Article written by:
Sarah Evans, CPA
You’ve heard the discussion about how to adapt your workforce to the Millennial Generation more times than you can count. Millennials (born 1981-1995) have been in the workforce for over a decade now and the conversation has become outdated. While companies were (and still are) distracted about how to close the workforce gap between Generation X (born 1965-1981) and the Millennials, they have failed to acknowledge that Generation Z (born 1996-2010) is now starting to enter the workforce. Many people and companies associate all young professionals with the Millennial Generation; however, while similarities exist between the Millennials and Generation Z, there are prominent differences. According to AICPA, Generation Z will represent one-third of the U.S. population and one-fifth of the workforce by 2021. In order to prepare for the workforce of Generation Z, you must first understand who they are, their shaping experiences and what they value.
Generation Z is those born between 1996 and 2010. At the young age of 23, they are just graduating college and entering the workforce – shaping the future of companies and organizations. They are the children of Generation X and grew up in times that shaped our development more than other generations may understand. The older end of Generation Z’s first economic and world events consist of September 11th, the ensuing War on Terror, the Great Recession, the first African American President, along with the rise of social justice movements. However, what makes Generation Z stand out from their millennial counterparts is the fact that their development was rooted in technology, the internet and a more connected world.
Generation Z does not remember a world without high-speed internet, Google or smartphones heavily impacting the way they communicate and research. With all this power and connectivity at our fingertips on demand, their attention span tends to be shorter than previous generations. Growing up with these distractions have given them the ability to multitask and process information at a faster rate. Generation Z sees technology as a critical tool in the workforce, and employers who recognize that and invest in this catalyst will get the most out of this generation.
To help prepare for the newest generation in today’s workforce, it is important for companies and organizations to focus on three broad categories:
- Workplace demographics
- Professional development
The times in which Generation Z grew up continue to influence their values. Due to the diverse social environment and continuing social justice momentum, Generation Z values diversity more than any generation before. They value worldly experience and want to work in an environment that teaches and challenges our thoughts and beliefs. With the world at their fingertips, they are more curious as they have the ability to research and obtain information whenever and wherever desired. However, with the increase in technology, they are more concerned with data security and privacy. Their fast pace mentality has resulted in our generation placing value in mentorships and direct communication, both of which allow them to plan ahead and be more aware of our future and job security. The Great Recession has impacted their concerns with job potential and has also resulted in a new generation of frugal spenders who would rather obtain experience than material items.
Generation Z is a goal-oriented generation that values the ability to grow both professionally and personally. They wish to work in an environment that challenges their thoughts and beliefs, but also understands their ability to work with technology. However, a company must first be aware that they also need the reassurance of data security. It is time for companies and organizations to prepare for Generation Z – the new generation that has the potential to change the business environment as we know it.