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Grow Your Business Your Team

Employers: Don't Treat Gen Z like Millennials

Employers: Don't Treat Gen Z like Millennials
Credit: Krasimira Nevenova/Shutterstock

Does your company have a handle on the influx of millennials who have joined the staff in the last few years? If it doesn't, you might want to figure it out soon: The next generation is already on its way up.

According to a July survey by staffing company Robert Half and Enactus, a student-focused nonprofit that encourages entrepreneurship, Generation Z will make up 20 percent of the total workforce by 2020. This survey defined Gen Z as individuals born between 1990 and 1999, and while this does overlap with some age ranges for millennials (typically defined as those born between the early '80s and the early '90s), employers should still prepare for a group with slightly different attitudes than the Gen Yers they've been focusing on.

"Gen Z employees bring unique values, expectations and perspectives to their jobs," Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half, said in a statement. "They've grown up in economically turbulent times, and many of their characteristics and motivations reflect that."

Unlike the stereotypical "entitled" millennial, Generation Z members know they'll need to work for the career they want — 77 percent believe they'll need to work harder than older generations to have a fulfilling professional life, and the majority (83 percent) doubt that retirement by age 60 is possible. This generation also seems to be backing away from the job-hopping precedent set by millennials, as survey respondents expect to work for an average of four companies throughout their lifetimes. [Tackling the Challenges of the Multigenerational Workforce]

When it comes to their jobs, just 3 percent considered an impressive job title a priority. Instead, Gen Z would rather have opportunities for career growth (64 percent), an honest boss (38 percent) and the ability to mentor someone (21 percent). That's not to say they lack ambition, though: Nearly a third believe they'll be managing employees in a corporate environment within the next five years.

Although work-life balance is Gen Z's top career concern, its members won't necessarily demand to work from home to achieve it. Face-to-face communication is preferred by 74 percent of respondents, so being in the office — a private one, not one with an open floor plan, said 45 percent — is important to this generation. Most of them would also prefer to work for midsize or large organization, with just 14 percent citing a startup as their ideal work environment.

Bev Graham, vice president of Enactus USA programs, said that Gen Z has a lot of potential in the future workforce, but they'll need the support of their employers to help them succeed in the world outside the classroom.

"This group of professionals has grown up with technology available to them around-the-clock and is accustomed to constant learning," Graham said. "Companies with a solid understanding of this generation's values and preferences will be well-prepared to create work environments that attract a new generation of employees and maximize their potential."

This survey was based on the responses of 770 individuals classified as members of Generation Z. You can download the accompanying Robert Half/Enactus infographics and white paper here.

Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.