The Digital Economy and GenZ: Understanding a New Workforce17 min read

by | Jan 8, 2020 | Blog

It’s pretty clear that trying to understand a new generation of workers is pretty top of mind for everyone. This is partly why I got so many requests to do a follow up blog.

In our previous post, we discussed how GenZ already accounts for 61 million people in the U.S., a number that’s already larger than Generation X and two-thirds the size of the baby boomers. We also discussed how one of the biggest mistakes I saw earlier in my career was how some managers attempted to manage my generation in the same fashion that they were managed and pushed to grow.

The same note goes for those millennial managers who now have to hire and train the Generation Z workforce.

A New Voice of a Generation

Over the past couple of weeks, I had the chance to talk to some juniors, seniors, and even a few freshmen in college. Remarkably, many of them echoed similar concerns as well as perspectives around the emerging digital job market.

One of the most important points that was made was that the life experiences of GenZ candidates will really impact the kinds of jobs they go after, and what they feel is important. To that extent, many of them absolutely value success, the ability to grow and succeed, and they very much feel that professional as well as academic achievements are critical as well. However, when it comes to the topic of ‘academic’ achievements, I decided to probe a little further. Unlike previous generations which pretty much demanded a college education, academic success looks different to Generation Z.

First of all, many said that debt is a really scary concept and they’ve seen what it can do to millennials and others. This why being academically successful also translates to GenZ forgoing a traditional college education to go work for a company that provides college-like training. We mentioned this in a previous post, but 75% of GenZ say there are other ways of getting a good education than going to college. In fact, only 11% of GenZ’ers stated they’d take on debt to cover the costs of college or higher education.

So, what are the other options when it comes to academic success? A few in high school GenZ students mentioned alternatives like MissionU and UnCollege to help them get the specific courses they feel they need and to avoid massive student debt. Others have a really good understanding as to what they want to do and are ready to go after specific training programs, certifications, or even direct on-the-job training.

The Big Question…

As a millennial executive, I’m always looking for the best and brightest to join our team. However, I try to take a new approach to recruiting younger team members as I really understand that they do have a different value system. Let me give you an example. The millennial generation is often seen as ‘job-hoppers.’ That is, constantly looking for a better opportunity to grow and make more money. Don’t expect the same from Generation Z. A study done by Indeed.com actually shows that the younger workforce is much more interested in “future-proof” jobs and job stability. Remember, this generation, like many others, grew up around a lot of instability. Many were very young, but still remember 9/11. And, they did live through the Great Recession. For them, stability in jobs (mainly in value-based industries like healthcare, life sciences, and tech) is really important.

So, here’s the big question: How do I recruit and retain Generation Z workers?

Without a doubt, the most common answer I received was that it’s all about the experience. This is especially true for highly valued GenZ candidates. The experience they talked about when interviewing with a company starts at the candidacy level. A GenZ candidate will shy away from a company where they had a poor experience as a job applicant. So, slow processes, bad questions, HR and recruiters not understanding the value that the candidate can bring, can all impact whether this person actually now wants to work for you or not. Here’s another point, GenZ applicants will absolutely do their research. So, if you show up with some poor ratings on Glassdoor, for example, you might have issues recruiting good people. The big point is to ensure that you’re managing the brand of your company and that it’s seen in a positive light.

Another big point was made around diversity and inclusion. In a recent study, 77 percent of Generation Z said that a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there. Furthermore, 93 percent of Generation Z said that a company’s impact on society affects their decision to work there.

Diversity and inclusion initiatives carry a lot of benefits. First of all, the culture of an inclusive organization will absolutely attract GenZ talent. There are also business gains as well. A recent report from Deloitte stated that organizations with inclusive cultures are two times as likely to meet or exceed financial targets!

As the chair of the Millennial and GenZ community within the the iMasons Organization, I get the chance to speak with a lot of young people entering the market, as well as those that are well-established. In our conversations, I learned that ‘diversity and inclusion’ have a very specific meaning.

That is: “Diversity means being invited to the party; inclusion means being asked to dance.”

To many incoming workers, D&I are great ways to help improve the culture of an entire organization as well as recruit amazing talent.

Final Thoughts on a Bright Future

I’m really excited to work with the incoming Generation Z. I enjoy learning about their values, I appreciate their differences, and I’m really looking forward to getting them inspired to do great things in this world. To that extent, one more piece of advice came when we discussed learning and training Generation Z workers. As a generation that can pretty much look up anything on YouTube to learn how to do it, employers should take note and take similar approaches. Microlearning is a great way to meet GenZ expectations and preferences around training and learning. Aim for mini-bursts of content, 2 minutes in length, and not exceeding 15 minutes.

The very final piece of advice that I received from the group that I spoke with was pretty straightforward: “Don’t be afraid to talk to us and ask us what we need to be successful.” Remember, GenZ will actually be the first generation to strike a balance between digital and interpersonal communication. They’re eager to share ideas and even more eager to tell you how they can help and bring value. Your goal will be to empower them and give them the tools and platform they’ll need to be truly successful.

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Bill Kleyman, Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions, Switch

Bill Kleyman, Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions, Switch

Industry Analyst | Board Advisory Member | Writer/Blogger/Speaker | Executive | Millennial | Techie

Bill Kleyman brings more than 15 years of experience to his role as Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions at Switch. Using the latest innovations, such as AI, machine learning, data center design, DevOps, cloud and advanced technologies, Mr. Kleyman delivers solutions to customers that help them achieve their business goals and remain competitive in their market. An active member in the technology industry, he was ranked #16 globally in the Onalytica study that reviewed the top 100 most influential individuals in the cloud landscape; and #4 in another Onalytica study that reviewed the industry’s top Data Security Experts.

Mr. Kleyman enjoys writing, blogging and educating colleagues about everything related to technology. His published and referenced work can be found on WindowsITPro, Data Center Knowledge, InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, AFCOM, TechTarget, DarkReading, Forbes, CBS Interactive, Slashdot and more.

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