You’ve heard it before: Generation Z will be different. The generation admires YouTube celebrities who’ve acquired fame and fortune through monetizing their channels and entrepreneurs who’ve made a good living from one big idea. Gen Zers have grown up in a time when technology is a tool instead of a toy and when peers — not elders — are their mentors.
But the Great Recession hit during their childhood, giving them a lived experience of loss and struggle that echoes the Silent Generation more than their recent generational predecessors. Consequently, though Millennials may prioritize personal endeavors over professional ones, Gen Z is likely to value the security of a steady income over the feeling of giving back to the world.
For business leaders, this means hiring Gen Z will require an approach different from any taken before. Because the members of Gen Z aren’t worried about “freedom” so much as financial security, they won’t all want to be CEOs — even though they’re primed to be the most entrepreneurially minded generation yet. Instead, they’ll find value in contributing to the organization through intrapreneurship, or innovation that creates value within the company’s larger structure.
Why not just have a ‘normal’ job?
Gen Zers are familiar with making their own luck. They’ve monetized video content, they’ve used technology to find gig work, and they’ve probably already started some sort of side hustle. They value creativity and excel at leveraging creative components into something marketable. Members of this generation want stable employment and job security, but they also want to be their own bosses.
A Gallup study of Gen Zers found that nearly 80 percent of students want to eventually be their own bosses, while a Millennial Branding report found that more than half of college students are eager to start their own businesses — a number that’s even higher among high school students.
Entrepreneurship enables Gen Zers to forge a path for themselves, rather than being swept up in the current of the external world. It is a way for them to pioneer the future they want to see. So what does all this mean for business leaders and startups who want to be ready to onboard this large demographic? It means appealing to their unique abilities and interests early on by creating more intrapreneurial opportunities in your business.
Generation Z’s creativity, dedication, innovation, and skills will be in high demand in the business world. What will attract these covetable employees to your business? Opportunities to practice their entrepreneurial desires in a safe and supported environment, plus room for growth and progression with reward within the organization they feel they’ve contributed to.
Companies can offer Gen Z entrepreneurs a number of assets within the company that they can’t find on their own, including opportunities to work closely with and learn from experienced leaders. Entrepreneurship can be really lonely, but being part of a business that surrounds employees with supportive managers and intrapreneurial opportunities has value.
How do you create an ‘intrapreneurial’ company?
One big plus to intrapreneurship for Gen Zers is the ability to be an entrepreneur without the risks involved in failing. Any leader who pours money into startup risks it failing and the loss of that investment. For risk-averse Gen Zers, this is a dicey proposition, so offering them the opportunity to innovate from within a business without that risk of personal loss is immensely attractive to them.
Tech companies, in particular, should make space for Gen Zers who’ve grown up enmeshed with the concept of gaming, gamification, and learning through games. Whether it’s through internships or other leadership avenues, empowering this generation puts companies in the best position to bring them on as future employees. Here’s how to make it happen:
1. Embrace them. Older generations sometimes struggle with understanding and connecting with their younger counterparts. It’s important not to assume that your existing employees, managers, and leaders share the same mindset regarding the value of Gen Z workers.
Getting everyone on board with you may take some serious work, but it’s truly essential for your business in years to come. Working with your current employees and getting them excited about what unique skills Gen Z offers can help them understand and become more accepting. Tech leaders should have some familiarity with Gen Zers, such as what tools they like (or don’t like) and how best to relate to them. Focusing on those factors builds a bridge for Gen Zers and shows them that your company is a place they want to flourish in.
2. Choose your coaches carefully. Be deliberate in which managers and leaders you position to work with Gen Z employees. Coaching a Gen Z worker is impossible if you’re not willing to get down into the creative stream with them and go with their flow.
You have to build a team of employees who are ready — and willing — to do that before you can successfully shift your company’s way of doing things to best utilize the Gen Z workforce. If you are unsure whether you’re ready, you might consider creating an internship that will allow your employees and Gen Z interns to learn how to work with each other in a more comfortable, low-risk environment.
3. Don’t generalize. It’s important that you look at each person, entrepreneur, each member of Gen Z, as an individual. Though they may share some characteristics, each member of any generation is unique.
When you are working with a Gen Z employee, learn his or her strengths and weaknesses. Then, do what any good coach would: Develop ways to amplify those strengths and work on those weaknesses while enabling them to see that they determine their own paths.
4. Hand them the reins. As we know, Gen Z workers want jobs that are challenging, meaningful, and engaging. If you can offer them that, there’s a high chance you’ll receive long-term commitment from them. They also want to be better employees and are often aware of what areas they need to improve.
Almost half of new graduates express the desire to develop better problem-solving skills and grow as managers. If they’re offered an experienced coach or team to give them feedback and help them grow in those areas, your outcome is likely to be excellent. Put them in charge of a project, and hold them accountable to deadlines, benchmarks, and incentives. Ownership gives Gen Zers — or any employee — a visual of what lies ahead. If they like what they see, you might’ve just earned a quality employee.
5. Reorganize the furniture. This generation is amazing, but you’ll have to do some really important things to be ready for them. You have to reorganize the furniture — not literal furniture, of course, but the “furniture” of your business, because you have new “furniture” coming in.
You have to reevaluate your business model and your brand story. Get familiar with that narrative and tell it to potential employees, and you’ll draw exactly the right people to your team. Tech companies might be selling high-concept gadgets and wears, but those solutions usually stem from some kind of need. Weave the gap your company filled into your company’s story in order to give employees power and purpose to stay on and pursue their own opportunities.
If you are a leader in a tech field — which is every field these days — you need to know that this generation is redefining the world and its tech solutions. If you’re not embracing Gen Z, you are missing an incredible opportunity. If you are embracing Gen Z but not leveraging its talent, you won’t enjoy the benefits of working with these incredible young hires.
You need to walk alongside your Gen Z workers and watch, notice, listen, and hear their heartbeats (or “hear their rhythm in the workplace and our society”) because it will affect the entire world. Data is telling us that it already is, and they’ve only just begun.