Finance Industry

Is Your Finance Department Ready for Generation Z?

Enable finance processes that empower Gen Z employees. Download our ebook to learn more.

Management experts have been writing for years about the habits and preferences of millennials and what they mean for the workplace. Now it’s a new generation’s turn in the spotlight: Generation Z.

If it feels too early to be talking about Gen Z as workers, think again: the oldest of the cohort (born roughly between 1996 and 2010) are in their mid-twenties, meaning that many of them are already well on their way in their career. Gen Z will make up as much as 20% of the workforce by 2021, and, according to USA Today, they are the second-most sought-after demographic among recruiters, trailing behind only their older millennial counterparts.

Any time a new generation enters the workforce, it’s an opportunity for businesses to take stock and look for opportunities to better align themselves with how the younger generation gets things done.

Finance is no exception. As digital natives who have grown up in an environment of on-demand convenience, Gen Z promises to accelerate the End User Era that is already underway—and finance teams need to make sure their processes and systems are ready to accommodate them.

Below, we explore a few of the most defining features of the “Zoomers” and what finance teams can do to meet this new generation of workers where they are.

They’re tech-savvy

Millennials may have come of age during the advent of the Internet, but Gen Z’s association with technology is even more pronounced: for most of them, a time before the Internet is also a time before they were born.

It’s not just that members of Gen Z are comfortable with technology; they actively expect it to play a key role in how they get work done. In fact, technology may be the key differentiator in attracting top Gen Z talent: 91% of Gen Zers say that the technology offered by an employer is a factor in taking the job, while 80% say they believe technology and automation will make work environments more equitable, which is something they value highly.

There are limits to how far Gen Z is willing to lean on technology: they recognize its depersonalizing tendencies too, and they prefer to receive feedback and touch base with managers face-to-face. But when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of getting the job done, they look for technology to play a starring role.

How finance can adapt: Take stock of your systems for everything from purchasing to payroll, and ensure they’re aligned with Gen Z’s digital-first approach to productivity. Manual processes for purchase requests, reconciliation, and receipt submission can frustrate a generation of employees that is used to the ease of technology. Having a delightful UX and seamless integration into their workflow are likewise seen less as cool new bells and whistles than as basic workplace expectations.

They’re smart shoppers

It might seem strange at first to talk about what Gen Zers are like as consumers in an article that’s supposed to be about what they’re like as employees, but the reality is that in the modern office environment, the two are inextricably linked.

Studies show that younger employees are already actively engaged in making purchasing decisions on the job: in one survey, 73% of 20- to 35-year-olds said they are involved in making purchasing decisions for their company, including workers who are making everyday purchasing decisions, like signing up for new software or booking their own plane travel for work trips. One-third report they are the sole decision-maker for their department.

Generation Z is not afraid to seize their autonomy and prefers to navigate most of the buying journey by consulting with their peers online rather than a sales rep. One report found that 78% of Gen Zers reference online ratings and reviews when choosing what to buy. And when it comes time to decide between the app their company tells them to use and the one they know will most effectively handle the task, 79% will go with the latter.

How finance can adapt: Implement systems that empower Gen Zers to be in the driver’s seat of their own spending decisions, while still putting guardrails in place to ensure that no one overspends. Enabling proactive controls and issuing payment methods with built-in limits can give Gen Z employees the freedom to buy what they know they need to do their jobs well while keeping them safely within the bounds of company policy.

Download the ebook:

How to Manage Distributed Spending in the End User Era

They like things on-demand

Beyond simply making their own buying decisions, Gen Z also wants to make those decisions now. Everything from ride share service to food delivery to ecommerce can be done at the click of a button, and Gen Z expects business to be conducted at a similar pace.

According to a survey by Forrester and American Express, Gen Z is “two times more interested… in features that embody instant gratification,” including 1-hour delivery or services via chat app or social media.

While it’s tempting to chalk Gen Z’s self-serve, on-demand orientation up to impulsivity or impatience, a more charitable and realistic analysis says that this is simply the reality that Gen Z is used to because it’s the world they exist in every day.

“Gen Z is 100% digitally native, meaning they are the first job seekers to be born during the age of smartphones, self-service online tools and AI-enabled virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa,” Kurt Heikkinen, CEO of candidate engagement and interview software Montage told Fast Company. “They’ve never known a world without the convenience and speed of digital interaction.”

How finance can adapt: As Gen Z generation makes their way into the workforce, the best thing that finance can do is get out of their young workers’ way. By adopting software that makes it easy for employees to get what they need, exactly when they need it, finance teams can harness Gen Z’s bias toward action and enable a more frictionless purchasing process.

They take ownership

“Stay in your lane” is not a piece of management advice that is likely to appeal to the Gen Z workforce. This is a generation that is hungry to roll their sleeves up and make an impact on their organization in a variety of ways.

“Most Gen Z professionals prefer a multidisciplinary and global focus to their work, with the expectation that this can create opportunities for mobility and a rich set of experiences,” observed Deloitte in a report. 55% of Gen Zers “seek out new job skills on their own, without expecting help or guidance from their company or boss,“ according to polling by Instructure and Harris.

That independent streak has its roots in the generation’s digital native status. “They recognize that everything they need or want to know is available from the internet, their friends, or crowdsourcing, so they don’t fear the unknown,” notes HR and workplace analyst Laura Handrick.

How finance can adapt: Gen Z employees are eager to learn more about the financial dimension of their jobs. Look for opportunities to treat them as partners in the company’s financial future, not just cost centers to be monitored and managed (although that goes for all employees, not just the Gen Z set). This means equipping team members with the systems they need to succeed, instead of complicated, bureaucratic processes that are difficult for employees to follow.

Gen Z Is Ready to Work Differently. Are You?

Gen Z will operate differently in the workforce than earlier generations. Gen Z is nimble, inquisitive, flexible, and forward-thinking. By adopting approaches that prioritize transparency, agility, and individual agency, finance teams can empower not only their Gen Z employees, but also their entire company to achieve new heights in 2020 and beyond.

How can you support Generation Z? Download the ebook to learn more.