This article first appeared in the November 2022 issue of Marine News Magazine
by Pat Folan, President, TBS Safety
Who is Gen Z?
Generation Z, according to the Pew Research Center, are the people born between 1996 and 2012. Gen Z is vastly different from previous generations. Some of the issues that have affected their perspective on life are COVID-19, the Great Recession and school shootings. They believe that stability is difficult to achieve and that worry and anxiety are at the center of their lives. They don’t necessarily see a world full of possibilities and success.
- They spend 3 hours per day on social media
- Over half spend 10 hours or more each day on electronic devices
- 68% have difficulty sleeping due to stress
- 58% report feeling sad often
- They are “loneliest” generation
- Only 45% feel their mental health is very good
More than 60 million members of Gen Z are poised to enter the workplace in the next few years, and they will transform our work habits.
Gen Z is the first generation to grow up being connected to a computer in their hands that can get them information on anything that they want to know at any time. Their values and behaviors are completely different from previous generations because they have been connected to the world and all of its information. And it is not a passive connection. They share their stories, their experiences, and their knowledge with the world and in turn receive other’s shared lives.
Their story is their brand, and building their brand is what they do best. And why wouldn’t it be? They live in a world where people “like” each other’s photos, ideas, movies, etc and those devices they live on allow for this endless commenting, critiquing, and sharing. It’s imperative to have a great personal brand so that others will follow you. Anything that Gen Z does in life becomes part of the journey of the person that they want to become.
And that’s where recruiting starts – the intersection of your corporate brand and their brand. For Gen Zers, work is big part of that journey, and they are looking at the potential job with your company based on how well it fits in with their story. Does the story of working at your company, on your vessels or in the office, enhance their personal brand?
In the marine industry, attracting Gen Z has challenges. Gen Z craves social contact, so living on a boat for two to three weeks is not instantly appealing. And they have been brought up to be the center of the universe, and accepting authority is hard. It is all the more difficult on board your vessels because the older captain is the center of the vessel’s universe.
Gen Z hiring facts
- 54% won’t apply if they feel recruitment is dated—paper-based, long timelines.
- 82% expect the hiring process to take two weeks-transparent communication is essential.
- Managing by fear would compel 25% to leave.
- Salary and work-life balance are essential—this includes mental health.
- 59% are willing to tackle a new skill if it leads to a salary increase.
- When a form asks for gender, 59% of Gen Z believe “other” should be an option.
- Both Gen Z and Millennials list stress as #1 drag on productivity—mental health support programs will be necessary
Of the above, the marine industry has some problems. For one, older captains tend to strike fear into the hearts of new hires, and work/life balance can be horrible at times. In addition, salaries often do not keep pace with shore-based businesses, and there aren’t too many new skills that would increase your pay. And stress is part of the job in the marine industry.
So how will you sell your work experiences to attract the new generation? Before you answer that question, let’s talk about their eight second filters.
Gen Z’s average attention span is eight seconds. Not a lot can be digested in eight seconds. Their minds are working overtime to process information, and things slip through the cracks. They are being hit with too much information, and they are filtering out things that don’t really matter in daily living.
Any recruiting (and training) program has to be able to get past the filters. So what does this mean for a company trying to reach out to this generation? Whatever it is we are attempting to convey, much less explain, will need to be communicated more frequently in shorter bursts of “snackable content.” Why? Because members of Generation Z are the ultimate consumers of snack media. They communicate in bite sizes.
The good news is that once something does gain their attention and is deemed worthy of time, they can become intensely committed and focused. The very internet that forced them to develop eight-second filters is the same internet that allows them to go deep on any topic they desire and to learn from a community of peers. And this means we can still engage them on a very deep level.
What are Gen Zs job preferences?
- Work-life balance
- Competitive pay
- Formal Training – 84% expect ongoing development opportunities
- Access to a direct supervisor – 40% expect ongoing development opportunities
- Working alongside caring, friendly and socially-conscious people.
- Working at a company with a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
When recruiting employees, it is important to know that your company is being vetted at the same time. Just as you use social media to see what type of person has applied at your company, Gen Z does that about you. They want to know who runs the company. Who would they be dealing with and are they likely to get along with you. What have others said about you? What is your mission statement? You say your mission is to be innovative, but you haven't updated your website since 2016. Gen Z forms opinions of a company based not only on the quality of their products/services but also on their ethics, practices and social impact. The messaging you convey to a potential employee is equally as important as the actual work they’ll be conducting. It has to fit their story.
Growing up with ubiquitous connectivity, evolving mobile technology and in a growing gig economy has altered how Gen Z views employment and developed expectations of more fluidity. This would consist of customizing their own career plan, mentoring programs and greater learning and development opportunities.
How does someone progress at your company? If I were to start there tomorrow, could I see my career path laid out for me? One of our companies is laying out every possible position in the company from the new hire deckhand to the CEO. Every employee will be able to see the opportunities within the company, what they will need to know to move into the positions and now everyone can see how high they can go. The best part is that the CEO is onboard. He wants to attract the best people that he can for his company and fully believes in promoting from within.
The people you hire will soon represent the people to whom you are selling. Linking arms and minds with a younger representative for your company can keep you connected. It can also help you fill in the gaps in your technological profile.
There is a highly innovative, productive, and self-driven workforce that’s waiting for you to tap into it—not begrudgingly, but as a competitive advantage. You have an opportunity to hire people now that will transform your business