Technology in Human Resource Management | By Ally Orlandos — Photo by CAL Poly Pomona

It was like yesterday when we just discussed the expectations of Millennials and what can be done in responding to their needs. Today's update is about Gen Z, also known as "post-Millennials" or "iGen," the generation that will soon surpass the Millennials in 2019.

Who are the Gen Zers?

Some define Gen Z as those who were born after 1996 (age 21 or younger as of 2018) while others consider Gen Z are those who were born after 2000 (17 or younger as of 2018). Using the cutoff line of 2000/2001, Gen Zers will comprise 32 percent of the world population, but the Millennials only account for 31.5 percent. Gen Zers deserve our attention because:

  • They are very influential. Over 70 percent have the power to influence their family spending.
  • Grown up from the Great Recession, they are less likely to take risks. For example, teenagers of this generation are less likely to have tasted alcohol or had sex as compared to the previous generations of the same age.
  • They prioritize wealth and material goods, things representing extrinsic values over intrinsic values, such as relationships and community feeling.
  • They "naturally" want to create their own solutions when facing an issue but the Millennials look to others for answers, including the companies they do business with.
  • Financial security is important to Gen Z. 82 percent of today's freshmen in college prioritize "becoming well off," whereas only 36 percent of their grandparents said so in 1970.
  • They are not too interested in starting up a new business for financial security reasons, probably also because they are less likely to take risks.
  • They are less willing to take on student loans.
  • They understand the diversity of race as they went to school with a diverse group of students. More Gen Zers classify themselves as "others" or "mixed" than other generations. They are more open minded for different perspectives.
  • They are more adaptable to changes and able to keep up with the technologies.
  • They are comfortable in learning things online, especially on videos; 66 percent of Gen Zers find how-to information on YouTube.

Gen Zers as consumers: What business is at risk because of them?

According to a prediction by Bloomberg, the list includes:

  • Shopping malls: Not only Gen Zers have never lived in a non-digital life, but 93 percent also prefer to shop without the help of a salesperson. On top of that, clothing expenses in the U.S. household spending dropped from 6.2 percent in 1977 to today's 3.1 percent.
  • Print magazines: while more people across generations are getting used to reading news and finding information online, teens who grew up in the digital age rely even less on printed materials.
  • Football: Participation in high school football dropped about 3.5 percent from the 2011-12 to the 2016-17 season. Besides new legislation to bar tackle program before high school, close to 150 boy's high school tackle-football programs has stopped running in the last five years.
  • Cash: American teens only use cash for six percent of their transactions. Payment apps, such as Google Pay and Apple Wallet, are experiencing continuous growth.

Gen Zers as consumers: What opportunities are there for hotels and restaurant retails?

Risks are often associated with opportunities. I see the following opportunities:

Gen Zers as prospective employees: What do they want in a job or career?

As Gen Z is different from the previous generations, their expectations may or may not align with other generations, especially the Millennials:

  • They appreciate such "traditional" work benefits as health care and tuition reimbursement and show less interest in a workplace with sleeping pods or Ping-Pong tables.
  • They want to feel safe at work.
  • They are more optimistic, of which 50 percent of the college students being surveyed believe in the American dream, and 52 percent believe they would live a better life than their parents.
  • They rely less on face-to-face communications/meetings but are good at utilizing technologies to communicate or discuss issues and even some important topics.
  • They want their employers to show a continuous commitment to a good cause, but not just a one-time effort.
  • They also want the company's purpose to align with their personal purpose.
  • They want to be heard and empowered.
  • They want continuous feedback, even if the feedback was communicated on social media.
  • They want flexibility at work, which could mean a schedule that is different from a 9-to-5 one.

Gen Zers as prospective employees: How can business attract and recruit this generation?

With what they want in mind, companies must adjust their recruitment strategies in attracting the top talents in Gen Z. For example,

  • Companies must establish a strong employment brand on the internet. That could mean companies should go beyond a LinkedIn page or a Facebook page; they must maintain a positive image as an ideal employer across different online communities.
  • Companies must highlight the purpose and the mission of their business as they communicate with the stakeholders.
  • Companies may consider offering structured internship programs to college students.
  • Companies must show genuine interest in the candidates and are willing to work with them in developing a personalized career plan.

Gen Zers as prospective employees: How can business retain them at work?

Getting the Gen Z into the door is one thing; keeping them engaged is another. I recommend companies to consider the following tactics:

  • To prioritize work safety in the companies.
  • To consider redesigning the tasks performed at work, allowing more flexibility in scheduling and even work responsibilities.
  • To reassess the benefit packages. It is critical to tie employees' compensations directly with their performance. A raise solely based on seniority, even with a collective bargaining contract does not work.
  • To enrich their experience with cross-organization exposure (e.g., working temporarily with a new team on a special project).
  • To provide relevant training opportunities; it is also important to offer Gen Z multiple options to access the training materials, such as utilization of mobile apps and on-demand services.
  • To coach (but not necessarily teach) Gen Z how to perform at work.
  • To consider implementing a new social media policy, giving employees more freedom to express themselves in an open environment.

The bottom line is Gen Zers are human beings too. It might seem they are different from the previous generations, but many of the tactics listed above may also appeal to the older generations as well. Would you agree? Are you ready to welcome Gen Z in both your business (as employees) and the workplace (as employees)?

Linchi Kwok
Professor at The Collins College of Hospitality Management, Cal Poly Pomona
CAL Poly Pomona