z individual. They don’t just want a job that pays the bills; they want to know they are making a difference. They are more interested in following their passions than making money and, if they don’t feel they are having an impact at their company, they are likely to leave for a company that will appreciate them.
If Generation Z is to function well in an office environment, organizations will need to ensure that they don’t feel like an anonymous, superfluous element. Good organizations will make efforts to show Generation Z employees that they’re part of something big, and that they’re an integral aspect that keeps it moving. For this reason, managers will be more likely to have contextual conversations with them regarding goals, and how individual goals align with overall corporate objectives. This will give them a chance to see how important they are in the scheme of things, which will help to keep them engaged — and ultimately, help your business
About the Author:
Stuart Hearn has twenty years of experience in the HR sector. He co-founded plusHR, a leading UK HR consultancy, and previously worked as International HR Director for Sony Music Publishing. Stuart is currently CEO of Clear Review, an innovative performance management software system.