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Who is Generation Z, the next workforce pool?

As Gen Z makes its mark in the labor force, forward-thinking companies will create workplace strategies to accommodate and support both generations’ work styles and preferences.

Q1 2019
Brian Corde, a managing partner at Atlas Insight, spoke with Area Development about Generation Z, and its impact on the workforce, following his “Not Another Millennial Presentation!” presentation at our Miami Consultants Forum. Interview conducted by Margy Sweeney, Founder and CEO, Akrete, Inc. and Area Development Editorial Board member.
Millennials have long been the scapegoat for younger generations’ less desirable characteristics. With not-always-founded perceptions that millennials are unmotivated and self-centered, hiring managers across various fields have had plenty to consider when recruiting young workers. However, the era of the just-out-of-college millennial is over.

Enter Generation Z. With the oldest Gen Zers born in 1997, the first wave of this generation will graduate from college this year and officially enter the workforce. They may share some characteristics with millennials, but they’re in a class all their own. Gen Z currently makes up 20 percent of the U.S. population and they’re rounding out at 32 percent globally.

Generation Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse workforce generation to date, and they spend the most time online of any generation—six to nine hours daily. Gen Zers’ parents’ lives were rocked by the 2008 recession, so these young workers crave financial stability and take fewer risks than millennials. Their parents also avoided “helicopter parenting,” so Gen Zers are also generally more independent than millennials. They are more educated than millennials, too, as high school dropout rates decrease, and college enrollment rates increase. So how will Gen Z fare in the future of work? I think the biggest component to corporate real estate decisions going forward is going to be flexibility. Even in the manufacturing environment, we're going to need to see factories that have the quick ability to change over. Brian Corde, Managing Partner, Atlas Insight

The tech connection
Gen Zers have grown up with the latest technology constantly at their fingertips. Their familiarity with technology is probably the strongest the workforce has ever had. As the internet of things, artificial intelligence and virtual reality technology transform many tasks and roles for employees, the level of tech understanding required for certain jobs will increase. The future of work will require employees who are able to work seamlessly with these new innovations in technology—and Gen Zers are the most equipped to handle it. Many will fill jobs that don’t even exist yet.

Gen Zers are accustomed to intuitive movement of swiping, opening and closing apps, and performing multiple tasks at once on a single screen. This ability that once seemed irrelevant to a productive work setting will soon prove to be invaluable.

How can you attract Gen Z?
One consideration is that Gen Zers want financial stability and are risk-averse than millennials. While Gen Zers may not have felt the impact of 9/11 and the subsequent recession to the extent that millennials did, their parents were greatly affected by economic uncertainty. And Gen Zers themselves, along with their parents, directly bore the impacts of the Great Recession that began in 2008.

Gen Zers were raised in an environment of financial caution and economic anxiety. These circumstances have served as a kind of motivation for Gen Zers’ financial aspirations. To become financially stable, they are more willing to work overtime and less likely to assume student loans.

Businesses that hope to attract and retain young incoming talent will have to navigate their workplace preferences and work styles. Gen Zers strive for work-life balance. Their view is that the pursuit of financial stability is important, but should not come at too steep a cost. To ensure that the “life” half of that balance is met, companies are locating near urban areas to appease the social appetites of Gen Z.

Additionally, they’re less likely to have a driver’s license than other generations and thus don’t have the ability to drive an hour to and from work every day. A convenient workplace with nearby public transit can make or break a Gen Zer’s ability to take a position.

Tech-enabled offices will soon become make-it-or-break-it aspects for younger talent. Their desire for efficiency and productivity can be streamlined and enhanced by smart elevator banks, apps to book conference rooms, or seat maps and heat sensors that show where open desks are in the office.

Mind the age gap
Millennials are obviously not going anywhere any time soon—but they won’t be the only young talent in the market for much longer. As Gen Z makes its mark in the labor force, forward-thinking companies will create workplace strategies to accommodate and support both generations’ work styles and preferences.

Editor’s note: Area Development’s December Miami Consultants Forum featured a presentation on Generation Z by Brian Corde, a managing partner at Atlas Insight. The preceding were some key topics from Corde’s presentation and subsequent interview with Area Development as compiled by Jennifer Harris, Area Development contributor, Akrete, Inc.

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