7 tips to manage Gen Z employees
Gen Z will soon dominate the workforce and retailers will need distinctly different management tools and styles to get the most from these workers.
Editor’s note: The following is a guest post from Salina Wuttke, senior director of marketing, North America at Deputy, a workforce management solution provider in Atlanta and Sydney, Australia.
The hourly workforce employs 78 million total hourly workers which constitutes 60 percent of the total workforce, according to a 2016 report by workforce management company Snagajob. One workforce segment that will soon surpass millennials in size is Generation Z (born 1995 and later). Gen Z is 25 percent of the U.S. population and by 2020, 30 million Gen Z members will be part of the workforce.
This large cohort is rapidly changing the demographic of the hourly workforce, and businesses need to accommodate their workplaces and managerial styles to meet the expectations of these Gen Z workers for better employee engagement and retention.
1. Make your jobs less gig and more career-focused.
With the gig economy on the rise (freelance, gigging, contract work) and employees averaging only three years per job, businesses must transform roles to be seen as a career path rather than a short term stint as it costs far more to lose employees than to retain them.
Gen Z values training and development in a job, so be sure to provide ongoing training and plenty of advancement opportunities. Many businesses offer their employees tuition assistance programs or sponsor professional certifications, such as restaurants offering sommelier certifications or hotels offering hospitality trainer certifications. This will encourage employees to stay at your business longer while developing skillsets to do their jobs better, resulting in higher success for the business.
2. Make your roles entrepreneurial.
In a recent multi-generational survey by Monster.com, 76% of Gen Z is highly entrepreneurial and nearly half are interested in starting their own company. If a business creates a culture of entrepreneurship and treats each employee as owners of their own smaller business within the larger organization, as discussed in The Oz Principle, employees will be more engaged in moving the needle.
Another way to motivate entrepreneurial employees is to give them a stake in the game. According to Forbes’ Brian Solomon, leading grocery retailer "Publix has thrived by delivering top-rated service to its shoppers by turning thousands of its cashiers, baggers, butchers, and bakers into the company’s largest collective shareholders."
3. Give your business a higher purpose.
Gen Z tends to be the most global-minded generation in the workforce. Roughly 60% want their jobs to impact the world and prefer working for companies that have a strong sense of purpose, according to a study by Mashable — businesses that focus on contributing to society rather than just growing profits.
This is a great opportunity to consider ways to position a business for the greater good. Create a cause and movement that’s related to your business (e.g. what Patagonia is doing to preserve the environment). There’s also a shared value in addressing this higher purpose as it also results in economic value. In the book Corporate Culture And Performance, a decade-long study reported that purpose-driven companies outperform their counterparts in stock price by a factor of 12.
Your company’s purpose will then become the foundation for everything else, including cementing core values and employee loyalty. And here’s one more benefit: Gen Z ranks a "boss they can respect" as one of their top three must haves for their job. By leading a business with a higher purpose, this respect will be earned.
4. Give them constant feedback, and make it fast.
The annual performance review is dying, as Gen Z prefers frequent performance conversations with their managers. Because this generation has been communicating their whole lives with email, texting, tweeting and now Snapchat, they expect constant and immediate communication. According to a Future Workplace report, Gen Z now gets performance reviews daily (19%), weekly (24%) or regularly (23%), instead of annually (3%).
Gen Z also prefers their communication delivered in quick sound bites rather than formal, lengthy meetings — one report by Statistic Brain found this generation has an eight second attention span. But don’t assume they can’t get their jobs done, quite the contrary. This group has "highly evolved eight-second filters," according to the report, and has adapted to sorting through large amounts of data with a sharp focus to quickly solve the business problem at hand.
Many businesses are using apps for faster and more frequent conversations, allowing managers to rate and track workers’ performance in real time. This also helps these instant gratification types get the feedback they need to quickly course correct.
Lastly, don’t forget about recognition. Gen Z thrives in environments that offer opportunities for recognition based on hard work and performance. Not only does it make them feel that their work and performance is valued, but it increases their productivity and motivation.
5. Provide financial security.
Gen Z were witnesses to the bubble bursting decade of 2000, where family members and neighbors lost their jobs, homes and savings during the financial and mortgage crisis. Even more, with increasing college tuition costs, nearly half of Gen Zers are worried about student loan debt. This results in Gen Z valuing money and security more than any other working generation. They also rank having a competitive salary as a top reason for working at a job. These hard-workers are even willing to relocate or work nights and weekends for more money.
These values can work in your business’s favor as you can increase productivity while achieving the business results you desire. Evaluate your company's salaries and wages with tools like Glassdoor or PayScale to make sure you are paying employees at or above their average market value so they are not lost to a competitor with a better offer. Additionally, create new programs that incentivize top performers with gift cards and give pay raises with merit increases based on revenue-driving performance.
6. Give them the perks they really want.
Many businesses think offering their employee benefits and perks like ping pong tables and free meals will guarantee higher employee engagement and retention, but Gen Z is looking for something more. In the same multi-generational survey, Gen Z placed the highest importance on health insurance and workplace flexibility, as they are looking for security and a better work-life balance.
For more flexibility, consider using an employee scheduling software that will give them the hours they prefer to work while ensuring shifts are covered. Moreover, offer paid time off that allows employees to take a class that will help them develop their skillset and address their higher purpose needs.
Before taking the time to improve your health insurance coverage, be sure to survey to your employees to understand what benefits are most important to them so you don’t waste time and money on a package too robust.
7. Provide them with the technologies they need to be more productive.
Gen Zers are true digital natives as they have never known life without the internet, technology and social media. Some 46% of Gen Z report they are online over 10 hours a day and use an average of five screens daily, including desktops, laptops, smartphones, TVs and iPads. This younger generation prefers a technology-infused workplace as they believe technology enables them to be more productive. What’s more, Gen Z sees mobility and smartphones as essential in the workplace.