In a nutshell: Members of Gen Z, the successors to the millennials, have their own way of thinking and doing things. This has implications for how you run your business.

You may have finally gotten a handle on what it means to have millennials in the workforce, but now it’s time to turn your attention to the next age group: Generation Z.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Gen Z accounts for 25 percent of the population, with more entering the workforce every day. Learn about the characteristics of this up-and-coming group and what this demographic shift means for you as an employer.

Gen Z Defined

Born between 1996 and 2010, some members of Gen Z may still be in K-12, while others are in college or just graduating and entering the workforce. Experts say birth years defining generations typically overlap, but Gen Z follows the much-talked-about millennial generation. As described by Growing Leaders’ “Six Defining Characteristics of Generation Z,” this generation is cynical, private, entrepreneurial, hyperaware, technology-reliant and skilled at multitasking. Forbes’ “Get Ready for Generation Z,” adds culturally diverse and pragmatic to the list.

Among the most notable characteristics experts agree upon is Gen Z’s tech savviness. While millennials grew up in the age of the internet, Generation Z can’t even comprehend a world without it. Gen Z members are four times more likely than millennials to say the ideal age to get a smartphone is 13, while older generations say 18 years old, according to a study from the Center for Generational Kinetics, a firm specializing in generational research. And Generation Z reported the use of a phone is perfectly acceptable while eating dinner with the family, during a religious service, on a dinner date and even at their own wedding. Interestingly, Gen Z is 50 percent less likely to say it’s appropriate to talk, text or surf the web during work hours.

So, what does employing Gen Z mean for your workplace?

How Gen Z Works

While other generations may not understand why Gen Z spends so much time online, it’s not time wasted; they’re busy promoting their personal and professional reputation, according to Fast Company’s “What Is Generation Z, And What Does It Want?” But they’re aware of the reputation millennials have of being online addicts and find it important to be able to communicate clearly in person as well. Smart companies should expect to provide the training and tools necessary for members of Gen Z to better manage their brand.

Gen Zers tend to be independent, although that doesn’t  necessarily mean they will all be entrepreneurs. Companies who hire this generation should know that they’re eager to seek out information and learn on their own. According to a white paper published by marketing agency QNY titled “Generation Z: A Compendium of Reports and Views,” 52 percent use social media for homework assignments, 33 percent watch lessons online, 20 percent read textbooks on tablets and 32 percent work with classmates daily.

One of the ways to win top Gen Z talent may involve providing opportunities to continue their education and better themselves. In terms of career growth, helping this generation develop a personal improvement plan that puts financial stability front and center will have them signing on the dotted line. Because they grew up during a recession, many are risk-adverse and crave reliability. Participants in a study conducted by Altitude, a product design and innovation firm, stated they have greater interest in “less-automatable” fields, such as education, medicine and sales, according to a Fast Company article. They also want to have contingency plans for any unforeseen events. Companies who can market their entry-level positions as a starting point for a bright, profitable, lifelong career possibility will get attention from this generation.

So, now’s the time to get your company ready for what may be the largest generation of future employees. As with any new generation entering the workforce, listening to Gen Z’s wants and needs – which may differ from your own generation’s – may ensure you’re ready to make way for the impact on your organization.

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