4 Insights on Gen Z as Employees and Constituents

As a Gen X father of a Gen Z son, I have seen his smirks when I describe now-obsolete technologies I grew up with. My early years of job searching are a far cry from his online job applications and video interviews. Indeed, he will be spared myriad paper cuts from stuffing resumes into envelopes.

Generation Z, born in 1996 to 2015, is the first American generation to live their entire lives online. Without a doubt, Gen Z has had a different experience with technology — and employment — than most of us Gen Xers, Boomers and many Millennials.

Unquestionably, the pandemic left an outsize imprint on Gen Z’s relationship with work. Post-pandemic, what should government leaders, managers and human resources professionals know about attracting and retaining Generation Z as they enter the workforce?

Now (Re)Hiring Gen Z

The oldest Gen Zers are age 26, placing them at the front of the fastest-growing generation in the workforce. But employment during the pandemic showed that with youth came risk.

Gen Z was the generation most likely to lose their job at the beginning of the pandemic, or to see a reduction in pay or hours, according to research firm The Center for Generational Kinetics. That tumult helped shape this younger generation’s views of employment.

The Center for Generational Kinetics captured Gen Z’s evolving attitudes toward work in an intriguing new study, The State of Gen Z® 2021-2022 Report: Gen Z as Employees and Workforce Trendsetters. Jason Dorsey, Gen Z expert and the Center’s president, shared findings at a recent technology conference for government leaders.

For government employers, here are four illuminating and surprising Gen Z research takeaways:

1. Salary and Benefits Drive Gen Z Post-Pandemic

Despite massive unemployment in the past couple of years, “almost half (46%) of working-age Gen Z turned down a job offer during the pandemic.” Their top reasons? Low starting salary and insufficient benefits. Notably, Gen Z’s emphasis on the importance of salary and benefits increased significantly during the pandemic.

2. Gen Z Wants Flexibility From Employers

Two-fifths (42%) of Gen Z sought out or stayed in gig jobs during the pandemic. The attractions of gig work — flexible schedules, remote work, geographic opportunities, daily pay — have changed their expectations of traditional employers. In fact, a surprising “61% of Gen Z would like their employer to provide the option for daily payment of their wages.”

3. The Pandemic Altered Gen Z Career Trajectories

The pandemic spurred the Great Resignation — what The Center for Generational Kinetics terms “The Great Realignment” — as 43% of working Gen Z reevaluated their careers. What’s most appealing? For these digital natives, nearly half (47%) believe technology will provide the best career opportunities over the next five years.

4. Governments Must Adapt Engagement for Gen Z

Previous research, How Local Governments Can Reach Each Generation, highlighted the rise of Gen Z as constituents, but found that engagement with them was lagging. Filled with case studies from local government, the study showed that “clear, easy-to-use technology is the number one way to improve interactions” across all generations and that “adapting to Gen Z will pull all other generations along, too.”

Opportunities for Government

So how can government adapt to the rise of Gen Z?

Highlight salaries, benefits and any flexibility with schedules in job postings and interviews. Allow for hybrid work-from-home options to stay competitive with private sector employers in recruiting and retaining Gen Z. Consider rolling out payroll systems that provide the option for daily payment of wages.

At a strategic level, take advantage of Gen Z’s affinity for technology careers. Look for opportunities to embrace modern technology to transform government operations and community engagement.

As the competition for talent intensifies, forward-looking governments will tap the interests of Gen Z. As Jason Dorsey and his colleague Dr. Denise Villa note, “Leaders who invest the time to accurately understand this generation and take action to unlock their potential will be rewarded for decades to come.”

Steve Goll is the editorial content manager at Tyler Technologies, Inc. In his role, he shares stories of government leaders finding solutions to challenges across a range of disciplines. During his 15 years of government experience, he worked at the state level in economic development and higher education, at the local level in K-12 education, and at the county/regional level as a workforce development council member.

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