Your accounting firm is in a good place. You’ve finally figured out how to manage millennials, and now, you have three (or more!) generations working together in relative harmony.
But don’t get too comfortable, because another generation is starting to emerge. Generation Z, also known as post-millennials, the iGeneration, founders, plurals, or the home generation, is starting to make its presence known in the workforce.
Who is Gen Z and how can you manage them effectively? Let’s find out.
Who Is Generation Z?
The Pew Research Center defines Gen Zers as those born from 1997 onward, which means the oldest are about 21 and will soon enter the workforce. This group accounts for over a quarter of the entire U.S. population (about 28%) and contributes $44 billion to the American economy.
Generation Z grew up in a post-9/11 world with a shaky economic environment. They watched their millennial siblings struggle despite making traditionally accepted decisions like getting a college education. And they are witnessing changing social norms, including shifting gender roles and the legalization of same sex marriage.
All this has led to a generation who has been described as mature, self-directed, and resourceful.
So, how do you manage this new group of young minds? Let’s dive in.
Encourage Their Entrepreneurial Spirit
According to a study from Accounting Principles, Generation Z is 55% more likely to start a business and hire others than their millennial counterparts. What’s more, 72% of Gen Z high school students say they want to become an entrepreneur someday.
But don’t let Gen Z’s entrepreneurial spirit scare you. Instead, work with it. Rather than just giving them tasks, involve them in a project directly related to your firm’s success. They’ll enjoy seeing the evolution of an idea from inception to tangible impact.
Communicate in Person
Though Gen Z was born into a society where cellphones, tablets, and high-speed internet were ubiquitous, most prefer to communicate face-to-face. In fact, according to a study by Millennial Branding, 53% prefer in-person communication over tools like instant messaging and video conferencing.
So, be prepared for regular in-person discussions with this group of employees. They crave genuine conversations and connections with senior employees and want the opportunity to receive feedback and support.
Provide a Career Development Path
According to a Robert Half survey, opportunity for growth is the number one thing Gen Zers look for when searching for work. Plus, over one-third of Generation Z expects to be in a management role just five years after graduating college.
To embrace this ambition, it’s important to provide your Gen Z employees with a clear progression path. And, if you’re a small firm with a flatter structure, provide professional development and training to give them opportunities for growth within their current role.
Offer Financial Security
Generation Z witnessed the Great Recession, where family members and neighbors lost their jobs, homes, and savings during the financial and mortgage crisis. Plus, with the cost of higher education continuing to skyrocket, nearly half of Gen Zers are worried about accruing student loan debt. All this has led to Generation Z valuing money and security more than any other working generation.
If you want top Gen Z talent at your firm, evaluate your company’s salaries and wages with tools like Glassdoor to ensure you’re paying employees at or above market value. You could also develop incentive programs that reward employees with gift cards and give performance-based pay raises.
A study by Wikia revealed that nearly half of Generation Z spends almost every waking hour online. Additionally, 76% of Gen Zers believe technology helps them reach their goals, and 66% say technology makes them feel like anything is possible. It makes sense—this generation has never known life without the internet, technology, and social media. They are true digital natives.
Generation Z will likely have little patience with firms that aren’t up to speed on the latest technology. Your firm should place a priority on investing in intuitive, easy-to-use, and mobile technology, not only to streamline operations, but to ensure your Generation Z employees can be fully engaged and productive. Just be sure to provide ample training to ensure you aren’t alienating the less tech-savvy generations at your firm.
Provide Private Work Space
Ever since millennials entered the workforce, open offices and work spaces have been on the rise. But Gen Zers don’t work well in collaborative environments. They prefer private spaces where they can work independently and without distractions.
To accommodate all working styles, it’s best to provide a mixture of work environments. Create designated spaces for quiet, focused work and collaborative co-working sessions. And when it comes to recruiting Generation Z specifically, it’s best to tout private offices rather than teamwork and constant collaboration.
The Generation to Watch
Generation Z is still very young. Though preliminary research offers great insights into how this group might behave in the workplace, it’s still very early to be drawing concrete conclusions.
It’s important for managers to stay up-to-date on Generation Z research. But the best managers will be the ones who, above all, consistently listen to, and solicit feedback from, their employees.