Now that the oldest Millennials are approaching middle age, it’s time to focus on a different generation of entry-level employees. Gen Z, the cohort born between 1997 and 2016, is just beginning to enter the workforce. (For thoughts on the pitfalls of generational labels, you might like this post.)
Tribe began looking at future Gen Z employees in 2010, interviewing a collection of tweens and their parents. Our sample group was only 20 kids from ages 8-15, but they had some interesting things to say about how they expected to impact the world.
For starters, they were way ahead of Greta Thunberg. They talked about how they would need to rectify the problems their parents had caused. One said, “I think we have learned from our parents and we won’t make the same mistakes.” Another warned that “If we keep going on this path for the next 50-100 years it could be really bad.”
Ready with solutions
Even in middle school, this group of Gen Z kids already saw themselves as capable of leading the way to solve world issues. The interviews took place not long after the BP oil spell in the Gulf of Mexico. One respondent, who was 10 at the time, said “I have already made one solution that we could use for the oil spill. I just heard it and thought that I could do something about it cause it’s not getting better. I thought what could absorb oil. I made it out of salts and some minerals and most of the ingredients that are in kitty litter. Then I sent it to BP.”
Gen Z job employees will likely be attracted to companies where they’re able to have an impact from the beginning, rather than working in the background. Cultures driven by innovation, where ideas from are welcomed from any employee, may give Gen Z employees that freedom to contribute immediately. Their contributions could also be meaningful to the business.
These kids, in contrast to Millennials, have never existed in a world without the internet. Even in 2010, they seemed to view technology as the way to get things done. “Technology will make it much easier to solve problems,” said one respondent. “Environmental issues should be able to be solved. Then you can focus on other stuff, like world hunger.”
Many Gen Z employees will be attracted to jobs in technology, but they also seem to assume technology is part of any job, because it’s always been a part of their everyday lives.
Gen Z is the most diverse generation in the U.S., and they have had more exposure growing up to people around the world, thanks to the internet. Some of these kids were playing video games with kids from other countries, learning firsthand about time zones when some players had to break for supper when it was mid-morning for other players. When asked about social interactions, one of our Gen Z respondents said, “I like to Skype with my friends in China.” Perhaps because of their relationships with people in other countries, these kids seemed to think they’d approach global issues differently. “A little less aggressively than our parents, I think,” said one.
Gen Z employees might bring to their future jobs a greater capability for collaboration with colleagues in other countries, and certainly a comfort level with communicating and building professional relationships in ways that don’t require face-to-face interaction.
Gen Z jobs
What sort of positions will Gen Z employees be looking for? When asked what they want to do be when they grow up, most of this group’s answers sounded a lot like the generations before them, with astronaut, teacher and football player all getting mentions. Also, lawyer, scientist, architect, interior designer, artist, songwriter, inventor, programmer and entrepreneur.
Like any generation, Gen Z employees will bring a range of interests, abilities and passions to the workplace. It’s time to start thinking about how we’ll recruit and retain this young talent.
Interested in engaging your first wave of Gen Z employees? Tribe can help.