Gen Z: Shaping the future of work – are you ready?
There are now 5 generations in the workplace. Harnessing the power of age diversity is not a challenge to overcome, but an opportunity for businesses to seize.
Multigenerational working offers many opportunities for managers, as well as additional obstacles.
Understanding employees’ viewpoints can be difficult when they are (much) younger. Instead of attempting to comprehend the differences that separate us, leaders who lean on damaging preconceptions may incorporate age bias into interviews, further deepening the talent gap.
According to Bruce Martin, CEO of Tax Systems, born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z was raised in the digital era, ultimately leading them to bring very different expectations to the workplace.
“Baby Boomers prioritised job security, Gen X wanted a greater work-life balance, and Millennials searched for workplaces that represented their passions and values. All these generations shared a common desire to make work part of their identities.
“Gen Z, however, having observed burnout, time poverty and economic insecurity, are prioritising a work-life balance with their passion projects more likely to be extracurricular than work-based,” he adds.
According to the World Economic Forum, Gen Z will represent 27% of the workforce by 2025. This makes catering your employee benefits package to suit their needs vital. Otherwise, you’ll lose out on this ever-increasing talent pool. And soon.
Gary Wise, Group Marketing Director at Bricks Group, thinks Gen Z employees are essential, as they help companies remain relevant and enable them to generate appealing, on-trend ideas that resonate and have an impact.
“They are great for relatability to students from an operational perspective and are particularly effective at creating relevant contributions and content across marketing, social media, influencer engagement and events,” he says.
He strongly believes that a team’s effectiveness is driven by diversity – not just in terms of background, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc. – but also by age and attitude.
“Diversity of thought is key. And having a broad range of employees across multiple generations can only be a good thing. I’d also say that there are a lot more commonalities across generations than there are differences.
“In my experience, the major differences come with each generation’s priorities – e.g. Millennials often seek promotion based on talent and results, whilst Gen Z often seek maximum flexibility so they can pursue outside interests,” he adds.
Amy Foster, Director of Talent and Partner at Rockborne, believes that the lines between generations are becoming increasingly blurred and characteristics more nuanced, particularly as new dynamics emerge – such as people managing those older than them – which is becoming commonplace.
“While employees are often talked about in terms of generations, we’ve started to see a real blurring of these lines. Some of the ‘traditions’ of Boomers are seeping into the way that the next generation is seeing things – being passed from manager to junior for example.
“Grouping a whole generation of people under a label doesn’t always reflect modern workforces and isn’t wholly representative of the individuals within that ‘category’. Personally, I’ve had Boomer managers who are open-minded and progressive and others who are stuck in a certain way of thinking. Labels are simply not a useful tool, instead, we should be looking at people in terms of both life and professional experience,” she adds.
Martin Hartley, Group CCO at emagine Consulting, highlights that Gen Z employees bring the energy, enthusiasm and arrogance which are necessary characteristics within a team.
“This group are confident that they have a lot of knowledge and have limited scars from previous roles which definitely makes them more optimistic,” he adds.
A ResumeBuilder survey, interviewing 1,344 managers, found that 74% believed that Gen Z was a tougher group to organize than previous generations, with a majority preferring Millennial workers. They believed that Gen Zers lacked motivation and technical skills, and were easily offended. They have voted with their voices, with 1 in 8 firing a Gen Zer within a week of their start date.
Kore.ai’s recent EX Benchmark Report, which surveyed 1,000 UK office workers across various industries, found Gen Z seek efficient and accurate workplace technology, with 60% saying that having access to the right tech and tools is a top factor for their job satisfaction.
Whereas previous generations may be attracted to companies with strategies for corporate social responsibility, environmental, social & governance and diversity, equity and inclusivity, this isn’t the case for Gen Z, according to Martin.
“These programmes are a minimum standard and non-negotiable. Jobs that fail to present and live up to the values as advertised will fail to attract and retain top talent within this generation, who will not hesitate to call it out and hold them to account,” he warns.
On advantages of having a Gen Z employee, Katherine Grice, Co-Founder of topbird, thinks Gen Z has a much higher expectation of what they want to get out of their job.
A graduate ten years ago would likely have been happy to join a company on the bottom rung, do the photocopying and be virtually an intern. This generation doesn’t want to leave school and go into basic jobs.
“Gen Z understands virtual modes of communication like no other generation. This is a unique strength. They’re also hyper-aware of the state of the world and their place in it. They’re ambitious and assertive, and they have a clear vision of what they expect for themselves,” she adds.
“They want to achieve and progress in their careers – but they also want that work/life balance. They know that you can work incredibly hard and be very productive in the working day and then leave the office on time.”
Fellow Co-Founder of topbird, Christie Jennings reveals that Gen Z wants to achieve and progress in their careers – but they also want that work/life balance.
“They know that you can work incredibly hard and be very productive in the working day and then leave the office on time.”
The winning age
Martin advises that firms do not underestimate what could be interpreted as a lack of commitment to the workplace – claiming Gen Z’s tech-savvy minds and objective attitudes are highly valuable in today’s workplace.
Catering to their needs is essential if companies hope to capture the talent needed to sustain an increasingly data-driven and digital future. Gen Z employees could be the ones to take digital transformation to the next level. If there is a more efficient way to get a job done, the Gen Z worker will be the one to find it.
“Indeed, skills acquisition is a top priority for Gen Zers who continually seek to extend their capabilities and will vote with their feet if they don’t encounter a personalised development programme that is designed with internal career progression in mind. They are also acutely aware that keeping their technology and soft skills honed and constantly updated will be important for keeping pace with the industry’s future needs.
“If any generation is going to take the workplace to the next level, it will be Gen Z,” he says.
Understanding each generation’s needs and priorities and consciously addressing them is a vital first step in leading and developing an age-diverse team.