Millennials might have been brought up on Hey Arnold, Fruity Pebbles, and TGIF, but Generation Z was not raised in the same setting or safety. Generation Z cannot remember when they could enter a classroom and not fear for their life.
Millennials experienced an extensive recession, the start of the war, and the resurgence of nationalism within the U.S., but they grew up in a world where their peers were their support, not their enemy.
1. The majority of Gen Z have friends impacted by mass shootings
Since Columbine, there have been 11 mass deadly shootings.
The first mass high school shooting happened in 1999. The oldest person in Generation Z is in their late 20s. For over 20 years, an entire generation has lived in a world where gatherings were something to fear and people were not to be trusted.
So, why does Generation Z struggle with trust? Perhaps, the answer is found by looking at their childhood experiences and adjusting our expectations.
2. They grew up with information at their fingertips
Nothing is hidden. Generation Z grew up with high-speed internet and access to the Google map of their home. This might be an extreme example, but in many ways, it’s the truth. The search bar works both ways. This means that potential employees know more about you than your company’s bottom line.
They have access to your social media, pictures of your family, and all of your network on LinkedIn. In short, they understand what you value and where you invest before you have the chance to ask them for their resume.
Generation Z expects the truth because they can easily catch you in a lie. Now, this reality is actually an incredible gift. Generation Z wants to work for you, even more than your business.
So, post that vacation picture, start that GoFundMe campaign, and share with your employees what makes you passionate. If you want Generation Z to invest time and energy in your company, then they have to feel like they’re building a relationship with you and your mission.
You won’t win them with the weekly waffle buffet or fairtrade coffee cart. As they say in every Disney film, “Be yourself.” That’s honestly enough.
3. They don’t believe that one size fits all
Generation Z isn’t looking to purchase the latest trends or emulate conformity. They value uniqueness and expect companies to present options that are geared towards the employee’s needs and values.
This means that, if you’re a retail company, make sure that you have customizable options. If you’re a tech company, then be sure to offer flexible work schedules and vegan options for the annual holiday party.
Just remember, less is more. One of the best ways to meet this need of Generation Z is to start small and then build up to more choices. You don’t want to create change all at once and have 200 different meals for a team of 10.
Figure out what each team member values and try to incorporate their interest during activities during the year.
For instance, if you have a group of people who are really into Stranger Things, throw a Halloween event where Gen Z can show up as their favorite Netflix character. You can still theme an event and present opportunities for people to share their unique interests.
4. They didn’t have the privilege of certainty
Nadya Okamoto, Harvard student, CBO of JUV Consulting, and member of Generation Z, shares her own experience and reveals:
“As members of Generation Z, we have an extreme level of distrust in systems and institutions, and it sparks an ambition to be disruptive. We grew up witnessing our parents and adults losing faith in the systems that govern us – very much shaped by 9/11, a financial crisis, foreign conflict, and domestic political turmoil. Yes, of course, every generation grows up with its own set of real-world crises, and it is not a new phenomenon for people to question politicians. The difference is that we have never had the luxury of ignorance. We always know what is happening worldwide because we have social media and news notifications at our fingertips.”
Nadya is not alone. According to Inc., “When asked what comes to mind when they think of global corporations, they typically volunteer words such as exploitative, selfish, arrogant, greedy, cheating and untrustworthy.”
Forbes looked into this phenomenon and found that millennials and Generation Z ask two questions to determine the integrity of companies before investing. “Do businesses behave ethically? (48% in 2018 vs. 65% in 2017). Are business leaders committed to helping improve society? (47% in 2018 vs. 62% in 2017).”
Sadly, the majority of companies cannot answer yes to both of these questions. This reality is not only hurting companies in the present, but it is also ruining the trajectory of future projects for the long haul.
5. Their values and experiences differ from Millennials
According to Business Insider, “When asked what comes to mind when they think of global corporations, they typically volunteer words such as exploitative, selfish, arrogant, greedy, cheating and untrustworthy.”
So, how do executives change this narrative?
If companies want to build trust with Generation Z then they must be willing to pivot their actions and interactions with their team and their clients.
This means that they must offer options, present an authentic business and persona, be upfront about expectations, create flexible work environments that are unique and specific to the individual, and lastly, acknowledge and understand the trauma that Generation Z has endured since childhood.
Trust is a privilege. So, if you’re looking to gain the trust of a distrusting generation, then take some time to understand them and learn about their “why” before you expect them to perform their “what”.
Generation Z is voting, entering the workforce, and contributing their voice in the boardroom. What does this mean for businesses? It means a lot of change.