3 Characteristics About Generation Z You Need to Know

gen z generation z young professionals Dec 03, 2021

Maybe you’ve heard the buzz around this new phrase “The Great Resignation.” It's this idea that especially post-pandemic, large numbers of people are leaving their current employment. And ironically, the group driving this exit from their current jobs is Generation Z, the youngest population and the newest to the workforce.

Generation Z are people born between 1996 and 2012. And as of 2022, Gen Z is the fastest growing generation in the workforce. As they’re coming of age, they’re looking for long term employment. Yet studies show that OVER HALF of Gen Z intend to leave their current employment and seek a new job in the next year. 59% of Gen Z are dissatisfied with their jobs.

Generation Z is unlike past generations.

While every generation of course has its uniqueness, Gen Z is more different from its predecessor than any generation before it. Its differences will impact the way you recruit, train, and lead people in your organization. Those who understand and accept these differences and learn to adapt will be the businesses that retain top young talent. They will be the ones who garner a reputation as an organization that young people want to work for. But those who neglect the uniqueness of Gen Z will be left behind. As you consider building an intern program or hiring young talent, here are three characteristics about Generation Z you need to know:

Characteristic 1: Generation Z wants value.

First, VALUE. All of us, no matter the age, want to feel valued. That is nothing new. However, Generation Z places an extremely high value on knowing that they matter. They want to know that what they're bringing to the table is adding value to the organization, and that they're not looked at as simply another cog in the machine. So, first when hiring, it's important to use language that communicates the value that their position is going to bring. Tell them how their role is vital to the success of the organization.

Communicate that they matter!

And once they’re a part of the team, it's important that supervisors continue to remind their young staff and interns how vital they are. 

They need to value their work as well.

Now, Generation Z also wants to know that the work they're doing is important. So if the only work they’re given is minutiae, they're going to feel dissatisfied with their jobs. On the other hand, we all know that there are menial tasks that still need to be done in every organization. So we recommend two things: First, remind young professionals of why this sometimes mundane work is also important to the success or failure of the organization. Articulate how backing up data or making copies or whatever- are essential tasks. But also, find other ways to engage young staff and the gifts they bring. Find tasks for them that require skill and creativity. They will work hard if they know there is good value behind it. 

Characteristic 2: Generation wants to do impactful work.

The Second unique characteristic about Gen Z is the high importance they put in causes greater than themselves. I have mentored young men and women in their early 20s for over a decade now. I have seen so many of them get their “dream job” post college, only to leave it in under a year. And the most common reason they tell me they left? They want to do something with more meaning.

Social causes matter greatly to this generation, and if you want to keep them around for the long term, they need to matter to you too. This doesn’t mean every young person needs to work for a non-profit. They just need to know that you as a business care about more than just the bottom line, and they need to understand the difference you are making in the community or in the world, and how they will be a part of that. Some of that again means you simply need to communicate this to them. Tell them how your business impacts the disadvantaged, or serves the community, or creates opportunities for others to succeed, or helps the environment.

Design an Empathy Project

And for those organizations who seek to have successful intern programs, at The Intern University, we teach businesses how to equip their interns to accomplish what we call an “Empathy Project”. This is a project that as a group, they complete over the course of their internship. It's a project that serves and benefits others outside of your organization. And it accomplishes two things: it gives your organization the opportunity to serve the community, and it communicates to your interns and young staff that you care about things beyond the four walls of your business.

Characteristic 3: Relationship with technology and social media.

The last characteristic is the relationship that young people have with technology and social media, and how it is critical to adapt with these in mind. While many of us remember what it was like to operate without smartphones, social media, and constant connectivity, Gen Z has never known a world without it. The Covid-19 Pandemic has obviously altered this even more. Their relationship with technology dramatically impacts how they communicate and how they work. Gen Z communicates almost exclusively with their phones.

So we highly recommend using available mobile technology to increase productivity. Explore using team communications apps like Slack or Google Chat to streamline communications. Place an emphasis on using social media to increase your public presence. And if you have no idea how to do these things, ask a young person! Have them help you; engage them where they're already experts.

Consider hybrid and remote work options.

Another way technology is impacting work habits for young people is the ability to have hybrid remote work models that allow them to connect in person, but also have freedom to work remotely. And while you might think that this will negatively impact productivity, 62% of Gen Z feel they do their best work outside of regular work hours. We know there are some jobs and industries where this isn’t possible, but adapting a hybrid model where and when it is possible will attract highly talented and motivated young people. 

Learning to work with Generation Z is essential.

Now, we have only scratched the surface, but we hope you have heard new information and have some practical applications on how to equip and engage Generation Z to be strong members on your team. Much of what you have heard may feel like significant paradigm shifts, but Generation Z will be entering into the workforce for the next 15 years. Top hires will work for where they feel is making the biggest impact while also meeting their needs. If you don’t adapt, you will miss out on the best young talent out there. 

If you would like to learn more on how to adapt some of these strategies and more as you seek to build an intern program, please contact us at theinternuniversity.com.