Move over millennials, Generation Z is ready to work

These young workers want customized jobs, and they want them right now. Here's how one fitness giant is adjusting

Move over millennials, Generation Z is ready to work
While we’ve all been debating about millennials, there’s a new cohort entering the workforce that promises to change how we work and how we manage people. By 2020, research shows that 50 percent of the workforce will be populated by Generation Z, who were born between 1995 and 2010.

The first Gen Z graduates are in their early 20s and already filling roles in Canadian organizations. In fact, GoodLife Fitness currently employs more than 2,100 associates who are 22 and younger. Here are some characteristics and suggestions for HR leaders to get ready:

Offer the best technology. Gen Z (also called iGen or Centennials) are true digital natives. They are fully connected via technology and social media, and are comfortable using it to get things done and share experiences. They expect technology to be current and available in all jobs. In fact, they’ll leave a position if the technology isn’t up to speed.

Streamline processes, move quickly.  Gen Z employees have shorter attention spans and expect things to happen quickly and efficiently. Growing up, Generation Z kids expected toys, favourite foods and fashions to be on store shelves as soon as they heard about them, since word travels quickly on Instagram and Snapchat. There is also a blurring of the line between in-person and online communication. There is no need to travel to an office if the meeting can happen more efficiently using technology.

Companies will have to move more quickly from concept to reality. When they start talking about change, they better make that change happen. Bureaucracy and inefficiency will cause organizations to lose their best people.

At GoodLife Fitness, we learned we need to hire quickly with fewer interviews and using more technology – like Skype and FaceTime – for the interview process.

The company has also changed how we do training and professional development, moving toward short snippets of online learning that people can access when they want. We also allow for lots of face-to-face learning on the fly. Managers observe associates as they work and provide immediate constructive feedback and suggestions on how to improve – on the spot. It’s all about effective feedback in the moment.

Customize jobs for the employee. Gen Z employees are interested in altering their job descriptions to create a more personalized experience at work. They are used to personalized advertising and curated content based on their preferences. They are also interested in filling multiple roles within the workplace, based on their interests and expertise.

At GoodLife Fitness, one way we’re responding is by ditching the traditional performance review. The company is moving to monthly individual goal setting and performance conversations focused on personal, financial, career, fitness and learning goals. Based on these conversations, we’re able to create tailored career paths for each team member to meet their individual goals and interests.

Lead by example. Ironically, this generation craves face-to-face contact when it comes to work mentoring. They want to learn in person and have their thoughts heard. For that reason, Generation Z employees prefer flat management structures and will choose an organization that offers chances to collaborate across the organization to get things done. They are also motivated by transparency – and need to understand reasons for salary and management choices to truly feel engaged.

To keep club associates up to date and provide opportunities for input, we recently launched the GoodLife Associate Improvement Network (GAIN) across the country. Teams in the clubs elect one representative to speak on their behalf at regional GAIN meetings held throughout the year. Every meeting deals with a specific area or role for improvement and GAIN representatives have a chance to deliver input from their club to senior leaders from the region. This feedback is then rolled up and addressed at a national level.

Cater to their competitive nature. Unlike millennials who received positive recognition just for participating, Gen Z was raised to learn from their successes and their failures. They understand the need to work hard to succeed, and are more realistic, driven and competitive as a result. 

Embrace diversity. Gen Z were raised in a more open, accepting environment than their predecessors. Same sex marriage, racial differences and fluid gender identities are part of everyday life. Attractive work environments for Generation Z employees will be those that welcome diversity and treat all team members fairly and equally.

Talk about mental health. Generation Z are more aware of the importance of mental wellness. They are in tune with mental health issues and are accustomed to talking openly about them. Recognizing this shift, GoodLife Fitness introduced a mental health policy and trained associates to recognize symptoms and help their co-workers facing mental health problems.

Create the right work environment and Generation Z employees will become an asset to carry your organization to ever greater success. They’re determined, well-educated, connected and ready to learn. Embrace the change and you’ll be glad you did.

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