Per Oxford Economics, Generation Z workers are projected to grow to 51 million by 2030, representing nearly 30% of the workforce and collectively hauling in boatloads of annual net income to the tune of $2 trillion.
Considering that their current participation rate in the workforce is only 5%, employers are staring down the barrel of an explosive growth rate over the next 10 years.
It Would Be Imprudent To Underestimate Their Power
But how successfully they are integrated into the future of work is hardly a foregone conclusion. Born between 2001 and 2020, this segment of up-and-coming business leaders has faced the highest unemployment rate of all generations that preceded them.
Having grown up with the distraction of computers, connected phones, and video games, they are living in a virtual world that disconnects and shields them from the harsh realities of our high-performance, results-driven workplaces.
Short Attention Spans And Kinetic Personalities
They also tend to be fickle, magnetically attracted to the next shiny new object on the job boards before they’ve proven themselves in their previous positions.
A survey by Forage found that 40% of Gen Zers keep a side hustle to cope with the cost of living and combat boredom from the daily grind in corporate America.
They want to keep their options open because they have seen their parents abandoned by employers with no plan B, leaving them lost in the wake of their blind trust in big companies.
They Are On A Mission To Do God’s Work
Another factor is that they are scrambling to fulfill unmet emotional needs via independent projects that empower them to more freely express themselves and provide a higher sense of social purpose.
If the older generations struggling to recruit this fresh new crop of talent doesn’t step up to the challenge and shift their cultures in the next few years, they are likely to be marginalized by the companies that do.
In stark contrast to previous generations, leaders can’t just throw money at this engagement and retention problem, slapping golden handcuffs on Gen Zers to secure America’s future.
They demand autonomy and creative freedom backed by a supportive leadership team that showers them with recognition and opportunities to redefine their job descriptions as they grow.
The Experts Are Out Of Their Depth
Despite an abundance of theories, assumptions, and largely uneducated guesses from pundits, consultants, authors, and glib speakers, cracking the code to the soul of Gen Z is no cakewalk.
Just being a parent to one of them is tough enough and frequently underscores how little most of us understand about their complex personal and professional motivations.
They are the most diverse generation in the history of American demographics research, embodying the broadest swath of race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender identity ever documented.
Executives and managers who are charged with leading them to do the best work of their career, need to take a hard look in the mirror about their biases, prejudices, and personal preferences.
This generation came out of the womb wielding smartphones and ubiquitous broadband internet connectivity. They are impatient with older leaders who are trying to keep up with them using outdated methods, technologies, and traditional mindsets.
They will leave employers that preclude them from using artificial intelligence and other tools that deliver instant access to information or police their social media, interfering with their desire to express themselves.
This Isn’t Your Father’s Workforce
Managing Gen Z successfully calls for a paradigm shift away from command and control management styles to new ways of learning, collaborating, and communicating.
They are keenly aware of the problems they have inherited from previous generations and are passionately driven to reverse the damage.
They refuse to work for managers who lack empathy about their personal and professional development, brushing aside their socially conscious missions and values as “soft skills” that don’t impact the bottom line.
The only effective way to manage Gen Z employees is to understand their emotional needs, deep-seated motivations, and disruptive perspectives.
They deserve a new generation of senior leaders who realize that their companies will be left behind if they fail to adapt and evolve. The future of our workforce depends on it.
SWOT Report is now Business Intelligence Weekly. The creator and journalist behind the digital publication, Andrew Ellenberg, is President & Managing Partner of Rise Integrated, an innovative studio that creates, produces, and distributes original multimedia content across digital touchpoints. To submit story ideas or ask about custom multimedia publishing, call 816-506-1257, email [email protected], or read more of his work in Forbes. To learn about his company check out this profile story.