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The Greatest Myth about Generation Z

Human Resources
Article
02/20/2019

There's been a lot of attention recently about the next group of employees who are just entering the workforce. They’re called Generation Z and the group is generally defined as those being born between 1995 and 2005. This generation (which includes my three kids) is estimated to include about 65 million people and over the next five to ten years will grow in numbers and influence, both as consumers and employees.

For now, most of the research about this generation has been focused on how to market to them. But a growing number of studies are also beginning to shed some light for employers that are beginning to draw upon the talents of this new generational workforce.

For example, one study done by Vision Critical, a customer service consulting and technology firm, found that 65 percent of Generation Z employees think salary is more important than other benefits and that a smaller percentage of this group (38 percent) favored work-life balance over getting ahead, as compared to their millennial counterparts (48 percent). Another study, conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics found that members of Generation Z are smarter with their money and have a conservative view of debt. A full two-thirds of this group studied by research firms Barna and The Impact 360 Institute said that finishing their education and starting a career are the two most important things to them, a figure well ahead of millennials.

Of course, technology, transparency, social responsibility, and diversity also remain high priorities among the Generation Z population as they evaluate potential employers in the future. But it would appear that this generation is all business when it comes to their finances and careers. So, how does that impact both yours and my ability to hire them? And keep them?

Regardless of all the research, the answer is still the same as it’s been for decades. In fact, the greatest myth about this new pool of workers is believing that they’re that much different from all the workers before. This generation will continue to desire the things that good employees desire from an employer.

One of these things is a need for a safe, comfortable, and friendly workspace. People want to enjoy coming to work. They want to work with people that they like. They don't want to be too cold or too warm. They get hungry during the day and would like a place to take short breaks. They want to go somewhere to work that is as comparable to their homes as possible, without it being too personal. They don't want to be treated unfairly or unkindly by others. This is not a Generation Z thing. This is an every-generation thing.

People of all generations also want to feel like they're moving forward professionally. They want to understand their goals and objectives. They want to believe in what they're doing. Most like to be challenged with new things. They want to work in a place where their opinions are respected and their contributions are rewarded. They want regular feedback, evaluations, comments, and open communication with their bosses. They want to work for a company that will give them the opportunity to grow, progress, and advance.

Finally, most people, regardless of their generation, want to work at a place that makes them proud. A company that, in its own small way, is making the world a better place. An organization that has a mission and is led by executives who are hard-working, honest, and admirable. They want to feel like they're part of something special and that their contribution is making a difference. There are plenty of jobs out there. But the best workers of any age will gravitate towards those jobs at companies that they can tell their friends and family about.

Does any of this come as a surprise? Of course it shouldn't. Companies can spend lots of time and resources researching and comparing Generation Z to the generations before it. But in the end, people are still people, and a job is still a job. What will best attract and retain these future employees to your company won't be any different than what has worked since the industrial revolution: being the best at what you do.

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Gene Marks is a business owner, small business expert, author, speaker, CPA, and columnist for The Washington Post.

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