The time has come: The newest crop of college seniors are officially all from the “dreadful” Generation Z! If that is scary to you, have no fear. Your official guide to managing your Gen Z employees is here!
If you do a Google search on what Gen Zers are like, you might find that they are technology natives, prude consumers, and financially driven. You might also see that Gen Zers are very different from their predecessors because of the increasing amount of technology that they have available to them.
Yes, they missed out on the good old days of dial up internet, stick shifts, bag phones, and the first round of mullets, but don’t let that make you miss out on the benefits they have to offer you!
Many farmers ask me how they can entice young people to work on farms, and I have thought a lot about it. The problem is not that Gen Zers lack a work ethic; it is that they think about work differently.
Many Gen Zers don’t remember a time without cell phones and flat screen TVs. We learned at a young age how to do reports on the computer and use phone apps to help us with everyday tasks. The use (or seeming “overuse”) of technology may be annoying to some employers, but it is all in an effort to make work more efficient. If your Gen Z employee wants to make spreadsheets to track yield per acre or milk per cow, let them. It may bring out some hidden areas of opportunity for your business.
As many farmers have noticed, Gen Zers care about where things are made. Some may even argue that they are the most conscious consumers yet. Behind each gallon of milk is a cow, and behind every hose nozzle is a warranty and customer reviews! Forget the “dime a dozen” method, and let your Gen Zer help you make informed purchases.
When I noted earlier that Gen Zers are financially driven, I mean that on their behalf and yours. Gen Zers want to work efficiently, and they need their bosses to have an efficient business in order to accomplish that. Let your Gen Zer offer ideas to increase efficiency in the workplace, and task them with finding areas of possible improvement in the business.
One of the biggest benefits that Gen Zers have to offer a farm is their attitude toward equipment. Because Gen Zers grew up in a cushier world than their predecessors, they don’t like using broken down or hardly working equipment. Gen Zers have an “if it ain’t broke, let’s fix it before it breaks” attitude towards their working gear. This is the mindset all farmers should have, but not everyone was fortunate to grow up in a way that allowed them to have that attitude. Let your Gen Zers help with repairs, and teach them what to do when things go wrong.
Gen Zers grew up in a very different world than their predecessors, but they didn’t choose their birthdays. They are a hard crowd to please, but it can be done.
Gen Zers tend to want jobs where their voice can be heard. Let your Gen Zers know that you will take them seriously, and they will be some of your best employees yet. Plus, many Gen Zers have an extreme addiction to coffee, so they’re always ready to run!
We need to remember that all of us were the new kid on the block at one point, and that each generation comes with new challenges. Gen Zers are paving the way for farms to become more efficient than ever.
Elizabeth Maslyn is a Cornell University student pursuing a career in the dairy industry. Her passion for agriculture has driven her desire to learn more, and let the voices of our farmers be heard.