How do Generation Z differ from millennials? What leadership do Generation Z require to perform at their best? And are they really used to having their parents solve all their problems? Generation researcher Anders Parment shares what employers need to think about in order to attract and retain the new generation of employees.
Why is diversity important in the workplace, both in terms of age and background?
Diversity has many advantages. It’s about finding versatility within the characteristics of a social group. Diversity is associated with ethnicity and culture. I really prefer the concept of versatility, which is broader. It’s about ethnicity, culture, educational background, whether or not one comes from a social family, whether one's parents see life as a world full of opportunities or a world with many restrictions, whether one is an only child or has many siblings.
Those are just a few examples; the point is that you shouldn’t limit versatility. The more versatile or diverse you are, the more solutions you develop for problems, the less risk of developing jargon, the less risk meetings and lunchtime discussions become one-sided, the more cultures you understand, and the more languages you can speak.
If employees have different backgrounds, it’s also easier to have available workers at different times of the week and throughout the year, including during major holidays. The more versatility or diversity in the workplace, the better the workplace is at understanding and responding to different types of customers.
Generation Z has begun entering the workplace. What opportunities and challenges does this present for employers?
The opportunities are that they’ll think new and have a good understanding of what today's customers expect. They’re oriented in popular culture. They think differently, which in and of itself is an advantage. This allows them to revitalise organizations.
The challenge is that this generation is used to having all their issues solved for them, not just by parents but by large sections of society, such as companies, recreational activities, maybe the school depending on how it looks, civil society. All or at least many of these have been accommodating Generation Z. This accommodativeness sometimes leads to the belief that everything will be done for them.
Not so long ago, millennials (Generation Y) were the new ones in the workplace. How do the newcomers differ from the "old" newcomers?
Generation Z are more traditional than millennials. What we see now is a return to 8-to-5. Generation Z are not as fascinated by this 24/7 society where you can do pretty much anything you want whenever it suits you. They want to be with their family. The distancing from parents that characterised young people, thanks to the growth of youth culture in the 1950s and several decades onwards, is gone.
This is a consequence of both the influence that young people have on society at large and their parents solving everything for them. As a reaction to individualism and endless possibilities for consumption and experiences, Generation Z are choosing a slightly calmer pace.
What events have influenced Generation Z during their upbringing?
The internet and digitalisation have been influential, as has a sharp increase in consumption opportunities, cheap travel, internationalization and, more recently, populism, polarization, political unrest and the climate debate.
What are the most common preconceptions about Generation Z? Are there any that are right?
That they’re spoiled, which we’ve said about every young generations, and that’s true to some extent. They’re sometimes described as lazy, but that’s not true. Like all generations, they really want to do the right thing for themselves and create a better society. This can be seen in the studies and survey responses, for example from Benify's Gen Z study and the Youth Barometer (in Swedish).
Do Generation Z require different leadership than previous generations?
Yes, Generation Z requires leadership to be more present and to provide faster feedback and more of it. But they also need leadership that gives them freedom and that can help them flourish. We don’t need more managers, but managers who understand younger generations, managers who dare to trust them and dare to give them freedom, but who, at the same time, have control over the outcome.
Is it true that younger people change jobs more often than older ones? If so, what is the reason?
The threshold for changing jobs is lower, but in reality, they don’t change all that more often. This is partly because employers today have much more thought-out career plans and follow their employees' career journeys better.
As an employer, is there something you can do to keep young employees longer, or is it better to just accept the situation and adapt?
Both. You can listen to what they want from the workplace and get to know their preferences. But, as an employer, you probably like things in such a way that you can't count on employees to stay as long as they once did. It’s important to know that employees leave, and new ones start, and it needn’t be negative. This is a new situation that, in the short term, is a little difficult to handle - recruitment requires dedication, which, in the long run, isn’t a bad thing. It’s understandable that people look for other jobs and employers must make efforts to retain important employees.
What can you do to become an attractive employer for Generation Z without "losing" the other generations?
Look at the criteria of what younger people find attractive in employers. Perform a generational analysis, raise the issue of different generations, look at what drives them and look into other areas where collaboration between generations occurs. If employees don’t understand each other, it will be difficult to work together, but if they do, individuals can thrive and become more efficient.
What are the most common mistakes employers make when "selling themselves" to younger people?
Trying to seem fun and interesting by projecting an image, rather than having a genuinely good offer for potential employees. Young people see through that. I remember when we had a guest lecture at the university; one company had sent two young guys there who were quite smug and thought they were cool. But, instead, the students saw through this and thought that the young employees, and thus the company, were dishonest and made a bad impression.
Based on your knowledge of different generations, what employees benefits do you think will we see more of and less of in the future?
More individualisation, more things that help the employee have a better life, such as services that make everyday life easier. Less of the things that give status but don’t add much value.
I think people have to listen to employees much more and understand what drives them. An example of how it doesn’t work is when an employee is offered a company car, and the employee in question doesn’t need or want one and may not even have a driver's license. In this case, the employer looks foolish offering a benefit that costs a lot of money each month and which ends up becoming mostly an inconvenience to the employee.
Discover the answers to all your questions concerning Generation Z in our e-book, Generation Z – The Definitive Guide to The Future Workforce.