The Workforce Institute at Kronos has published the third and final part of its global study into Generation Z. It is titled “How to Be an Employer of Choice for Gen Z: Fulfilling the Next-generation Workplace Wish List.” It makes for interesting reading on many levels especially when it comes to expectations of the next generation of employees.
Joyce Maroney, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos commented: “No matter how successful an employer is in developing and motivating their workforce, working at the same company for your entire career is conceptually a thing of the past. Gen Z is just starting out professionally and feel they have much to gain from testing the waters at multiple companies and different industries.
“Yet, while few today will employ a single worker from hire to retire, organisations can certainly engage Gen Z from hire to re-hire. By creating a working culture where employees feel supported, inspired, and equally empowered to enjoy life in and outside of work, employers can encourage their best people to “boomerang” back or otherwise create brand ambassadors for the future.”
Who are Gen Z?
Gen Z are those born between mid-1990’s and late 2000’s. For this study, The Workforce Institute at Kronos has provided its own age range for the last fives generations. They are:
- Gen Z, ages 16-25
- Millennials, ages 26-37
- Gen X, ages 38-54
- Baby Boomers, ages 55-74
- Silent Generation, ages 75-94.
Age ranges are a very broad brush when trying to define a workforce. While there are attributes that can be generalised, using them as a definition for hiring policies is no simple matter.
What does the report say about Gen Z?
Four themes stand out – money, job stability, training and being valued. Surprised? If the results of the survey are truly representative of the wider generation, something that cannot be guaranteed, then Gen Z is closer to the Baby Boomers than it is Millennials. That does not mean it wants to roll the clock back thirty years when it comes to the workplace, but it does present employers with multi-generational workforces with a more than interesting challenge.
According to the report: “More than half of Gen Zers worldwide (54%) – including 62% in the U.K. and 59% in the U.S. – say pay is the most important consideration when applying for their first full-time job.”
There are reasons for this that reflect how society has changed. Gen Z are leaving university with the highest debt of any generation. For some, they may find themselves servicing this for a significant portion of their working carer. Add to that the high costs of renting and buying houses and it makes sense that money is top of the pile.
According to the report: “More than one in five Gen Zers in Canada and the U.K. (27%), Belgium (22%), Australia and New Zealand (21%), and Germany and the U.S. (20%) consider themselves broke or in debt. Gen Zers in the U.K. value money most: 62% prioritize pay when applying for their first full-time job.”
Importantly, the survey also shows that while money is top of the agenda, it is not the only thing that Gen Z wants. Job stability and an employee package that seems to come from the Baby Boomer generation are key issues. This give employers some flexibility when structuring a package for Gen Z.
Stability is an interesting requirement. The idea of a job for life disappeared some time ago. There are few organisations where employees count their time served in decades. In fact, the corporate lifer is a rare breed. Gen Z is not asking for a job for life but they want to know that the job is more than just filling in time. They are also open to returning to an employer more than once.
When it comes to perks, there is also good news for employers. Over the last decade companies have installed pool tables, relaxation zones, gym memberships, free snacks, food and drink. Gen Z seems to be less interested in those than healthcare, pension and life insurance.
Organisations pay a lot of lip service to training but few deliver anything meaningful. This is a change that started in the late 1990’s and has accelerated. There is an assumption that motivated employees will find and participate in training in their own time and often at their own cost.
Gen Z wants that to change. They see lots of changes happening in the workplace. These are driven by Robotics, AI and other technologies. What they want from employers is to be given the chance to learn on the job. This is as much about keeping skills up to date as it is advancement though the business.
Rebuilding training programmes will not be cheap. However, employers need to decide if they are willing to compete for a shrinking talent pool of skilled workers or invest in their own staff. For the SME this is not an easy choice. Many accept that they will have the cost burden of training but still lose staff as larger companies poach talent with bigger salaries. This is where employers need to engage with staff and make themselves a more attractive place to be.
This is a much more complex challenge than it seems. At one end of the scale it is about being listened to, having opinions heard and feeling like they have a stake in the company. Tech companies have promoted this for some time. However, that is beginning to change. Google, for example, has just severely restricted the open forums that it previously gave to staff that allowed them to comment on and even criticise business decisions.
Gen Z has an arguably more sharply honed sense of social and environment justice than previous generations. Those organisations with well established Social Responsibility Programmes will attract Gen Z. However, simply providing a share of profits, time and product is no longer enough.
Gen Z is heeding the calls of the planet. It wants employers to show their environmental credentials far more so than they have before. Being greener, having eco-positive rather than just eco-friendly policies are becoming table stakes.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
Times change with every generation that enters the workforce. Organisations have always had to deal with multi-generational challenges and clashes of aspirations. However, Gen Z appears to be something of an anomaly.
Gen Z is technologically aware and has high expectations when it comes to the tools and technology it is expected to use. It has clear and often strident views on what it wants to protect the planet and society. At the same time it still shares many of those aspirations that previous generations had. A stable work environment, a good salary, not to live in debt and to be able to afford to live well.
What is different about this generation is that it is willing to look backwards for things like training, career paths, healthcare and pensions rather than free sweets, snacks and soft play areas in the workplace.
For employers, this is just another shift in the complex challenge of recruiting and retaining talent. Some of the demands will be easy to meet, others such as training will require investment. But as skills shortages start to bite, Gen Z may have a better bargaining position than its predecessors.