Many of us have fond memories of summer jobs from our youth: working at sleep-away camps, amusement parks, public pools, etc. However, for today’s teens, employment looks a lot different. The current issue of Time laments the end of “summer jobs” as we remember them. This phenomenon is complex and has many causes, but one of them is the rise of Gen Z and their specialized needs.
Born roughly between 1995 and 2010, they are very different from even the Millennials who precede them. While Millennials grew up in an era of peace and prosperity where cooperation was key and everybody got a trophy for participating, Gen Z is shaped by growing up during the Great Recession and seeing how that affected their parents and older siblings. Those born in the mid-’90s might also remember the dot-com crash of 2000, 9/11, the fall of Enron in 2002, and the Iraq war in 2003.
While Millennials are stereotyped as job-hoppers, Gen Z shows more interest in staying with fewer companies for a longer time. While Millennials enjoy the “benefits” of free food and a foosball table, Gen Z demands good pay, tangible benefits and a higher degree of job security. While Millennials enjoy collaborating in flexible, open work spaces, Gen Z is more competitive and likes to have their own private spaces to concentrate. Gen Z also tends to come into the office rather than telecommute; relocate for the right job; work nights and weekends as needed; and eventually want to start their own businesses.
How can companies compete to win this next generation of talent?
Sponsor internships and summer camps. The Chicago Tribune profiles such a program at Abbott Labs, which takes place over eight weeks in the summer and is open to high school students with at least a 3.0 GPA from 10 schools representing 7 key markets. Its purpose is to improve the diversity of those considering a college major and career in the STEM disciplines, and to open the door for those individuals to consider a career at Abbott. Southwest Airlines also holds a three-day “summer camp” in Dallas for employees’ teenagers, to show them the path to a mechanic or pilot’s job at the airline. So consider outreach to high schoolers via meaningful internships and summer camps, and this can build a bridge to full employment after they graduate.
Offer startup accelerators and “boot camps.” Gen Z is an entrepreneurial generation; as their members start the next Facebooks and Snapchats, don’t you want them to be working with you and not against you? If your company is in an industry with a startup culture, consider holding a weekend “boot camp” for teens who are trying to start a business in that industry, or a longer-term accelerator program. Offer them the tools and encouragement they need to get their ideas off the ground and, eventually, they might become collaborators, employees or even “acquihires.”
Provide a clear career path. This isn’t a generation looking to work at your company for three months and then leave. Provide mentoring and career counseling to show teen employees how they can rise from entry-level positions into middle management and eventually into the C-Suite. Offer daily coaching and feedback, and opportunities to learn new skills and take part in continuing education. And devise a total compensation package that speaks to their need for security and love of competition; winning at the foosball table isn’t enough for them.
Summer is no time for a three-month vacation, for teens or brands alike. This summer, take time to determine how your company is going to extend a career ladder to Gen Z, to ensure this hard-working, loyal generation is working for you.