You can do anything with data. Put numbers on the past, foretell the future – data is king for so many organisations. But, without context, it’s just numbers. That’s why it’s so risky to start planning for dealing with GenZ if you simply take a snapshot of the data. It will show you, for example, that GenerationZ are going to be the most entrepreneurial generation this world has ever seen. Is that true? Time for some context.

Data first. You may well have seen the figures. The ones that go 62% of GenZ would rather work for their own business than for someone else’s. And 71% would accept that they will meet failure in a start-up but see this as learning not failing. Those two figures make GenZers look pretty unbeatable.

But that’s what they thought before they started entering the wicked world of work. Now? Look at data over time. A quarter of a century ago, about 63% of US 8th graders worked part-time for pay. Now that figure has halved. Even in 12th grade it was 76% then and is now falling south of 50%.

None of that is conclusive, but it does look as though plenty of GenZers, either willingly or reluctantly, are going to be working for your organisation rather than their own start-up. Reluctantly? We can work with that.

Your organisation has just taken on an entrepreneur, or at least a potential one. They want to show what they can do, want to push the edges a bit. So let them. Give them project work, and let them take risks. All within acceptable bounds of course, but allowing a low level of risk may help the organisation as well as the individual. Particularly if the organisation adopts the GenZ’s view of failure as simply another way of learning.

If you’re an SME that could be problematic, but most GenZers are committed to working for at least a medium-sized if not large enterprise. A larger company will be more attractive to a GenZ arrival, but that new worker is also going to be cautious for all kinds of reasons. Does the organisation really live up to the standards it publicly claims? Will my personal brand become subsumed by the corporate brand? WIIFM (What’s In It For Me)?

The traditional corporate ladder isn’t necessarily going to be attractive to GenZ entrants. They’re less concerned with the team, more concerned with their own personal growth and development. Clearly, that can work for the organisation, at least as long as this hotshot is with them, but it needs careful management.

A career path more like a lattice structure than a ladder may well be the best solution for everyone concerned. Not least, because we remember the dictum from Lao Tzu: ‘Whether you go up the ladder or down it, your position is shaky.’

But perhaps the best way to work with the new generation arriving in the workforce is to trust them. Sure, they need paying, they need incentives and they need a lot of face-to-face feedback and interaction (Covid-19 or not) but first and foremost they’re self-starters.

Whether you see that as an entrepreneurial trait, that you view with suspicion from your corporate vantage-point, is down to you. But here’s a piece of data to consider: 75% of GenZ believe they are responsible for driving their own career forward, a far higher figure than for any previous generation. Let them drive.

“They are perhaps the most brand-critical, bullshit-repellent, questioning group around.”

Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of Innovation at JWT

“GenerationZ are Millennials on steroids.”

Lucie Greene, Worldwide Director of Innovation at JWT

“GenerationZ are self-starters, not selfie-takers.”

Lucozade Energy report

“Millennials– Self-centred. Generation Z – Self-aware.”

Ernst & Young

“Generation Z characterises itself by highlighting the need for passion and motivation in their work.”

Claire Stradling, Manager of Charities and NFP