Every generation comes of age with a new set of ambitions and expectations. The workplace now can easily span 5 generations, and it is easy to fall into the stereotype trap and create conflict between age groups where it does not exist. However, we can see broad themes as we look across the workforce, based on their professional story and experience.
Baby boomers typically prioritise job security, Generation X sought out work-life balance, and Millennials looked for their work to reflect their passion and their values.
A different perspective means different priorities
Generation Z however, have watched all this playout before them and looked for something different. Born between 1997 and 2012, this generation has grown up under a period of great change. They’ve witnessed the burnout of previous generations and the lack of economic and job security currently available. That, coupled with the rapid growth in technology, and how it affects all our lives, has had a big impact on how they think, act, and feel. They are entering a workplace which has undergone huge technological and cultural shifts in recent decades, ones which they are very much taking in their stride.
This generation are skilled in acknowledging and implementing their boundaries, and therefore, they are much more able to draw a line between the professional and private sphere; frequently finding their passions outside their work on other hobbies and interests.
That does not mean that they aren’t committed or hardworking, but rather they don’t necessarily feel the need to define themselves by their work. Whereas previously, new entrants would be happy to start at the bottom with menial tasks and work their way up, this generation wants something more. They bring with them a huge amount of energy and insight into new ways of working and communicating. They are tech-savvy and focused on finding efficient solutions to longstanding problems.
Engaging the next generation
So how can we make the best use of their emerging talents and attract and inspire this generation? Embracing and nurturing them is essential if companies are to navigate a fast-changing future successfully.
Yes, they want to see good values, strong CSR, ethics and diversity, however, these are now taken as standard and are no longer enough to make a firm stand out. Instead, their loyalty and commitment must be earned by a combination of technology and personal development. And should an organisation fall short of their promises, Gen-Z are not afraid to call them out on it, stick to their principles, and find a new workplace.
New recruits prioritise companies with smart technical solutions, and they are not looking to do things in the traditional way. They are motivated by high-quality, interesting work, so if there is a creative technical solution to eliminate repetitive tasks and drudgery, they will find it.
Get off to a good start
It all starts begins with the hiring process. Streamlined, efficient recruitment which makes the most of online applications, appointments and communications is likely to attract the best candidates who are looking for a culture that reflects how they like to work. Ease and speed are valued more than formality.
They also recognise the pace of change, so they will be focused on developing their skills and knowledge from the outset. A clear path of growth and progression is an attractive pull, along with the training on the latest technological developments such as AI and automation.
The streamlining of the more repetitive and administrative tasks allows for a greater emphasis on the so-called ‘soft skills or arguably more complex skills of people and project management, strategic thinking and analysis. These will be valued above mastery of more practical tasks.
A flexible work pattern is also essential, but this should not be at the expense of their learning and development. Whilst hybrid working may now be widespread, this can remove opportunities for people to observe and ‘learn on the job’ which may have been the case when everyone spent 40 hours in the office. This can still be achieved but needs a more thoughtful approach to mentoring and management than may have been the case before.
The new generation entering the workplace cannot be underestimated or taken for granted. They are the ones who will see us through the next phase of radical change, innovation, and growth, and it is up to everyone to listen to what they need.