Gen Z in the workplace – are you ready?
Pinning a label on each successive generation is now an accepted activity. Although age may have less to do with chronology and be more likely to manifest as an outlook or mindset, the pace of change has accelerated so dramatically in the last two decades that it’s vital to understand the attitudes and behaviour of the latest generation to enter the workforce – Generation Z.
Generation Z set to outnumber millennials
The sheer size of Gen Z is not the least of the reasons why they are a force to be reckoned with. Australian demographic research and analysis firm, McCrindle, says they currently number around 5 million, or 20% of our population. By 2025 they will make up 27% of the Australian workforce, rising to one third of the workforce by 2030, at which point they will outnumber millennials
Who are Gen Z?
As is usual with generational labels – from Baby Boomers to Generation Alpha – the chronological definitions are somewhat fluid and can vary depending on the information source. McCrindle uses 1995-2009 as the birth year range. But more important than exact years are the shared outlook and experiences of these young Australians aged up to around 27.
They’ve grown up with the internet and smartphones as a routine part of daily life, and in many cases as a large chunk of their education as well. As a result they are extremely technologically literate and expect to use up-to-the minute tech tools in their working lives.
Globally connected and mobile
Gen Z are socially connected to both a local and global network via social media, which supplies them with information, ideas and opinions which cut across geographical and social boundaries. When not restrained by a pandemic, they are also physically mobile and expect to be able to work anywhere, possibly from any location. McCrindle says that in their lifetime they are likely to have 18 jobs spanning six careers while occupying 15 different homes.
Gen Z is poised to be the most ethically-minded generation the world has seen. Simple observation of their interactions makes it clear that they are concerned about the environment, sustainability, climate change, gender and LGBTQ+ equality, and business and political ethics and transparency. This is confirmed in research reported by Forbes.
According to the OECD, 63% of Gen Z believe that advancement opportunities are a very important aspect of a workplace. And 41% of Australian 17-year-olds expect to be a doctor, teacher, business manager, engineer, lawyer, police officer, ICT professional, nurse/midwife, designer or psychologist by the age of 30.
What the demographic shift means for business
What worked for Baby Boomers, Gen X and even millennials is not going to cut it for Gen Z. Businesses will need to change their approach to attract and retain young talent and keep them engaged. It will be vital to have:
- Up-to-date technology
- A flexible approach to remote working and working hours schedules
- A focus on work/life balance and employee wellbeing
- A positive, ethical and authentic company culture
- Opportunities for training and internal advancement
Managing Gen Z in the workplace
Drilling down to day-to-day management of Gen Z employees, here’s what they will expect of their leaders:
- Clear communication, both face-to-face and on mobile devices, about their role and their manager’s expectations
- Transparency from the top down about company mission and values
- Respect, encouragement, and attention to their opinions
- A caring attitude, and recognition of stress and its effects on mental health
- Support for a diverse and inclusive workforce
Don’t wait until Generation Z are the dominant cohort in your workforce. It will happen sooner than you think. The time to start adapting your business to embrace tomorrow’s leaders is right now.