Generation Z – the youngest yet most flexible of workers (#5 of 10) 

By  Henry Rose Lee

(This is Article #5 in a series of 10)

This article puts the Spotlight on Generation Z and their key characteristics.

Sometimes called the iGeneration, (everything iPod, iPhone, iPad), they started entering the workforce in big numbers from 2013. That’s when the oldest hit 16 and became eligible for proper, paid work. There are circa 3.5 million Gen Z already in UK Plc. As a generation they’re as big as the Millennial group – if not larger. If you think Millennials are changing work, wait til’ you get a load of Gen Z! I call them “Millennials on steroids”. They have some Millennial features. They’ve grown up with the internet (never having known a time without it). They’re all but surgically connected to their smartphones and their social media feed. However, they have specific attitudes and demands at work.

How are Gen Z workers like Millennials?

  • Money: Like Millennials, Gen Z know the global recession of 2007/08 means they’re earning less money. They know costs are higher.  with higher costs. They know they’re poorer than older generations.
  • Mobility: Just like Millennials, Gen Z will marry later, or not at all. They’ve fewer children, or none at all. They’ll be late in buying a car or a house. Or they won’t buy either. These were expected milestones in life stages for older generations. But not today. Gen Z is even more mobile and fluid about work than Millennials. The 2018 Deloitte Millennial survey confirms that more Gen Z are thinking of leaving their current jobs within the next 2 years, (61%) than Millennials (43%).
  • Mouthing off: Gen Z want feedback, just like their slightly-older colleagues. And they want to give it as well. For both Millennials and Gen Z, social media has given them the taste for having and sharing views. And they want to do it when they feel like it. They’re comfortable to give and get feedback at any level. (Of course, it’s easy to share your view when it’s online and you don’t have to see the other person).

Social media has driven Gen Z to share comments and concerns

They are always “on” in the online world. You’ll see Gen Z on a train, plane, bus or car (if they are not driving), and they’re connected. They’re on smartphones or iPads. They may chat to a pal, yet also check a text, send an email or view a video.

This is more than multi-tasking

Humans are good at multi-tasking. We do it when we drive for example. This inter-connection is actually toggling between tasks. This toggling can’t deliver as much focus or quality as working on one thing at a time. But it shows how much Gen Z want to connect, learn and experience. They don’t want to miss a thing. This always on, always “mouthing off” can be good for activism. But it’s a shock to older generations at work. The constant sharing of ideas, views & comments can feel unwarranted, unexpected and unwelcome.

How are Gen Z unique in the workplace?

Gen Z are not idealists: The oldest Millennials came across as idealists. They asked for work-life balance, work flexibility, rapid advancement and the excitement of constant change. But Gen Z – born between 1997 and 2009, grew up in the shadow of 911. They watched their parents struggle with the worst recession in 8 decades – from 2007 onwards. They witnessed costs soaring and salaries plummeting. They’re more pragmatic than Millennials, and they know they’ll work for years longer than previous generations.

Gen Z are activists: Greta Thunberg is the young, climate-change activist. She is a clear agitator. She is a wonderful example of activism at its best, and will not go back in her box. Good for her! Gen Z are now able to use social media for social and society benefit. Of course there will be those who use it for evil and nasty trolling that goes viral. But many will follow the activism of Greta. Many will find better ways to protect and maintain the planet and do good in the world. Greta may be a hard act to follow. But Gen Z see her as inspirational and aspirational. Watch their impact at work. They will be a new and clear voice for change.

Gen Z are into slashies, side-hustles and their own business: Many countries are keen to encourage our youngest workers to be entrepreneurial. There is not enough money in government coffers to pay pensions or other costs to employees as they age/retire. This means that Gen Z are being encouraged to be go out and set up their own businesses. Their start-ups are often side-hustles. This is where the Gen Z has both a job and a cottage industry (usually based online). The rise of eBay and Depop are proof of this. Gen Z are also undertaking slashies. This is where they have more than one job and little loyalty to any job. They simply work while they’re studying or building a business. They’re planning a brilliant future, but it may not be in a job.

There is a need for slashies and side-hustles today

Of course, there is another side to this coin. The rise in zero-hours work protects the profits of employers and decreases earnings for workers. So some slashies are necessary. These provide the extra money Gen Z need. (Millennials sometimes do this too, to make ends meet). In her book ‘The Multi-Hyphen Method’, Emma Gannon says slashies and side-hustles are a choice and a necessity. She confirms: “Obviously no one can fully state from the data that it is 100% a lifestyle choice – or 100% the gig economy forcing people into it – because it’s somewhere in the middle,” She argues that that work add-ons provide multiple income streams. And, sometimes they deliver security and opportunities to keep on developing skills and work potential.

Takeaway #1

Our youngest workers will be the most tech savvy, and the most interested in working with and communicating via technology. This means they’ll have an intuitive facility and flexibility around new tech. And they will have a fascination for tech innovation. If your systems are out-moded or broken, this will turn them off at once. Get your tech up to date and in order. Or watch Gen Z leave.

Takeaway #2

With so much emphasis on a social media community and comms via text or WhatsApp, many Gen Z will lack face-to-face/spoken comms skills. They haven’t grown up making lengthy telephone calls. Why bother when you can do facetime or text? And they haven’t grown up with lengthy face-to-face meetings and interactions. At school, comms were often broadcast at them. They weren’t necessarily encouraged to front them. As employers add communications training to your Gen Z inductions.

If you’re a Gen Z, remember how much face-to-face interaction & comms there are at work.

You’ll need to speak at meetings; present your ideas to clients, managers or stakeholders: connect with mentors and coaches.

It can’t all be via your smartphone.

Takeaway #3

When you think Gen Z, think flexible working. Of course, every generation wants work : life balance. And no generation will turn down a pay-rise or an additional day off. But Gen Z are likely to want a work environment that allows lots of flexibility. This could be in the hours they work, or where they work, or how they work.

  • To find out how to get the best out of your Baby Boomers at work, read Article 6.
  • For how to get the best out of your Gen X at work, read Article 7.
  • Getting the best out of your Millennials at work, you’ll need to read Article 8.
  • And to get the ‘How to’ of maximising your Gen Z and your Baby Boomers at work, read Article 9.
  • Finally, you can read all about getting the best out of all your generations at work, you can read Article 10.

About the author

Henry Rose Lee

Henry is a recognised authority on Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers in the workplace. She helps businesses to recruit, engage and retain their younger employees, and helps individuals to ignite their talents and carve out an outstanding career, whatever their age.

Through her keynote speeches, workshops and coaching, you will understand the evolution of leadership in what is sometimes called ‘the Shift Age’, so you can avoid common pitfalls and help your organisation (and yourself) to thrive.

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