Skip to main content

Better off Zed than dead

By 4 February 2013No Comments
Last time I heard ‘Zed’s Dead, baby’ was from Mr Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, but this year represents a first for all companies. It is an exciting new year for recruitment of ‘noobs’ into your business because this is the year that the first of the 18-year-old Generation Zs (‘Zders’) enter the workforce and no doubt your organisation will be looking at key ways to engage them so your business is not ‘dead to Zeds’.Generation Z is the demographic of adolescents and children aged between 3 and 17 years in Australia. It is estimated there are approximately 4.6 million of them, and that number is growing — in fact there were 300,000 new Australians born last year. This is the generation of ‘digital integration’. Digital integrators integrate technology into all aspects of their lives from relationships to work. McCrindle (2011) reported ‘that more than half of young Australians do not wear a wrist watch as their smartphone is their primary device for telling time and everything else’.
So how do we ‘digital transactors’ (which is what we call older generations who are using technology in a structured, procedural and task-focused way) engage this new generation?
The following areas are some keys to engaging and connecting with Generation Z.

Multi-tasking examples include ‘updating their Facebook status, texting, downloading whilst watching TV’. This demonstrates Generation Z’s proficiency to do many things at the same time.
The opportunity for organisations is to provide complex business projects that incorporate multi-tasking (and multi-media). On the other hand, proficiency in multi-tasking can lead to an inability to focus on a single task for a long period of time. Companies should monitor for both tendencies.
Multi-tasking does promote the ability to adapt to change quickly and willingly. Organisations should ensure the training they provide incorporates experienced-based learning, mentoring and learner-adaptive, engagement-focused and interactive environments, moving away from a content-based focus. This is the way Australian students have been educated over the last 10 years and new workforce entrants will respond to workplace training which has these attributes.
360° feedback

The way in which organisations provide feedback to Gen Z will need to mirror the constant feedback they have received in their lifetime from all significant others. Organisations should also provide ongoing regular feedback to their employees —which is a move away from more structured reviews.
Profiling and fluidity

Zders’ individual ‘profiles’ are extremely important and they network avidly and invest considerable time with social groups. The sense of their own individual brand, desire to belong and fluidity to move between groups should be considered in relation to teamwork and specific business projects. Your organisation may encourage individuals to develop their own profile for the purpose of specific projects according to your needs but once a project is completed, encourage flexibility and fluidity so energies and networks may be reformed elsewhere.
Work–life balance

The need for leadership that incorporates work–life balance is required to manage Zders. Providing non-financial benefits such as working from home and flexible working hours may aid retention of your Zder staff. Such benefits also may be the key to engagement because these new Zders are as yet unlikely to have the crippling financial burdens of their elders through mortgages and loans, due to the difficulty of entering the home market.
Innovation and creativity

Zders have an active imagination, most obviously demonstrated by the success of MMOs (‘massively multiplayer online’ games) such as World of Warcraft. They are used to imagining a virtual world, but are also aware of the latest trends through social networking. As a result, they are innovative and have the ability to process information quickly which allows them to work on complex projects at great speed. Their awareness of societal trends and ethics can assist organisations in meeting their customer needs because Zders are intrinsically connected to the social scene.

Zders are accepting of diversity in the workforce and even expect it due to globalisation and greater understanding of equal opportunity legislation. Due to their global connectivity, they accept this is the way of doing business.
For example, when Blizzard Entertainment’s massively popular online game StarCraft added international server connectivity, it also improved connectivity for South Korean Zders by providing a social networking opportunity for South Korea to the world and alike. Siitonen (2007) has noted that these types of social networks may also lead to key business network connections for your keen Zder employees.
A further indication of diversity by McCrindle (2012) found that while nearly all the generations had the same amount of close friends (an average of 13), Generations Y and Z had almost twice as many Facebook friends than the older generations. And so, the network that influences them is greater numerically, geographically and, being technology based, is connected 24/7.
Environmental awareness

Zders will be looking for a values-driven approach to doing business with a focus on the environment, while maintaining profit for your organisation. Commercially and environmentally savvy, they understand sustainability and profitability and the balance between both.
These are just some of the areas for engaging Zders entering your workforce this year. The challenge for all is to effectively provide guidance, mentoring, and wisdom, coupled with adaptability to not only our changing economic and Z work environment but also to ensure businesses are not dead to the innovation and creativity these Gen Z Australians can bring.
For further information contact Michael Love, senior consultant WHS & HR Consulting Services, Australian Business Consulting and Solutions
Addor ML (2012) Generation Z: What is the Future of Stakeholder Engagement, NC State University, North Carolina, viewed 20 January 2012.
Blizzard, media release, viewed 20 January 2012.
Department of Education Queensland (2012) Generation Z and the education revolution, viewed 20 January 2013.
Judy (2011) Generation Z Kids and the Corporate Disconnect, webblogpost, viewed 20 January 2013.
McCrindle, M (2011) Word Up: A Lexicon and Guide to Communication in the 21st Century, Halstead Press, ACT.
McCrindle, M (2012) How to Speak Gen Z — The McCrindle Blog, webblogpost, viewed 20 January 2013.
Siitonen, M (2007) How Does Online Gaming Affect Social Interactions? Science Daily, University of Jyvaeskylae.
Williams, D (2012) Getting ready for Generation Z, websiteblog, viewed 20 January 2013.

Purnima Kabra