What to know about post-millennial workers

The longevity of your business will depend in part on your youngest employees. As Baby Boomers retire, generations X, Y and Gen Z are entering the workforce. Each group approaches life and career differently. Farm operators can benefit from research into the 18- to 24-year-olds who make up Gen Z, the newest generation to begin arriving on the farm.

This technologically savvy group, also known as iGen or centennials, has $44 million in spending power in the U.S. alone, according to the 2016 National Study on Technology and the Generation after Millennials.

As agriculture becomes more dependent on technology and precision farming, team members with these skills will bring considerable value to the table. Yet they will also require the right leadership and structure for success.

“Gen Z’s attention span is the shortest of any generation we’ve studied so far,” says Elli Denison with The Center for Generational Kinetics, an Austin, Texas-based consulting firm that researches Gen Z and millennials. “This means they demand faster, easier access to content. Multitasking is a standard practice with numerous devices being used simultaneously.”

Yet despite a strong affinity for connectivity, experts predict Gen Z workers will be more interested in face-to-face interaction than the two preceding generations. All it takes to initiate those relationships is “some intermediate ice-breaking via social media or chat rooms,” says Eric Spell, president of AgCareers.com.

Those connections extend beyond domestic boundaries. Gen Z is sometimes called the first global generation. Such openness and acceptance of other cultures might make them valuable members of multi-dimensional teams.

Gen Z also is more environmentally conscious than previous generations. Farms that take a leadership role in sustainable production will be better equipped to find and retain talent. “Issues of conservation … and global warming seem to resonate more with this group than older generations,” Denison says.

4 Considerations for Gen Z Team Members

Here are some ways you can build on existing farm protocols to ensure they’re tailored to the needs of workers 18 to 24.

1. Clearly outline your policies about smartphone and device use during work hours. “For example, you can’t text while you’re on the job for the following reasons, and here’s why that’s so important to what we do,” says Claire Madden with consulting firm Hello Clarity based in Sydney, Australia. Farmers know the risks associated with undercover videos taken by cellphone and can mitigate concerns accordingly.

2. Identify how you expect employees to use digital communication outside of the farm. Although you can’t control what your employees do on their own time, you can explain your expectations.

3. Appeal to global and societal interests. Gen Z cares about the global community and the environment. Explain to team members how your company is putting the environment, its workers and consumers first. “Realize that your organization stands to benefit from the global connectedness of Gen Z workers,” Madden encourages business owners. “Don’t fear this generation or shut down their connectivity online and offline, but see it as an opportunity.”

4. Focus on non-repetitive tasks. The short attention span of Gen Z suggests you should give those individuals varied responsibilities that will help them stay engaged. They embrace other cultures. Look for ways to include them in diverse work groups.