Successful Selling: Incorporating Generation Z into the workforce - October 2022

By Sandy Smith

Currently, there are four distinct generations in the American workplace. These generations were raised in different eras, with attitudes and values shaped by different defining moments. Being aware of the characteristics of each generation is critical to having a cohesive, productive workforce. What works with one generation may not be effective with another.

• Baby Boomers: Accounting for 25% of the current workforce, this generation was born between 1946 and 1964 (58 to 76 years old). They are hardworking and willing to take risks to reach their goals. They are skilled mentors and coaches, which allows them to teach younger generations. However, for a variety of reasons, 10,000 Boomers are retiring each day.

• Generation X: This is an independent generation born between 1965 and 1980 (42 to 57 years old) that takes pride in producing business results. They value a more relaxed and flexible workplace and strive for work-life balance. Gen Xers constitute 33% of the workplace today.

• Millennials/Generation Y: Born between 1981 and 1996 (26 to 41 years old), this is the first generation to grow up in the age of significant, almost constant technological advancement. Today they constitute 35% of the workforce. They are results-oriented and may help older generations integrate new technology in the workplace. They expect their work to be meaningful and to be able to balance work and other aspects of their lives to achieve happiness.

• Generation Z/Digital Natives: This generation was born between 1997 and 2012 (10 to 25 years old). In 2021, they accounted for the balance of the workforce and are expected to constitute 27% by 2025. They are even more tech savvy than Millennials and value something different from their predecessors-namely, job security. Growing up, the older Gen Zers watched their Millennial siblings drown in student-loan debt and struggle to find work during the recession. Now, they are just beginning to enter the workplace as interns or in entry-level positions.

Generation Z workers are shaping up to be the most diverse group ever to enter the U.S. workforce. In fact, 48% will be non-Caucasian. The world wide web became Gen Z’s playground, and they have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones.

Today’s business and human resource leaders need to start thinking about how to attract and retain these talented young employees. A recent survey showed that 87% of U.S. CEOs say that finding and keeping talented employees is their number one issue.

During the last couple of years, I have had the opportunity to work with high-energy Gen Zers in my seminars and workshops. I usually come away from these meetings a bit drained. It’s like spending a couple of hours with a room full of “gifted kids.”

When I have asked them what they want from their employer:
• 80% expected the use of their company’s digital tools;
• 72% expected to work in an innovative culture;
• 62% wanted to achieve the reputation of a digital leader.

Certainly, day-to-day current events continue to shape this generation, but we already have some insights. Generally, they possess a high IQ and a broad vocabulary, and they grasp complex concepts easily and may be impatient with those who don’t. They are high energy and get bored easily. At times, they are easily frustrated because they perceive their own work to be less than perfect. They know their employment is much in demand, and they are well connected. Gen Zers have little interest in titles or working their way up the corporate ladder. They expect access to senior leaders and prefer to work independently rather than in groups.

North Carolina State University produced a motto that characterizes Generation Zers: “Work to live, not live to work.” They want a workplace that is community-minded, not just a place to earn a paycheck.

The most successful organizations hiring Generation Z employees have a three-step process in place to identify, assess and develop the next generation of leaders and managers. And they have a set of core values that clarify who they are, why they exist and who they hire.

We know that sales organizations, which includes almost every business entity in one way or another, are having to evolve because customers have become much more knowledgeable. They gather information online, including customers’ ratings and reviews. In addition, advances in communication technology-including cellphones, streaming options and social media platforms-are presenting huge opportunities for some organizations and major obstacles for others. This is an environment that Gen Zers innately understand and, if given the option to do so, can help plot effective and innovative ways forward.

When interviewing Gen Zers and interacting with them, they are sure to:
• Be transparent and empathetic;
• Clarify their primary role and responsibilities;
• Offer flexibility, perhaps including work schedules;
• Provide feedback on a daily basis and ask them for their feedback;
• Recognize and celebrate their successes;
• Provide opportunities for advancement.

One very interesting observation about Gen Zers that may be worth some thought is that they might be more like their grandparents than their parents.

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