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Generation Z workplace may emphasize human contact

Generation Z may demand more human-to-human contact with managers and co-workers. Surveys suggest that text messaging will also top the list.

In the Generation Z workplace, human-to-human contact may matter the most. That may seem counterintuitive -- it is, after all, the first true digital-native generation.

Generation Z has lived "out loud on social media," said Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos, an HR software vendor, "but this generation is also familiar with the negative aspects of it."

The workplace will have to adjust to that mentality. For example, Generation Z has a preference for human contact, according to research by Kronos. It's a finding based on a survey of 3,400 people ages 16 to 25. The Savanta Group Ltd., an independent market research firm, did the survey for Kronos.

According to the survey, 75% said they prefer to receive feedback from their manager in person. And about half said they prefer working with their team or co-workers in person.

"There's definitely a preference for face-to-face when it comes to getting feedback from my manager," Maroney said.

After in-person contact, the Generation Z workplace may need to emphasize text messaging, which survey respondents suggested was their second preference for interaction. Text is above collaboration platforms such as Chatter and Slack. "If you think about it, text tends to be one-to-one," Maroney said.

Generation Z HR needs

Generation Z may have specific HR needs affecting tech, especially around mobile applications.

About one in five workers now applies for jobs using a mobile device, according to Gartner. In a survey this year, 22% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement: "I completed at least some of my application from my mobile device." Gartner doesn't have historical data for this question.

There's definitely a preference for face-to-face when it comes to getting feedback from my manager.
Joyce MaroneyExecutive director, Kronos' Workforce Institute

But PSI Services LLC, a firm that conducts employment testing and assessments, has seen a significant increase. The number of people using a mobile device to apply for a job on PSI's  job application platform increased from about 30% five years ago, to 60% to 80% today, depending on the industry. Many of the jobs are entry level, said Steven Jarrett, director at the manufacturing center of excellence at PSI.

PSI gathers data from its application system, which is largely used by its customers for entry-level roles in manufacturing and telecommunications.

These types of jobs "may be highly correlated with mobile use, particularly as these numbers do not incorporate more professional-level roles where their jobs require computer access," Jarrett said. This could skew the data to show a higher representation of mobile applicants, he said.

Chat apps are nice, but humans are best

The idea that the Generation Z workplace wants more human-to-human contact may be true in hiring as well.

Applicants today want feedback as to why they didn't get a specific job, Jarrett said. More firms are willing to provide specific feedback, some with the hope that applicants might apply again once they've addressed their qualification discrepancies. "That's an interesting change," Jarrett said.

Companies may also be more willing to have a brief phone call with candidates, according to Jarrett. That willingness could be to keep candidates interested, "or say hello, or introduce themselves as an organization," he said.

Businesses want to provide a good candidate experience, Jarrett said. They want to retain applicants as customers -- and as potential future employees. In today's labor market businesses "don't have an endless stream of applicants as they may have once had in the past," he said.

That latter point is backed by data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Some received more job offers, other less, said Joshua Kahn, assistant director of research and public policy at NACE. The group surveyed some 22,000 students. Those with a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or business major each received on average 1.11 job offers, he said.

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