How Gen Z Will Change the Workplace
Despite coming of age in the midst of a pandemic, this young demographic has the potential to bring positive change to the way we work
Older workers may tend to dismiss Generation Z as entitled youth with short attention spans. But this misconception is both unfair and inaccurate.
Gen Z—those people who are now 18 to 24 years old— is entering the workforce with fundamentally different goals and expectations than previous generations. Their priorities have shifted largely because of two worldwide calamities—the recession of 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They were raised in the shadow of a recession—a very different time than when many millennials were raised, growing up in a booming economy where there were endless opportunities,” says Mary Barroll, president of TalentEgg, an online career resource for Canadian students and recent graduates.
This cold reality made Gen Z more pragmatic in choices about their future. Then just as they were embarking on careers or training, the pandemic hit, and they had to cope with a shutdown of life as they knew it. Because this happened to them at such a young age, many in Gen Z experienced an interruption in their ability to discover what motivates and fulfills them.
According to a new survey of American teens, only 25 percent now believe a university degree is the only path to a good job. The survey was conducted over 12 months (February 2020-January 2021) by ECMC Group and VICE Media. Researchers wanted to uncover how Gen Z is planning for their education and careers amid an ever-changing environment marked by virtual classrooms and economic upheaval.
The study found that 61 percent of those surveyed believe a skills-based education (e.g., skilled trades and healthcare) makes sense in today’s world. And 45 percent were interested in a program they can complete in a shorter period of time, such as two years. That is certainly good news for employers in construction and healthcare, who are struggling to keep work sites and care facilities fully staffed.
But Gen Z can do much more than fill the gap in struggling workplaces. They bring with them fresh skill sets and mindsets. They are digital natives who value security, diversity, and autonomy and want to achieve it through pragmatism and determination.
While older workers may think that Gen Z employees can only help them learn about digital and social platforms, their younger coworkers see themselves as much more. They believe they can teach their older coworkers open-mindedness, creative problem-solving skills, and how to have fun at work, according to a report titled “What does Gen Z Want at Work?” from digital workflow company ServiceNow.
Young workers are far more interested than earlier generations in finding fulfillment from their jobs, even if that comes with a lower paycheque. Having been tested at a very young age, Gen Z will bring a special blend of resiliency and humanity to the workplace. Employers can retain these bright young workers by providing structured support that will smooth their transition and ensure their place as valued members of the workforce.
This can be done by opening the lines of communication, easing traditional hierarchies, and assigning tasks that fit the skills and interests of young workers. A work culture that rewards initiative, creates fresh challenges, and provides regular feedback will go a long way toward retaining not only this new demographic entering our workplaces, but workers of all generations.
Sources: contractormag.com, deloitte.com, Harvard Business Review, HR Reporter, nestpick.com