The oldest Gen Z employee is now 25 years old. Gen Z is the youngest generation of employees entering our workplace and will shape it as “a very bumpy road for the next few years,” according to leadership expert Simon Sinek.
“Bumpy” seems to fit pretty well into this decade, which has been one of extreme change and change. But change can lead to progress if harnessed properly.
Gen Z have recently taken the spotlight for their “quiet quiet” strategies to achieve their top priorities of work-life balance and flexibility. One could argue that this is a response to the hustle and bustle culture spread by the previous generation of millennials, which has eroded work-life balance.
However, the quiet cessation also hints at her undeniably strong sense of identity. Establishing their identity is central to their conversations, so they don’t push themselves to feel validated. They keep work as work, respect boundaries and recognize the importance of well-being.
Organizations need to focus more on their social or environmental responsibilities, or at least the employee experiences they provide
For HR, this means evaluating non-value-added tasks, implementing hybrid work models, and experimenting like Unilever’s 4-day work week in New Zealand. The test so far has resulted in adjusting work to include only essential tasks, reducing absenteeism, and most importantly increasing revenue growth to exceed expectations.
A better work balance offers more opportunities for HR initiatives, especially in the area of organizational learning and development. In organizations where employees work longer than an average of 12-hour shifts, it is irrational to expect them to have the mental energy or inclination to engage in any self-service such as that required for coaching. There are some great initiatives out there that never get their due diligence and have yet to realize their potential.
This “activist” generation expresses their identity through their work, shopping and social media. They are politically aggressive and driven by an organization’s purpose. Their strong sense of responsibility stems from inherited problems such as climate change, rising global inequality and the recent pandemic, which means they are increasingly bearing the brunt of the looming instability.
Employer branding will play an increasingly important role as the organization’s need to align with the values of this generation increases. Organizations need to focus more on their social or environmental responsibilities, or at least the employee experiences they provide. And since companies cannot be expected to go “green” overnight, marketing on social media, where Gen Z spends 10+ hours a day, is the strategy to execute.
Money still comes first
Although this generation values salary the least compared to the others, it is still the top priority. This generation seems mentally prepared for financial troubles, and in fact, according to a recent Deloitte survey, almost half of them seem to have financial worries every day.
And that’s possibly why salary is the number one reason more than 50% of Gen Z employees would leave a company, according to a recent study by workplace training company TalentLMs. Work-life balance and passion for work follow in second and third place.
Hierarchy is challenged. These digital natives are willing to challenge the status quo, either through information obtained through a simple search lasting a few seconds, or through the influx of information bombarded with them on a daily basis. All ideas are put to the test
The total rewards strategy must strike a balance between idealism and pragmatism. This includes more lifestyle benefits, particularly mental health days, as shown by the 82% of respondents who want the benefit.
Services must be digitized – telemedicine, virtual psychological counseling and, surprisingly, financial counseling must also be included. More than half don’t know how much they have in their savings accounts, so they turn to shady social media for investment strategies.
Some creativity also needs to be employed in keeping in mind their side hustles, which allow them to express their personal identity and thus have a resounding impact. For example, by donating to a cause that you support.
Who Needs Google?
Recent research from Google states that Generation Z is now using social media like Instagram or TikTok to search for information instead of the usual “Google search”. This makes two things clear.
First, that the skills they learn are strongly linked to their social media experiences. It can present both an opportunity and a challenge in terms of training and development as there can be transferrable and entrepreneurial skills in the mix, but also a lack of soft skills such as conflict and negotiation skills in the workplace.
Second, the hierarchy is questioned. These digital natives are willing to challenge the status quo, either through information obtained through a simple search lasting a few seconds, or through the influx of information bombarded with them on a daily basis. All ideas are put to the test, which can be great, because after all, diamonds are created under pressure.
Recruitment in virtual reality
According to a recent study, Gen Z feel they are better at expressing themselves online. They spend more time in the Metaverse or in virtual reality situations, and 45% feel their digital identity better represents their character.
This can have many implications including a push into virtual reality or gamification for recruitment as well as training.
It would also result in interviews being reevaluated by eliminating outdated questions to make way for a healthier and empowering two-way conversation. Also, it should be recognized that this recruitment method only gives a limited picture of the candidate, so checking social media accounts would be essential to get a closer look at the candidate.
Another important implication for talent management teams is the tendency toward introverts. Gen Z is usually categorized as the loneliest generation, and research shows they tend to be more closed off and introverted.
The lack of emotional maturity has helped brew an “exit culture” as it can render a person unable to deal with differing opinions. Ironically, their lack of tolerance for differing opinions—the complete opposite of what they celebrate (diversity)—is their downfall
Therapist or Organization?
There are two possible ways they could burn out – social media and cancel culture. When it comes to social media, they might be very passionate about their cause, but it leads to overexposure, especially when you’re always on.
Along with the overexposure, it also contributes to how isolated this generation is. Sinek claims that this led to Gen Z approaching the organization to fill the role of a therapist.
“One of the struggles of this generation is that they aren’t equipped to deal with stress,” says Sinek. “And as a result, they’re ’emotionally unprofessional,’ where instead of dealing with an issue, they choose to quit instead.”
The lack of emotional maturity has helped brew an “exit culture” as it can render a person unable to deal with differing opinions. Ironically, their lack of tolerance for differing opinions—the complete opposite of what they celebrate (diversity)—is their downfall. At work, this can potentially lead to a toxic work culture where people are ostracized for their differences.
Whatever the future of the workplace holds, we know we’ve basketed Gen Z with inherited problems. Empathy will ultimately be the key to success.
The article does not necessarily represent the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners