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Generation Z and the Workplace - Are You Ready?


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With the focus on young people in this, National Apprenticeship Week, are you prepared for the next generation of workers who will soon be filling your offices, construction sites and shop floors?

 

Following on from our blog last year on Millennials (click here), when we talked about half of the global workforce by 2020 being born between the early 1980s and the millennium, Generation Z is now beginning to enter the job market.

So who are Generation Z?

The exact birth dates are fairly fluid, due to geographical and economic influences, but generally those born from the year 2000 onwards fall into this category. Also known as iGen, Gen Z or Centennials, these youngsters are the offspring of Generation X.  Shaped by the post 9/11 world, this grossest of terrorist attacks was a major defining moment in Millennials lives, but to Gen Z’s it has always been a part of their history, growing up in a world of IS State and terrorism.

Technology has given Gen Z’s high expectations - they have never known a time without the internet, let alone dial-up, have grown up with a smartphone in their hand and automatically think there’s a fault if something doesn’t load instantly.

Growing up through the 2008 recession has profoundly shaped Gen Z’s outlook.  Seeing financial constraints on their parents and family means they want a secure future and are willing to work hard for it.  Their vast technological ability means that they will be the most tech-advanced generation to enter the workplace.  They really are totally addicted to their mobiles and have a huge social footprint – Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and Instagram all play a major part in their life.

How will this impact of your business?

Being so technology savvy can be advantageous – as masters of online gaming they are great at online collaborative work.  The downside of this is that they are weak in face-to-face social skills, in turn being poor at conflict resolution.

As masters of multi-tasking – simultaneously texting, on Snapchat, watching YouTube and streaming music on Spotify – also means that they are easily distracted and cannot focus on the task in hand.  This could be a huge challenge for employers, with their need for constant updates and a significantly shorter attention span than other employees.  On the upside they do tend to process information more quickly and can handle background distractions better. 

Gen Z’s are less interested in the perks a job will bring - not the workplace entertainment and funky offices that enticed Millennials - but want a competitive salary with benefits such as health insurance and generous pension.  Being respected by the boss goes a long way, as is working for a company or brand they are passionate about.

How will Gen Z’s shape the workforce?

The tendency is for Gen Z’s to start work at an earlier age, going straight into the workplace rather than going to college or university.  They are wary of mounting up debt and the impact this would have on their future, so would prefer alternative ways of learning and training.  Feeling under pressure to achieve is a throwback from parents’ expectations due to money concerns and teachers pushing them to get good grades for league tables.  Many Gen Z’s will have an entrepreneurial streak, with almost three quarters of teenagers saying they want their own business at some point.

More so than previous generations, Gen Z’s tend to worry about their future – recent terrorist attacks, Brexit and the US election have all impacted on them.  They are hugely aware of news items that previous employees may not have been interested in.  Being constantly surrounded by technology and the ability to be in touch with peers, family and world events though does not bring them the happiness that we might imagine.  Research shows that mental health issues amongst this age group have risen alarmingly – low self-esteem and feelings of social isolation and loneliness are a major concern.  To them it appears that everyone else is having it all!  This must be of concern to employers – awareness of this must be factored in to HR practices.

As most of this generation have Generation X parents – who grew up as latch-key kids and saw a huge spike in parental divorces – they crave stability and structure, and appreciate an organised life with a strong work ethic.  The way to recruit and retain them will be to ensure they are well engaged in their work, offer frequent and relevant training and give lots of opportunities for professional development.  Managers should encourage these young employees to attend courses, conferences and exhibitions – this takes them out of their comfort zone and gives them the chance to improve their face-to-face networking skills.

Career growth, job stability and a sense of work fulfilment is what they need.  If you feel this is what your business can offer, then you are well on your way to being ready for your newest employees.

 

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