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Say Hello to Generation Z, Part I

Say Hello to Generation Z, Part I

With 61 million members—the oldest of which turn 23 years old in 2020—Generation Z’s impact on the workforce could surpass that of any other generation in history.


With its oldest members turning 23 this year, Generation Z (aka, the post-millennial generation) will flood the workforce seeking new opportunities and ways to make a difference in the world. Whether your electrical distributorship benefits from this influx will depend largely on whether it’s ready for it.

You see, Gen Z is like no other generation. Numbering about 61 million and born in 1997 or later, they’re digital natives for whom technology is ingrained in their lives to the point that it’s nearly invisible to them. They don’t know what it’s like to live in a world without social networking; they saw their families heavily impacted by the Great Recession; and they’re more environmentally-conscious than previous generations.

These and other factors present both challenges and opportunities for distributors that—after years of operating in a constrained labor environment that’s not expected to change anytime soon—see a ray of hope in this new generation’s coming of age. As Gen Z starts to toss its high school, college, or trade school graduation caps into the air and head out into the work world in 2020, distributors should be thinking about how they’re going to attract, recruit, and retain this new crop of employees, managers, and leaders.

Who is Generation Z?

According to Pew Research Center, anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) is considered a millennial, while anyone born from 1997 onward is part of Gen Z. Labeled by a term that took hold quickly both in popular culture and journalism, Gen Z is on track to be the most diverse and best-educated generation in U.S. history, Pew predicts. Here’s why:

  • Nearly half of post-Millennials are racial or ethnic minorities.
  • In fact, the majority (52%) of Gen Z are non-Hispanic whites.
  • The oldest post-Millennials are enrolling in college at a significantly higher rate than Millennials were at a comparable age.
  • Their parents are better educated than the parents of millennials and those of previous generations, Pew adds, noting that this pattern most likely contributes to the relative affluence of the households in which Gen Z lives.
  • For example, 43% of Gen Z lives with at least one parent who has a bachelor’s degree or more education. (Roughly a third [32%] of millennials in 2002 had a parent with this level of education.)
  • In 2017, Pew says the high school dropout rate for the oldest members of Gen Z was lower than that of similarly-aged millennials in 2002.

Examining how this diverse, well-educated group will impact the workplace, career coach Ashley Stahl says companies need to take a step back and actually understand this generation, its values, its goals, and its attributes. In Forbes, she writes about how companies need to understand how this “fully digital generation” doesn’t just want to bury its head in a computer, tablet, or cell phone. “They yearn for human interaction at work,” Stahl points out. “In fact, 90% of [Gen Z] reports wanting some form of human element woven into their work and team interactions.”

This generation also seeks a collaborative, team-friendly environment and craves positive relationships at work that go beyond online or social media contact, she adds, noting that this generation’s desire for work-life balance runs deep. “Thirty-eight percent of Gen Z views work-life balance as a top priority when choosing an employer,” Stahl writes. “This is a dip from the 47% of millennials who ranked work-life balance as a priority, but still trumps previous generations.”

Understanding Gen Z

In Understanding Generation Z in the workplace, Deloitte says this young generation now makes up more than one-third of the world’s population. “Radically different than millennials,” it says, “this generation has an entirely unique perspective on careers and how to define success in life and in the workforce.” For example, while salary is the most important factor in deciding on a job, Gen Z values it less than any other generation does.

“If given the choice of accepting a better-paying but boring job versus work that was more interesting but didn’t pay as well, Gen Z is fairly evenly split over the choice,” Deloitte points out. This generation is also more environmentally- and socially-conscious than any of its predecessors, which means employers will need to highlight their efforts to be good global citizens. “Companies must demonstrate their commitment to a broader set of societal challenges such as sustainability, climate change, and hunger,” Deloitte suggests.

Finally, diversity is the watchword for Gen Z. In fact, it matters to them through many dimensions, not just isolated to race and gender but also related to identity and orientation. “Companies that can better represent the spectrum of differences in their external branding/marketing,” Deloitte concludes, “are much more likely to diversify their talent pipelines.”

Motivating Gen Z Employees

At electrical contracting firm Milton Electric in Nelson, Ontario, Lead Generation Specialist Debbie Chan says her company is already thinking about how it can attract Gen Z workers to the fold. The mother of two Gen Z girls, Chan says she’s attuned to what motivates Gen Z in both the home and work environment.

For example, they use their smartphones more than any other electronic device and more than millennials and Gen X, with YouTube being their favorite website, and Snapchat and Instagram as their social media platforms of choice.

They also want to want to make a difference in the world, Chan says, and be recognized for their accomplishments at work. To attract them, she says distributors should focus on social recruiting tools like Instagram. Use keywords like “create” and “innovate” in job descriptions, and understand that—unlike millennials—these youngsters tend to be motivated by material rewards.

“Although they’re idealistic in their worldviews and how they can make a difference, rewarding Gen Z with material goods would likely be much appreciated,” Chan says, “especially if the reward is something cool and mainstream (versus the millennials’ preference for uniqueness).”


In Part II of this article series, we explore the unique qualities that Gen Z brings to the table in the workforce and show how distributors can leverage these advantages on their own teams.

Say Hello to Generation Z, Part II

With 61 million members—the oldest of which turn 23 years old in 2020—Generation Z’s impact on the workforce could surpass that of any other generation in history.

Read more


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Bridget McCrea  is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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