- March 27, 2020
- Posted by: Alyson Van Hooser
- Category: Generations
I have no doubt that the COVID-19 quarantine is going to have everlasting effects on the Gen Z workforce. Right now they are in some of the most formative years of their life. I am a student of generations and how they show up in the workplace, so my mind is already thinking about how everything around the COVID-19 pandemic is going to shape the youngest generation in the workforce in the next couple of months, years, and even decades. I think it’s good news! Let’s talk about it a little bit!
Quarantine Effects on Gen Z Workforce
If you’re making a list of the things you can control during COVID-19 pandemic, you’re probably not checking much off. However, if you’re measuring the power of the things you actually can check off…the fact that you can 100% control your attitude — trumps most everything else. Your attitude will determine your success. So, right now I want to focus your mind on something positive.
As of this moment in time, as a student of generations in the workforce, I believe everything wrapped up in this pandemic will create lasting, positive effects on the Gen Z workforce.
Define Gen Z Workforce
Let’s pump the brakes for just a second and define who Gen Z is NOT. Gen Z and Millennials are not the same people group. Both generations grew up and experienced/are experiencing very different situations in their formative years. If leaders try to recruit, retain and train them the same way…you’ll be more likely to earn yourself negative results than positive ones.
Generations are most accurately defined by their shared experiences, not birth years. Although, using birth years can help in giving an easier picture of who likely falls into a generation. With that being said, Gen Z is approximately 4-24 years old. Some are already in your workforce and some are just barely out of pull-ups!
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s move forward!
We’ve seen loyalty to companies change throughout generations. Older generations have been more likely to stay with one company whereas younger generations have been more likely to move often between companies. When employees move, companies experience retention issues that cause negative effects on performance and profitability.
Older generations, those that grew up during World Wars and the Great Depression, generally have an attitude where they are grateful to simply have a job – and they hold on it. They grew up in hard times where jobs weren’t right around the corner and you couldn’t scroll through millions of Google search results and have your pick of what you want.
For younger generations right now, the job market has been an employee’s market. Gen Z’s came into the work world in the last few years with huge opportunity before them!
Will the COVID-19 pandemic change that? It’s definitely possible.
COVID-19 Potential Effects on Loyalty
The economic effects of this pandemic are still to be seen. But if this lasts very long, it’s likely many Gen Zs will enter the job market in a place more similar to older generations. Instead of having options to move companies whenever, wherever…I think they’ll be more likely to find what they need and hold on to it.
Gen Zs are seeing right now which companies are sustainable in hard times and which are not. This is not the first time they’ve seen this either. Think about the recession in 07-08. Gen Z experienced that event from the effects of it on their parent’s retirement and employment and even their ability to afford to go to a University or choosing a trade for themselves instead. I believe these events are causing Gen Zs to pay attention to whether or not their parent’s employers taking care of them in hard times or cutting them off and leaving them to fend for themselves. My question to you is what are they seeing from your company in relation to that?
Here’s the deal, whether intentionally or not, Gen Z is making little deposits of information that will affect how they search for an employer in the future. I can definitely see where they will be searching for a company that is more stable vs. risky, a company that is widely known for taking care of their employees, and possibly even entrepreneurial opportunities in an industry that is essential to daily human life. I think they’ll be looking for stability because the world as they’ve known it—is volatile. That’s an interesting shift from where Millennials widely stood at the same point in their lives…
Older generations looked for careers based on company stability and profitability. Up to this point, younger generations had looked for careers based on their personal & professional goals and social impact. I will not be surprised if we see Gen Z attitudes revert back to the same place older generations were.
Here’s the good news—my point in all of this—if you’re a company who checks those boxes
- -essential services
- -you take incredible care of your employees
- -your business is sustainable during hard times
Then I think when Gen Z realizes this (and you may have to tell your story really well to make that happen) then they will be searching for jobs within your company and then I think it’s likely they’ll be there for the long haul. After experiencing a pandemic and a likely second recession as they’re growing up — they’re going to want stability and security.
With the right leadership this could mean increased loyalty = increased retention = increased performance = increased profitability.
That’s something to look forward to and get excited about!
Approach to Success
Baby boomers grew up very competitive. There were a ton of them but not as many job opportunities. They learned to become the smartest, hardest working, and put in their time to earn success.
Millennials rocked the workforce by coming in with guns blazing claiming that education trumps experience, and showed the value of change and rapid innovation to earn success.
Will Gen Z act more like Millennials or Boomers after experiencing the economic effects of this pandemic?
I think the best-case scenario may be that Gen Z ends up becoming a blend of Boomers and Millennials from this perspective.
I can see where because of the economic repercussions of this pandemic, there might be fewer opportunities to earn success which will require Gen Zs to level up their performance AND become rapid innovators in order to earn success.
That sounds like a recipe for a generation we ALL will welcome into the workforce with our arms wide open!
Typically the words “change-agents” are used in regards to conversations about Millennials. Millennials typically remember life before technology was critically important. We remember grandma’s telephone that had a 10 ft. coiled cord attaching it to the kitchen wall, but we quickly adapted to personal cell phones as the only phone option. We remember waiting by the radio to record our favorite song on cassette tape, but then quickly moving from a Walkman, to an iPod, to now listening to whatever music we want, whenever we want, wherever we want. Change is a way of life for Millennials.
For Gen Zs it could be argued that the truth of rapid change during their life remains the same as Millennials. But, I would say there is something different that has happened during the formative years – especially right now – that did not happen at this level for Millennials.
I don’t know about where you are right now but in KY (where I’m from) schools are closed, many businesses are operating differently than before, and some businesses are crumbling.
What are Gen Z’s doing?
Remember how old they are…most of them are school age. Most of them are still living with their parents who are now working from home or are out of their normal line of work completely.
Racing Gen Z Minds
What could be racing through a Gen Z’s conscious and subconscious mind through all of this? I think three things:
First, the importance of technology. Many schools are moving from in-person classes to online classes. Including my kindergartener! Many businesses have sent their employees home to work. So, Gen Z is now watching their parents work on computers. This generation is digitally native, they’ve never known a world without it. As they are working and as they watch their parents working, it’s possible that their digitally native minds are already coming up with ways to work anywhere, anytime better than we can do it today. Because they understand technology and see the world differently than generations before them, it’s likely that they’ll come up with solutions no one else has thought of yet – better solutions! So, my question to you as a leader is, what can you do to embrace change and interact with more Gen Zs so you can lead the way to a better, more flexible work environment in the future?
Secondly, we thought robots and artificial intelligence were taking hold and replacing humans in the workforce before…I think that is going to skyrocket as Gen Z is coming up. Gen Z’s minds are probably racing with solutions that fix human-related issues companies may be facing because of this pandemic. I think that the increase in technology was likely to happen anyway, but I can see where the effects of this pandemic will escalate the rate at which technology solutions are created and implemented.
Because if Gen Z is looking for ways to innovate so they can earn opportunity, they are deeply feeling the current issues and instinctively they’re likely to be thinking of solutions in regards to technology-based answers.
Finally, many Gen Z world’s are currently turned upside down. Students who are missing out on their last sports season with their life-long friends. Seniors who may not attend their prom or walk in their own graduation ceremony. Kids who’ve only ever attended school in person are now only attending school from behind a computer screen. Lots of overnight changes because of this pandemic for Gen Z. Millennials adapted and created change over time. Gen Z has been slapped with it overnight. Gen Z is poised for navigating change well. I think Gen Z may be giving Millennials a run for their money in the years to come.
Hopeful for the Future
Ever since I started reading every piece of research I could get my hands on a while back, I see the world through a different lens. I’m constantly asking myself if generational differences might exist here and if they’re going to be a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe that makes me a nerd, but I’m totally good with that.
Thinking about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Gen Z workforce, while it can feel scary to many right now, I am excited to see how Gen Z emerges to work to conquer, collaborate, and create a better world than we’ve known before.
Understanding generational differences leads to better teamwork.
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