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Generation Z: Shaping Our Next Workforce

Move over Generation Y, here comes Generation Z.

Some say that Gen Z is 21 years old, born after 1996. Others will argue that the oldest Gen Z is born in 2005.  Either way, Gen Z is our future workforce.  If you are a parent of the younger Gen Z, you can play a critical role in developing the behaviors of future employees.

According to Caelainn Barr, in her article, “Who are Generation Z? The latest data on today’s teens,” Generation Z is “connected yet isolated, savvy but anxious, indulged yet stressed.”    We are often asked in our generations class, From Boomers to Generation Z: Managing the Needs of a Diverse Workforce, “What can I do as a parent to influence the type of employee my child will be?”

Three strategies to prepare Generation Z for tomorrow’s workforce

The #1 factor in shaping a generation is how children are raised.  Therefore, parents have a significant impact on the type of employees children will grow up to be.

Here are three strategies people can intentionally reinforce today so that Generation Z will be prepared to contribute to tomorrow’s workforce.

Generation Z Strategy #1: Build Grit

Generation Z Shaping Our Workforce - TH!NK Training - Build Grit

Encourage perseverance and persistence with younger Gen Z

Generation Z has always had the technology available to them.  Gen Z learned to navigate a tablet or phone before they could even walk.  Toys quickly responded with blinking lights and sound.

Today, videos and online gaming raise adrenaline levels and keep minds engaged for hours.  As a result,  Gen Z senses are stimulated so much that they crave constant excitement.

Recently, a group of 12-year boys talked about quitting their boy scout troop. The meetings were boring.  Subsequently, they did not see how charades, kickball, and cooking would be helpful. When asked what they would rather be doing, they replied, “playing video games.”  Suddently, it dawned on me; if something was not exciting, it had little value.

Work Tip:

Work is not always interesting.  It can be tedious and requires perseverance to perform.  In a quest to understand why some people work harder and longer than others, Angela Lee Duckworth, of the University of Pennsylvania, discovered that “Grit” is the number one predictor of success.

In her TedTalk Grit:  The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela notes grit and self-control are the two attributes that are distinct from IQ and yet powerfully predict success and well-being.  It was the common thread of successful students, billionaires, entrepreneurs, CEOS, celebrities, leaders, etc.

How can grit be cultivated in our youngsters today so that we will see it show up when they enter the workforce as adults?  How do we challenge our youth to think beyond their initial reaction of discomfort or boredom?

In the boy scouts’ scenario, one boy said, “Charades is boring. How are charades useful for scouts?” The parent leader challenged the kids by asking “What are the benefits of playing charades?” After talking for a few minutes, the scout realized that playing charades was a way for the scouts to make friends and have fun together.   Furthermore, the parent leader went on to explain that as scouts, they would need strong relationships and teamwork to survive in the wilderness and get things done.

Generation Z Strategy #2: More Face-to-Face Interactions

Generation Z Shaping Our Workforce - TH!NK Training - Interactions

Develop Gen Z with more in-person interactions

Emily Cherry, head of participation at the NSPCC, reports that “what we’re seeing is a generation of children who are expressing much more clearly that they are just generally so unhappy with themselves and the situations around them.” Much of this is due to the online world and being connected to social media 24/7.

The challenge of social media

For example, when kids see their friends at parties that they haven’t been invited to or compare themselves to others from online photos in social media, it leads to low self-esteem and low self-worth.

Interestingly, it may seem like social media increases connections between people, but the opposite can easily be argued when social media leads to increased feelings of isolation.

Isn’t that ironic that Gen Z can be highly connected to the world but have fewer close relationships?  I may have 2000 Facebook friends, but how many of those people do I really know or trust?

Virtual connections do not replace the in-person experience of connecting. They don’t give people a chance to fully interact with the same interpersonal benefits.  Bonds build when people laugh, debate, talk, or even are just quiet together. Face-to-face interactions develop necessary skills that help people thrive in work teams with their peers, their customers, and in all parts of the organization.

Work Tip: 

Increase face-to-face interactions with people, no matter how old they are.  With children, pull out the family board games. With family, carve out an internet-free zone. Have dinner at the table with no devices and get ready for the fun conversations that emerge!

With your teens, watch a favorite YouTube video of the day and then build conversation around the video (after they put the phone away).  The key is to balance technology with experiences that are real; filled with real emotions, real conversations, and real people.

Generation Z Strategy #3: Get a Job at 16

Generation Z Shaping Our Workforce - TH!NK Training - Get a Job

Part-time jobs teach valuable skills that can’t be mastered in the classroom

We know that Generation Y got a late start working compared to the generations that preceded them. Gen Y spent much of their time in school earning degrees and honing skills conceptually.  They consider their time in school as valuable work experience.  Many Generation Zers will follow the same path as Generation Y but start work even later.

Work Tip:

Getting an earlier start in the workforce has its upsides.

Gen Z earn quicker respect from the older generations at work.  Baby Boomers and Gen X do not count time in school as work experience.  Part-time jobs or volunteer work can help Gen Z better understand the dynamics of a workplace.   Anything outside the home without mom or dad will build confidence, independence, self-initiative, and people-skills.

Start as early as possible in jobs that are fun and age appropriate. For example, fast-food counter help, junior referees, movie theater ushers, tutors, farm work, yard work, animal shelter volunteers, provide a great place to start.  When someone starts working at a young age, employers give more patience to develop basic work skills such as timeliness, attendance, teamwork, and interpersonal skills.  Companies are less likely to tolerate poor work habits from a 23-year old out of college who “should know better.”

Generation Z has arrived

Organizations have learned valuable lessons trying to understand and adapt to Gen Y.  With hindsight as a teacher, we can learn from the past.  We can start to develop the work ethics and work habits we want to see in our future Gen Z workforce.

You don’t have to be a parent of a Gen Z to have an impact. Everyone can be intentional to influence the behaviors we want to see.  What can I do today to impact our workforce for tomorrow?  Leave a comment below and let us know your ideas on how to cultivate the grit, interactions and work experience of Generation Z.

1 Comment

  1. Tracy Gniewek on September 29, 2017 at 9:32 am

    Very insightful read! As we prepare for the arrival for the new Generaztion Z workforce, it is valuable to understand their perspective to better engage them in work. Also some great tips about how parents and mentors can support their development to drive success.

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