Two generations, two different outlooks

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Forget Brexit, forget the skills shortage, and forget Pokemon Go, the biggest business challenge keeping HR professionals awake at night is actually attracting, accommodating, and retaining the next generation of emerging young talent.

From our recent research, Generation Z: Agents of Change, we know that 63% of HR professionals believe Gen Z will disrupt the workplace more than Generation Y. However, you should avoid hitting the panic button just yet and start sleeping easy. Despite concerns that organisations are not ‘Generation Z ready’, our research revealed that the attitudes of this group are not wildly different from their predecessors, and employers are actually more ready for Generation Z than they believe.

The difference between Millennials and Gen Z

First thing first, you need to stop assuming Gen Z is simply an extension of Millennials – they are instead, their younger counterpart with their own views and desires. Scientists may have cloned a sheep, but they’re yet to manage an entire workforce.

So what does this mean for you? How can you better appeal to the next generation?

Attitude to work

Nowhere is the difference between the two generations more profound than in their attitude to work. Two things have had an impact on Gen Z’s attitude to work – the recession and education.

Post-recession, Gen Z have watched their older brothers and sister struggle in a difficult jobs market. As a result, they don’t expect to land their dream job straight out of university. Instead, they are ready and willing to work hard to get where they want to be. They are far more future-focused than the Millennial generation and employers need to offer them a clear pathway of progression.

They also expect to interact with the workplace in a different way. Well over half (58%) would prefer to work in an organisation with a clear hierarchical structure. A reflection of the fact that this generation, more so than any other, has been trained to pass exams. So, while the building blocks of knowledge are there, specific on the job skill training through peer-to-peer support and mentoring will still be necessary.

Growing up digital 

Technology has also had a major impact on Gen Z. While Millennials embraced technology, Gen Z are the true digital natives. They only know a world with touch-screens, social media, and apps. When Gen Z were collaborating via Google Docs, Millennials were still learning cursive.

This presents a number of opportunities and challenges for organisations. On one hand, Gen Z can act as agents of change for organisations; quickly getting to grips with new tech and capable of working across multiple devices. On the other hand, being Facebook fluent and used to sharing your inner most thoughts through social media, doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to use work based communications with the same proficiency. Whilst honesty should be encouraged, there is a need to educate GenZ on workplace etiquette and oversharing. For example, many may not know how to use Outlook, or have a complete understanding of how to draft a professional email. New recruits will have to be brought up to speed on workplace IT and guided on how to best communicate with different clients, colleagues and industry stakeholders.

Ready to change the world 

This generation might just be the most ambitious yet. Growing up with 24/7 ‘breaking news’ and instant access to media, Generation Z know what’s wrong with the world and have a strong desire to make a difference. They’ve also grown up witnessing the rise of many overnight tech successes from Uber to Airbnb, while this has inspired them to dream big, it could lead to problems further down the line if their ambitions remain unrealised.

It’s important organisations work with new recruits to develop a clear career path they can follow as well as encouraging entrepreneurial thinking within the company. Fostering this way of working will give companies a competitive edge when it comes to recruiting the best talent.

It’s important HR professions keep these points in mind, not only when it comes to hiring the next generation of talent, to ensure they get the best of the best; but also when it comes to shaping inductions and ongoing performance reviews to ensure they keep hold of this talent. HR professionals have the skills to do this and by getting to know the needs, wants, views and expectations of Generation Z there is absolutely no need to hit that panic button. 

Now, where were we with Brexit, the skills shortage and Pokemon Go?

About Pete Donaldson


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