Generation Z: More Turnover, Higher Ethics Expectations

I was reading an article on Generation Z, those born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, and two things jumped at me: They won’t stay with companies as long as previous generations and they expect employers to be highly ethical.

The first thought I had was: Where do they get all their energy? I usually stay as long as possible with the companies I work for because looking for, and starting, new jobs is exhausting. A former colleague told me she knew it was time to leave what seemed like a plum job once “the pain of staying outweighed the stress of leaving.” So is the assumption about Generation Zers is that they have a low threshold for the pain of staying or a high threshold for the stress of leaving? Or is it that they won’t find leaving a job stressful because many will live with their parents well into their twenties, and when your parents are paying your bills, leaving a job isn’t so stressful?

Whatever the rationale behind the greater mobility of Generation Z, it’s something trainers and Human Resources executives will need to prepare for. There will need to be greater cross-training, for one thing, so when one employee leaves, another can seamlessly take over the departing one’s tasks. Over the last five years, we’ve had a revolving door of entry-level marketing assistants at my company. No sooner did one start than he or she suddenly would disappear. These employees were either very young Millennials or older Generation Z members. The solution the head of our marketing department came up with was to start hiring older employees. One of the last employees she hired is in her fifties. She also hired a Generation Z employee over the last year, and has gotten lucky so far in keeping that employee, but I wonder whether, just to be safe, many companies will start giving preferential treatment to older applicants. If you start finding that your Generation Z employees are leaving after less than a year on the job, how many of the same age group will you try before giving up and trying another age group? 

Since companies eventually will have no choice but to hire Generation Z, one idea is to transition more positions to temporary status. Why bother recruiting a permanent, full-time employee if most of them in a particular position leave in less than a year? If you notice a pattern in one of your job roles of people not staying long—maybe even leaving after as little as six months—it might be a sign the position is better suited to temporary status. Of course, it also could be a sign of toxic management/a bad boss, but that’s another topic. 

Or is it another topic? I wonder whether Generation Z’s tendency of not staying long has to do with less tolerance for behaviors that older generations would overlook. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve been disillusioned in the workplace. I’m not shocked when I hear of a company I work for doing something I disapprove of, or treating myself or a colleague badly. It’s par for the course, unfortunately. But if I were a wide-eyed, idealistic Generation Zer, I might try to flee the first time my sensibilities were offended. 

With the digital world offering the ability to customize and personalize nearly everything, young people, digital natives, are used to having things exactly the way they want them. They didn’t grow up in the one-size-fits-all world that Generation X and Baby Boomers grew up in. The idea that they would have to silently endure a job experience that doesn’t seem exactly right would be anathema to them. For trainers and Human Resources departments, that means a need for highly personalized development plans. I can almost envision a system in which each employee gets his or her own HR employee to work with, similar to how each high school student is assigned a specific guidance counselor. 

In addition to sitting down with managers once a year, or more, for a performance review, the employees of the future would meet one-on-one at least once a year with their HR counselor. Their conversations with the HR counselor would be confidential, so they could unload their grief about their job without repercussions. The counselor then would be tasked with working with the employee to find solutions to his or her challenges and perhaps, with the employee’s permission, bringing in managers to help problem solve.

Generation Z will expect a work experience that’s perfect for them—with minimal suffering—and won’t hesitate to leave if it’s anything less than that. Are you ready to give it to them?

What is your company doing to prepare for Generation Z? What changes or enhancements to the way you develop employees are you planning?


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