By Sara MacQueen, Big Fish
This may come as a shock - Millennials are no longer the new kids at work. The oldest members of Generation Z (Gen Z) were born in the mid-1990s, meaning there are now significant numbers of Gen Z workers who are:
- High school graduates
- College graduates
- Post-graduate degree recipients
The moniker Generation Z emerged in 2012 when a USA Today article1 discussed the race to find the right name for them. In addition to Generation Z, strong contenders in the name game included iGeneration, Gen Tech, Digital Natives and Next Gen.
Notice that all of the alternative names strongly imply a connection between the new generation and technology. That’s because Generation Z is the first fully digital generation.
How Gen Z’s Are Different
According to generations expert Ryan Jenkins2, the generation gap at work is growing. Gen Z is a disruptive force in recruiting, training and management, beginning with how they look for a job.
In order of preference, Gen Z job seekers use the following platforms when learning more about a job:
- YouTube (72 percent of Gen Z’s visit YouTube every day)
Whereas many Gen Xers and Millennials begin their employer research by reading about companies on an employment website like Glassdoor, today’s young generation goes right to video on YouTube. Looking to hire Gen Z candidates? Better get your YouTube channel showing them why they want to work for you.
Other ways Gen Z’s are different from Millennials include:
- More independent, self-directed and entrepreneurial
- Prefer managers who are Millennials, as opposed to Boomers or Generation Xers
- Want more frequent manager feedback, including face-to-face
- Expect to join a diverse workforce in terms of education, skill levels and ethnicity/culture
- Less focused on culture and more on salary
- Shorter attention spans, but better ability to multi-task
- Prefer cool things over cool experiences
- 40 percent identify as being “addicted” to their devices (25 percent more than Millennials)
While previous generations have embraced technology as a means to getting things done, Gen Z’s rely on technology in virtually every aspect of their lives.
They learn online, play online, read online, bank online and socialize online. Staring at a screen may seem like their natural state.
As reported by ZDNet, talent acquisition platform Yello learned in a 2019 recruiting study3 of 700 full-time employees and students, 46 percent of Gen Z candidates have applied for a job on a mobile device. That compares to 38 percent of employed Millennials and 26 percent of Gen X who have done so.
More than 25 percent of Gen Z respondents said that a lack of use of technology in the hiring process would eliminate a prospective employer from consideration.
The demand for technology doesn’t end once the job has been accepted. When these digital natives enter the workforce, they want and expect a job that will allow them to work in the same way they’ve lived their lives — facing a screen.
The evolution of workplace technology is a constant. Now, it needs to evolve to accommodate the way Gen Z’s are already using technology.
Mobile Apps For The App Generation
A mix of mass-market and custom mobile apps lift workplace productivity and help bridge gaps between different generations of co-workers. They also create a communications system that includes workers who do not sit in front of a computer all day.
Mass-market mobile apps can connect your employees with:
- Video phone meetings
- Calendar scheduling
- Social intranet
- Employee directory with profiles
- Team collaboration
Most of these apps can be used on a computer or mobile device, so workers with both options can choose how they want to use the app.
Custom mobile apps are tailored to address specific business problems, improving workflows and making workers more efficient. They improve business processes and customer satisfaction.
For the Gen Z worker specifically, mobile apps make work more agreeable by:
- Simplifying tasks
- Eliminating redundancies
- Reducing paperwork
- Connecting teammates
- Enabling face-to-face communication
- Making them feel more productive (because they are)
- Seeing their employer as moving forward into the future, not stuck in the past
- More closely resembling technology behaviors learned and used throughout life
- Giving them a cool tool to work with
What’s great about this list is that every item on it is a plus for any forward-thinking business. Gen Z workers aren’t just wanting stuff that makes them feel better, they are envisioning and shaping the future— and bringing it with them.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Or No?
This question does not come with a one-size-fits-all answer.
Today, just about every worker has a smartphone, so it’s easy to ask them to use it for the apps they need at work. But first there are questions that need to be addressed.
- If the workers’ phones are accessing the company’s network, do they represent a security risk?
- How will employees feel about using their mobile phone plans (and data limits) for work?
- Do they share their personal phone or tablet with other members of their household?
- How much more will it cost to have all mobile apps work on both Android and iOS devices?
The alternative to BYOD is to provide devices (smartphone or tablet) for every employee. That way there is less of a security risk. Plus, apps only need to work on one operating system. The drawback is that the company needs to buy a device for every employee.
Each business needs to come up with their own answer for this one.
Embrace The Future
Like workers of all generations, Millennials get singled out from those who came before them. In 2017 they made up 38 percent of the workforce, making them the single highest cohort at work, and that’s about to change.
Today, there are 61 million Gen Z’s already in or poised to enter the workforce4. A workforce cohort that large — with its own set of work preferences and habits — is bound to shake up the status quo in business operations. Let’s make it a priority to learn from our Gen Z co-workers. We’re very likely to improve our business technology and profitability in the process!
About The Author
MacQueen is the Founder and President of Big Fish, a custom software development company in Tampa, Florida that specializes in mobile applications. She has a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science, was named one of "25 Mobile Women to Watch" by a national magazine and has been interviewed by local and national media for her expertise in mobile technology and business.
1 USA Today, After Gen X, Millennials, what should next generation be?
2 Inc., How Generation Z Will Transform the Future Workplace
3 ZDNet, Gen Z wants a top-notch tech stack before they will apply for a job
4 CNBC, 61 million Gen Zers are about to enter the US workforce and radically change it forever