Don’t Be Afraid of Gen Z was originally published in the International Festivals & Events Association’s “ie: the business of international events” magazine. Read the latest issue of IE here.
Every event organization is feeling the pinch. The pandemic started a tectonic shakeup of the events industry. There are new technologies to learn. Highly publicized event failures have been the subject of speculation, discussion, and streaming documentaries (Fyrefest or Astroworld, anyone?). This is exacerbated by an aging workforce with long tenures within their organizations. But as people retire, rejob, or otherwise leave the industry, backfill is a challenge for everyone from large agencies to nonprofits to municipalities.
The hero of this story is Gen Z. This generation was born with a smartphone in their hand. “Zoomers” enjoy challenges and still see the world as an exciting place. Gen Z also has specific expectations and needs from employers, and won’t hesitate to say it.
The unique attitudes and abilities of Gen Z can make recruitment a daunting task. Many organizations still struggle to balance peace between the three generations already working alongside each other. Event professionals must act to recruit the vanguard of Gen Z as they graduate from college and enter the workforce.
Gen Z is the key to ensuring the continuity of knowledge, organizations, and events themselves.
Who is Generation Z?
Pew Research defines Generation Z as those born between 1997 and the mid-2010s. As with all generational groups, the boundaries are porous and flexible; affected by things like geography and regional culture. There are always crossover populations, and the oldest Zoomers share many traits with their predecessor, the millennials.
Gen Z grew up surrounded by smart technology. They likely watched educational content on Youtube and played with their parents’ cell phones until they got their own at an early age. This led them to possess an inherent understanding of digital media.
This generation aspires to celebrity; but not the reality TV-type of celebrity that was alluring to Gen X and Gen Y. Zoomer celebrity is about being recognized for mastery. It is a form of micro-celebrity where individuals get accolades for a specific skill, trait, or ability. They want to be the best at their chosen vocation and are willing to share their expertise with everyone.
This high degree of digital fluency and self-awareness makes Gen Z set specific expectations about work-life balance. Zoomers do not define themselves by their job. They feel no loyalty to an organization that is not loyal to them. Gen Z in the workforce will not tolerate hate, negativity, or any of the -isms that turn a workplace toxic. They’ll simply quit.
What are Gen Z’s special skills?
Did I mention Gen Z grew up with a device in their hands? Early exposure to technology gave them a strong foundation in consumer technology. In 2020, they were in school, or just entering the professional workforce. When the pandemic hit, they were required to quickly master a slew of technologies including learning management systems, streaming tools, and task management systems. This gives them a unique point of view and makes them invaluable as a resource when sourcing new tech or tools.
Gen Z’s parents documented every step of their lives on social and Gen Z is well equipped to do the same. Social Media is such an integral part of their lives they have become adept at capturing a moment swiftly so that it doesn’t interfere with them living their lives. This common sense and intuitive approach to social makes digital content created by Zoomers feel more organic and natural. Any roughness around the edges can be quickly polished with mentorship and learning opportunities.
Gen Z grew up in a world filled with misinformation. They quickly learned that the internet holds many truths and even more lies. This degree of digital literacy makes them invaluable researchers. They’re able to find specific information and quickly synthesize it into something useful, fact-checking along the way. Lean on their Google skills for research projects and trust the process.
Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse generation to date. (Though Generation Alpha is starting to challenge that.) Gen Z grew up aware of the challenges facing diverse communities while celebrating these differences. Zoomers have little patience for racism or even coded language. They want to know that the places they work in have values that reflect their own.
LGBTQ+ Zoomers are unapologetic in their outward representation, and rightfully so. They grew up in a world where it was okay to come out early, play with gender, and experiment to find their true selves. They care about people’s pronouns and are quick to speak up in the face of oppression.
How to recruit Gen Z?
Note: Many of these are good policies for hiring anyone post-2020, but especially related to Gen Z.
Get rid of institutional obstacles.
Gen Z has little patience for bureaucracy. If you require a cover letter, ask yourself why. If you require a resume and still make applicants enter all their information into a tracking system, ask yourself why. Do you have antiquated policies about tattoos, colored hair, or piercings? Do you have language that can be seen as red flags for young applicants like “we’re a family” and “work hard, play hard”?
Gen Z is loath to jump through hoops and will find a different opportunity if the path to entry has too much friction.
Gen Z is not afraid of hard work, but they expect to have transparency in the role. Ensure those job descriptions are fully up to date with expected responsibilities. Gen Z is quick to learn software, so consider if the experience with specific platforms is actually useful. “All other responsibilities as assigned” can be a poison pill in a job description.
Make Work Meaningful
In a world where someone can make $15/hr at a McJob, ask yourself why someone would want to work much harder for similar pay in an events role. The difference is likely the meaningful experiences created by the role. Don’t just share what the role does, but why the role is important to the success of an organization and event. Also, share why an event or organization is important for their community. Strive to show that work is meaningful for everyone involved, from the intern to the CEO.
Gen Z needs harmony in the workplace, but maybe not how you expect. Many Gen Z appreciates the flexibility of hybrid work, but many also find allure in office culture. They spent years on Zoom, and being able to work in person is appealing. But they still want the option to work remote, particularly during holidays or slow parts of the year.
Don’t be afraid of Gen Z.
Don’t be afraid of Gen Z. They are the next generation of event organizers, planners, and professionals. This is a prime time to connect with them, build relationships, and start future-proofing your organization. Every day, more Gen Z enters the workforce. Every day, a few more people retire and leave. Embrace the natural flow and let this new generation show you how amazing they can be. You don’t have a choice.
Learn how to build a connection to Gen Z that will pay dividends for decades. Watch our 4 Truths about Gen Z on-demand webinar.