One of the most overused buzzwords in business today is “millennials” -- the elusive, ambiguously-aged generation that no one seems to truly know much about (I’m technically one and I hardly know myself, through the use of the word “millennial” never fails to make me cringe). That said, today’s most savvy businesses never fail to lock in on millennials and seemingly forget about the generation that follows--Generation Z.

Though the exact dates are often disputed, a recent NPR report defines Gen Z as those born after the year 2000, which means the oldest members of the generation are just turning 15 at the time of this writing. Social marketing firm WJ Schroer suggest members of Gen Z were born as early as 1995, meaning this key demographic already comprises about 7 percent of the workforce. Thirty million of these youngsters will be employed by 2019, according to estimates from research and management training firm RainmakerThinking. So if your business hopes to hire some of the freshest young minds around, you better brush up on your knowledge of how they work.

They thrive on structure

Small, highly-defined workgroups with a strong peer leader work best when training Gen Z workers. USA Today reports. Don’t shy away from establishing restrictions and tightly-defined roles. Boundaries are the key to creativity, after all. If you want them to think outside the box, give them a box to work with.

Communicate constantly

You kind of expected this one, didn’t you? Being in constant communication is just a part of life for Gen Z, and not just being tied to the grid 24/7. They grew up with awards for every little accomplishment and the opportunity for plenty of opportunities for do-overs. Encourage regular performance feedback and reward a job well done, even with something as little as a quick “thank you!”

Let them create their own jobs

Don’t underestimate their talents--these kids are highly intelligent workers with valuable skills that are already on par (and sometimes surpassing) their adult predecessors. Which means they could choose the job at your business...or the slightly cooler job that your marginally edgier competitors are offering. Make them feel valued and give them some stretching room to dabble in other positions. Let them put their many, many skills to use.

Give their job meaning

Approximately 60 percent of 14- to 18-year-olds surveyed in 2013 said one of the most important aspects of their job is "having an impact on the world," according to research from the Population Reference Bureau. That's compared to just 39 percent of those lazy, no-good millennials. Try to express to your younger workers how your company is truly making a difference in the world, nomatter how small that difference may seem. It's important to instill a sense of greater purpose in their work--or at least divert their attention from their mountains of student-loan debt.

Published on: Mar 27, 2015