Boomers, X-ers, Millennials and now Gen Z: how the next generation is shaking up the workplace
As someone who was born in 1992, doesn’t have Instagram, and who regularly abandons their phone in coffee shops, I am, categorically, not a Gen Z. But then, after being bombarded with endless societal criticism about my ‘lack of work ethic’ and ‘snowflake’ attitude, I’d like to think that I’m not much of a Millennial either.
Born between 1996 and 2014, Gen Z are undoubtedly the digital natives, unable to recall a world without smart phones, Twitter or on-tap Wi-Fi. Although it would be easy to dismiss them as simply a more extreme version of Gen Y, we’re told that the make-up of Gen Z is very different. While my fellow Millennials and I have been heavily criticised for our laziness and sense of entitlement, Gen Z are given no such judgement, being described as hard-working, fiercely independent and more realistic than us supposedly optimistic Millennials.
So, what does this mean for employers? Well, if you’re looking to attract Gen Z, consider introducing flexible working. Although they are said to work hard, Gen Z do expect flexibility and are happy to work outside standard hours if it will fit in better around them. Locations for independent working will also be beneficial here, as David Stillman, author of Gen Z Gurus, assures us that Gen Z prefer a mix of both independent and team work, compared to Millennials, who typically favour a more social office.
Despite their multitasking skills, the downside to Gen Z’s digital mindset is a shortened attention span, with some estimates putting it at as much as a third below Millennials. To hold this group’s focus, companies will have to adapt the way they present information, putting it into easy-to-digest chunks. We’re also warned that employers should be wary about a potential lack of formal writing skills, as Gen Z are much more accustomed to the shorter, informal styles of social media and instant messaging.
Interestingly, Gen Z also have a strong moral compass, with recruitment specialists Staff Management saying that 60% want to make a difference through their work. However, this charitable nature seems to clash with their other major motivator: money. While I understand that times are hard and that to some extent, every worker, regardless of generation, is driven by the need to make a living, this does seem a rather odd pairing, though we’re told that for Gen Z, it’s more about financial security than making millions.
In addition to their work-related traits, Gen Z’s attitudes towards their personal lives also differ vastly. According to J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, although those of us in Gen Y are open-minded, Gen Z take this to another level, with almost half identifying as heterosexual, and a similar number stating that they don’t believe in such labels at all.
Regardless of what you think about this young generation their entry into the workplace looks set to cause a shake-up. With their strong morals, diversity and work ethic, let’s hope it’s for the better.
Based on findings from one of the largest studies of employee opinion and experience during the Covid-19 crisis, our latest report reviews how well UK business leaders are measuring up.