In fewer than 5 years, the makeup of your organization will be dramatically different. What is this shift? And, more importantly, is your organization ready for this change? Currently, members of “Generation Z,” individuals born between 1990 and 2000, represent only 7% of the U.S. workforce. By 2019, they will account for nearly 20% of all working adults in the States.[i]
Due to the unique characteristics of Generation Z-ers broadly, this shift will bring significant new challenges to the workplace. New research shows that in order to effectively engage and harness the talents of members of Generation Z, companies will need to provide avenues for skills development, continuing education, and employee engagement. Luckily, corporate pro bono service programs may be just the answer.
First, let’s talk about the benefits that Generation Z-ers will bring to the workforce, particularly related to technology. They include:
- Technological Prowess: Generation Z members are often called “digital natives.” They have never known a world without computers and cell phones. Generally, they are quick, efficient, and adept at multi-tasking. This will be an asset in today’s fast-paced, technology-reliant workplace.
- Global Perspective: Having been raised during a time of global connectivity, they are more aware of current events, social causes, and diverse perspectives.[ii] As companies become more global, members of Generation Z are likely to be more open to connecting with others who have a different background or perspective from their own.
- Flexibility: Generation Z-ers acknowledge and are generally open to change. Because Gen Z-ers thrive in environments of near-constant stimulation, they’re natural multi-taskers who can fluidly move from one assignment to the next. Companies are demanding that work be completed quickly, high-levels of innovation, and the ability to collaborate with coworkers with a variety of work styles from their employees and Generation Z should be up for the challenge.
Next, the challenges with Generation Z. Despite these positive attributes, which will likely bring heightened levels of innovation, tolerance, and flexibility into the workplace, members of Generation Z are likely to have a dramatic gap in skills required to be successful in today’s work environment.
So where are the gaps?
- Risk-Taking: Others assert that, due to growing up in a post-9/11 America and during an economic recession, Generation Z is characterized by being risk-averse and having lowered expectations for themselves.[iii]
- Critical Thinking: Finally, while this new generation may be adept at gathering information from a multitude of online sources, there is evidence to show that it has come at a cost of their critical thinking skills.[iv] Rather than thinking through a problem and offering an original solution, individuals of Gen Z may be more comfortable searching for a solution online.
- Personal Skills: Potentially due to the reliance of technology, some personal or social skills may be lacking. As one researcher notes, “The basics of personal responsibility, problem solving, time management and interpersonal communication are often missing” in Generation Z.[v]
This sounds like a recipe for a workforce with great potential – and a fair share of liabilities. So how do we tap into the skills and energy that Gen Z-ers can bring to the workplace? Simultaneously, how do we support their development in the areas that may be lacking?
Enter pro bono
Corporate pro bono programs have been found to increase skills, improve collaboration, and provide opportunities to develop high-potential talent. Pro bono provides a vital way for companies to recruit members of Generation Z, integrate them into the company, and build skills in areas of their aforementioned skills gaps.[vi]
- Recruitment: Like the millennial generation, Generation Z gravitates towards companies that promise meaning in their work. They want work opportunities that “excite them, have meaning, and make them feel that they are helping others.” However, they also prioritize financial stability as part of their job search.[vii] Offering pro bono programs within your company can attract top Generation Z talent who seek competitive salary packages and opportunities to connect with their communities.
- Company Integration: Well-designed pro bono projects can enable members of different generations or company seniority to work together, thus improving workplace collaboration, and giving Gen Z-ers the opportunity to get exposure to organizational leadership.
- Skill-building: Working on pro bono service projects will allow members of Generation Z to expand their skills. It provides opportunities for exercising new competencies that are critical to professional success. Working across sectors will encourage Generation Z to grapple with complexity, take risks, and think strategically. Successful pro bono programs flex communication, problem-solving, and facilitation skills. Plus, few things build confidence and provide immediate gratification like delivering a necessary and implementable solution to a grateful nonprofit!
Preparing for the future
Not only can pro bono mitigate some of the expected risks of having a workforce with such distinct skills gaps, but it can also help to unlock the potential and garner the loyalty of these new employees. Furthermore, it is an incredible way to make an impact in the social sector. Pro bono is one of the most effective ways for companies to provide meaningful opportunities to give back. Once a Generation Z individual has about three years of professional experience, they are ready to provide a propensity to innovate. This second-nature creativity, in addition to their subject matter expertise, can meet needs that are common in the social sector.
It’s only four more years until 20% of the workplace is made up of members of Generation Z. With that shift comes new workforce realities. But, no need to panic. Starting or expanding a pro bono program today can prepare your company for the opportunities and challenges that will come with this generational influx.
Need help harnessing the talent development power of pro bono? Just let us know!
[i] Joseph Coombs, “Generation Z: Why HR Must be Prepared for Its Arrival,” HR Magazine. (Spring 2014): 20.
[ii] Adam Renfro, “Meet Generation Z,” Getting Smart, (2012): 1.
[iii] Emily Anatole, “Generation Z: Rebels with a Cause,” Forbes. (2013):2
[iv] Tulgan, “Meet Generation Z,” 6
[v] Tulgan, “Meet Generation Z,” 8
[vi] “The Case for Pro Bono,” Summit on Corporate Volunteerism: Toward a New Definition of Pro Bono
[vii] Keslar, Linda. “Talking ‘Bout My Generation: The Real Financial Deal for Gens X, Y, and Z,” Learnvest.com, (2014)