Jennifer Openshaw: Four surprising Gen Z facts everyone should know

It’s no longer about just getting a paycheck. Gen Z is hungry for purpose in the workplace.

Millennials, move over. Gen Z is making its way in.

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Gen Z comprises nearly 33 percent of the world’s population or 4.6 billion, just eclipsing the 4.23 millennials. This group of young people was born between the early 1990s and mid-2000s.

They are our sons, daughters, relatives and neighbors… and the employees corporations are now looking to hire.

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If you’re an HR leader or CEO, listen up. A recent study issued by the nonprofit educational organization Girls With Impact, where I serve as CEO,  finds that social purpose and innovation are key to attracting this next generation.

The report -- "What’s inside the minds of Gen Z?" -- made possible the S&P Global Foundation – offers a host of insights and recommendations for employers. Here are four key insights:

1. World change

Faced with worrisome national and global challenges, Gen Z are beating a loud drum: social change matters but becoming a politician won’t be their path.

Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say they want to “make difference to a cause they care about” and 60 percent want to “personally create something innovative.” Just 4 percent said becoming a politician” was how they wanted to make an impact.

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Indeed, it’s no longer about just getting a paycheck. Gen Z is hungry for purpose in the workplace – the sense that they are having a larger impact on the world -- even if they’re employed by someone else.

Action: That means that companies had better create a sense of the greater good in their everyday work – or risk losing these employees. Find ways to Gen Z involved in innovation efforts. Deepen annual giving programs.

2. Looking for stability

Perhaps because of an economy that has left many college grads unemployed, this generation is seeking financial stability. Nearly one-quarter said their single greatest concern was getting a job, ahead of getting into college, grades or relationships.

It’s no longer about just getting a paycheck. Gen Z is hungry for purpose in the workplace – the sense that they are having a larger impact on the world -- even if they’re employed by someone else.

And nearly 90 percent said that a regular paycheck was a key factor in their next job. Still, 87 percent of this group also want to follow their passion -- a recurring theme.

Action:  If your company is hiring young people, offer career pathing and highlight millennial success stories. Incorporate opportunities to participate in senior-level interactions with employees. Re-think your approach to gig or contract employees.

3. Mental health is a top concern

Mental health ranked third among Gen Z’s top worries, ahead of body image, grades, or getting into college.And mental health (along with the environment) appeared more prominent among women and non-conforming gender populations than men. Even though our mini-MBA, teen girls at Girls with Impact are developing ventures to combat many of these issues – stress, depressions, teen suicide.

Action:  As Fernando Salinas, head of HR of Johnson & Johnson’s commercial business said in our recent webcast, “we offer a mental health app [that's] accessible not only to employees but their family members. This digital access is key.”  If your company is looking to boost diversity efforts, consider ways to incorporate opportunities to impact the environment and/or boost their overall confidence.

4. Being their own boss

In a perfect world, Gen Z embraces entrepreneurship. Unlike generations of the past, new tools are at their fingertips, enabling them to fulfill their high school hope of becoming their own boss.

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Not only do 60 percent want to create something innovative, but nearly 30 percent of those surveyed said “launching their own business or product” was the move most likely to boost their confidence.

Action: Harness Gen Z’s desire for innovation through corporate “intrapreneurship.” Seek ways to reward them for turning their ideas into impact on the job. Advance investments in STEM to STEEM – the extra ‘e’ is for for entrepreneurship.

It’s clear that with new forces at play – coupled with a growing gig economy – educators, parents and employers need to think differently about Gen Z.

It’s time to act. Let’s, together, equip Gen Z to drive innovation and world change for the betterment of all.

To download the full report, sponsored by the S&P Global Foundation, visit girlswithimpact/GenZ.

Jennifer Openshaw is CEO and Founder of Girls with Impact. She’s the author of three books: "The Socially Savvy Advisor" (2015); "The Millionaire Zone" (Hyperion), based on research about the social networking strategies of the wealthy and "What’s Your Net Worth?" (Perseus) which was turned into a show on public television.

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