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Welcoming Generation Z to the Apartment Industry

The apartment industry has obsessed for years over millennials: how to attract them as residents and how to manage them as employees. Well, it's now time to begin thinking about the next generation.

Generation Z, also known as iGeneration, consists of those born between the mid-1990s and 2010. Believe it or not, members of this cohort are now arriving in the workforce. Perhaps more amazingly, they will account for 20 percent of the workforce by 2020, according to the Robert Half consulting firm.

Millennial associates at ROSS have contributed so much to our company, and we are excited about embracing the talents of Gen Z'ers as well. Below is a summary of what our research and experience with this generation has shown about their characteristics, which differ from millennials in some ways: 

Digital fluency
Millennials are tech savvy, but Gen Z'ers are known as the “first true digital natives." This means they have never known a world without the Internet, smartphones and the instant gratification that comes with technology. 

As apartment leasing and operations become more technologically advanced, operators will likely find themselves leaning heavily on the considerable digital expertise of their Gen Z associates. And because of their life-long immersion in technology, Gen Z'ers are perhaps even better than millennials at multi-tasking, a valuable skill in the fast-paced multifamily industry.

Given their love of technology, apartment companies should, as we do at ROSS, make it easy to apply for jobs via mobile devices and allow associates to access training on their mobile devices as well. 

A strong entrepreneurial spirit
Like their millennial predecessors, Gen Z'ers have a strong entrepreneurial spirit. They are unafraid of trying new things and see mistakes as valuable learning experiences, rather than something to be afraid of. 

By giving Gen Z associates the leeway to suggest and try new ways of doing things, a multifamily team leader would not only keep them engaged, but also refresh policies and procedures. Gen Z'ers also like instant feedback on their ideas and performance; as was the case with millennials, you shouldn't wait until their annual evaluation to discuss their performance with them.

A preference for independence and their own space
Gen Z'er Jonah Stillman, co-author of a book on the generation, notes one particularly striking difference between millennials and members of his cohort: Generation Z'ers are more independent in nature and aren't as gung-ho about collaborative working environments as their predecessors. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's something to keep in mind when assigning company projects and designing office space.

Job safety
Gen Z'ers are more focused on practical job concerns, experts say. In large part because many of them saw their families struggle during the recession of the late 2000s, Gen Z'ers place a stronger emphasis on salary, benefits and job security than their predecessors, observers note. Therefore, apartment companies must be prepared to adjust their associate recruitment and retention efforts accordingly; at ROSS, we're continually reviewing our salary and benefits packages to find ways to enhance them for today's workforce.

Generation Z promises to bring innovative skills and perspectives to the multifamily industry. Far from fearing change, apartment operators should embrace this infusion of new talent and their characteristics.

Terry is responsible for managing all aspects of the Human Resources Department, including 325 employees and supervision of the Office and Project Manager. She is also responsible for the recruitment and hiring of employees at all levels of the company.

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