*By Stacey Stone and Cleavon Davis
I have often referred to Gen-Z as the world changers that we have always been looking for. At this writing they are the youngest group in the workforce and their age has given them specific needs and wants that we need to pay attention to. For this article, I have invited our producer, Cleavon Davis, to comment and provide his perspective on the topics presented. He was born in 1998 and gives my on-air partner and husband, Johnny Stone, and I a new layer to our show and our lives by being a part of them. In this article, I will write an insight about Gen-Z that research has proven to be true and he will give his POV on that same insight in italics.
One of the main characteristics that I personally adore about Gen-Z is that the organization they work for needs to support the greater good. The definition of that is different from one Zoomer (another nickname for them) to another but including them in the planning for community service or professional development that leads them to help others is always wise when working with them. At WGTS 91.9 we have our Hands and Heart initiatives so we offer our Gen-Z the ability to serve others on a regular basis. But, truth be told, we had to remember to plug Cleavon into those events (in other words he had to ask to be included – our bad).
Zoomers do indeed have a strong need for meaning in their work. An increase in resources, knowledge, and access to the world through technology has broadened our view of success and fulfillment. For Gen-Z, influence and impact are currency, not dollar signs.
It feels like Gen-Z was born using technology. Their devices are part of their lives and they can help you understand what they love about tech and what is next in tech. I rely on this generation to continue to improve my personal use of technology and the future plans for tech that our radio station may implement. If you take the time to listen to a Zoomer in your life, you will hear how their devices add to their lives and, when what they are utilizing on tech stops being positive, they make big changes to stop the negative effects. For your radio ministry, this could mean a new way of reaching listeners for Christ or avoiding a social media disaster on the horizon. One more important point: do not ever limit their use of technology. There is no reason to limit this generation in this way because they get the work done with their devices right there with them.
Well, we were all born using technology (I am assuming if you are reading this article you were born after the invention of the wheel). I’m sure my grandfather was just as confused when talking to my dad about his 8-Track and Walkman player, as my dad is talking to me about my iPhone and Alexa. Technology is always progressing, and of course, so should the humans that utilize that technology. I do have to admit, my generation has lived through the most robust technological boom in all of humanity. Those, like myself, who fall in the weird transition from Millennial to Gen-Z, from 90s babies into the new millennium, have gone from using cassette and VHS players as a child to Bluetooth and voice command systems as a young adult. It’s mind blowing! Technology has been this generations biggest blessing and its biggest curse. Zoomers are still trying to find the fine line between value and disservice in technology. Forcing separation from technology will not fix anything, it will only hurt an organization. Gen-Z needs to figure this out on their own, and trust me, we will.
I will never forget the day that Cleavon presented us with a form to give him feedback on his performance. He had basically built a platform and put together a survey using his job description. In the busyness of our days and COVID, Johnny and I had not thought twice about officially giving Cleavon feedback on his performance. Gen-Z has been found through research to desire direct communication (actually sitting down and talking to them) and straightforward feedback. This is different from Millennials because they want encouraging feedback and Gen-Z wants you to give them what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. By the way, Cleavon was rated very high on the feedback form he gave us. And, no, you cannot hire him.
Presenting my superiors with my own performance evaluation sheet probably lies more in my type 1 personality than my generation. Nonetheless, I will confirm that Generation Z does highly value authenticity. Inauthenticity, ambiguity, patronization, or being “fake” as we call it, is the quickest way to create Gen-Z turnover in your organization. We hate it! Do not think you can get away with sugar-coating or circumventing topics or issues. Every Zoomer you hire has keen sense for B.S. and it will translate into their performance on the job. This does not equate to being harsh or coarse with your younger employees, this just means we want you to tell the truth. Your young employees can tell if you are simply being mean or if you have their best interest at heart, and unfortunately for you, it doesn’t take much for a Zoomer to leave.
Our generation has complained for years that Millennials will hang around for a while, get all the training, then they are off to better horizons. Gen-Z is interestingly different in this way. They are looking for job stability on top of everything listed above. A recent study by Tallo showed that 51% of Gen Z employees expect to stay at their first full-time job for at least three years. And 94% of those asked will not look to the “gig economy” for employment after graduation. (temporary jobs with short term commitments – hence the word “gig” from our musician friends) Provide them with a sense of security and growth within the organization and you are looking at long-term employees for your radio ministry.
Unlike many Millennials who entered the workforce or were young adults at the boom of the gig economy, Gen-Z has had the privilege of seeing these variables of employment play out. We have come to appreciate the beauty of both autonomy and stability, and most of us desire both in our career. Generation Z is looking for a workplace that fits them personally and values their individuality. If you pour into your Zoomers by giving them trust, responsibility, purpose, and freedom, they will stick around and give back to you 10-fold. If you do the opposite of these things, a Zoomer will leave even quicker than a Millennial employee. This is not because they do not value stability, but because they do highly value their work environment. I think it is also important to note that hardly any Zoomer that you hire, only works for you. Whether it is personal projects, a small business, internet influencing, or working for another organization, Gen-Z thrives on having multiple things going at once and most likely your young employees are the same way. This means that when a Zoomer is looking for a job, they are also looking for how that job can help compliment or enhance everything else they are pursuing in life.
In conclusion, the voice of Gen-Z is very important to the future of radio and, basically, we cannot do this without them. So, take the time to show them that you value them as employees and as people and listen. The most profound or wise comment you have heard in a long time may come from the mouth of your favorite Zoomer and you don’t want to miss it!
Stacey Stone serves God by loving her husband, Johnny Stone, her family and friends, along with her little dogs and her listeners on WGTS 91.9, Washington DC. In addition to her 26 years in broadcasting, she is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Maryland, a public speaker, and the author of The Rescued Breed: When Jesus Shows Up And Transforms Your Pack. She can be reached HERE.
Cleavon Davis is a media broadcast professional at WGTS 91.9 Washington DC, a podcaster, and a content creator who takes pride in making a positive impact on everyone his voice touches. By day, you can find Cleavon serving as a radio producer and personality working with Johnny and Stacey Stone. By night you can be humored by Cleavon’s social media skits, entertained by his YouTube channel (StrideSeven.com), informed by his podcast interviews, or even inspired by his newsletter. Cleavon is a proud HBCU graduate of Oakwood University.