With millennial employees well and truly integrated into today’s workforce, all employer eyes are now on generation Z. The world’s youngest generation are graduating and entering our offices, and by 2020, they’ll make up 20% of the working age population in Australia. So companies that are preparing for gen Z today will be the ones successful in attracting and retaining this generation’s top talent.

But who is generation Z and what can organisations expect from them?

Who is gen Z?

Although the start and end points vary between countries, in Australia, generation Z typically refers to people born between January 1995 and December 2002. Generation Z are the largest generation ever: they make up 20% of Australia’s total population and globally, there are more than 2 billion gen Zers.

The oldest in this generation are turning 24 this year, which means they’re finishing up university and entering the labour force in Australia. Meanwhile, the youngest will finish up high school in the next few years.

What can employers expect from this generation?

Millennials tend to get a bad rap from hiring managers and the press but the same isn’t true for generation Z.

According to Pew Research, one of the key generation Z characteristics is their driven nature. Gen Z are the most success-oriented generation out there, ranking professional and academic achievement as the most important value to them. A survey by Deloitte found that 57% of gen Z respondents said earning a high salary was one of their top ambitions, and 52% want to make a positive impact on society. What’s more, after growing up during major global recessions and tumultuous governments, gen Z are looking for future-proof jobs and long-term stability over instant gratification.

Despite their drive for personal achievement, gen Z aren’t as concerned with traditional tertiary education as their predecessors. Three quarters of gen Z believe there are alternative ways to get a good education, such as enrolling in online courses or learning on the job. Gen Z are also 100% digital natives, with a significant majority interested in positions within the tech space.

When it comes to choosing an employer, 77% of gen Z say that a company’s diversity and inclusion policy would affect their decision to work there. They’re also interested in a more fluid organisation, with three quarters saying they’d be interested in a position where they could switch between functions in a company.

What does this mean for employers?

These generation Z characteristics and values may be welcome news for employers, however, it requires a shift in company hiring and retention strategies, in comparison to their millennial counterparts:

  • Employers should see higher retention rates for talent, but need to offer clear career progression plans to demonstrate long-term potential as well as lateral and upwards mobility within the organisation.
  • The qualifications of the labour market in Australia will change. Hiring managers need to be prepared to screen resumes for junior positions based on more than higher education, and offer ongoing professional development opportunities.
  • Businesses that are in the tech space or that harness technology will see a greater influx of talent for ICT roles.
  • Offering a competitive salary, advocating a strong inclusion policy and having CSR initiatives are essential to recruit and retain the best gen Z employees.

Benefits of hiring generation Z employees

  • They’re tech-savvy. As a generation that grew up with smartphones as the norm, technology has shaped everything in gen Z’s lives. Because of this, they can find new opportunities to use technology to improve processes, and reach more customers online.
  • Success is a driving factor. Gen Z are focused and determined, and want to get ahead in the business world. Given the right opportunities and environment to succeed, gen Z employees will be a committed and hard-working asset to your organisation for years to come.
  • Multi-tasking is second nature to them. With so much going on around them, gen Z are highly skilled at juggling multiple sources of information. This generation is able to handle distractions with ease, meaning they can easily switch between different projects or functions.
  • They’re resourceful. Growing up in the age of Google searches, gen Z are self-reliant and accustomed to finding whatever they need using the means at their disposal. Gen Z don’t need to be micromanaged — they’ll go out there and seek an answer themselves, or present creative solutions to some of your biggest business challenges.
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