Generations in the Workplace

From Generation Y to Millennials, and now to Generation Z.

BY Estée Roodt, (MCom Industrial Psychology)
Behavioural Specialist, Workpoints

Although the exact timeframe of Generation Z remains debated, the earliest date states that this generation begins from is 1995. That means, if you are still struggling to understand Generation Y and the impact of millennials on your business practices, hold on to your monocle, because Generation Z is turning 21 this year! While the first Gen Z’ers are completing their undergrad this year, those who opted to study part-time, or to jump directly into the world of work, are already employed. So by now Gen Y would have infiltrated your management team and they are paving the way for Gen Z.

While this article will touch on a few key points regarding Gen Y, its main focus is to try and prepare you for the Gen Z boat that is already sailing. One thing is certain, if you’ve been reluctant to change business practices, you are already trailing far behind.

Millennials are highly connected through access to information and social media. Compared to other generations they also tend to be more confident, have a higher regard for work-life balance, search for jobs that they love, and are community orientated. This generation is less likely to take the notion of ‘expert’ or ‘authority’ at face value, as they place a high value on peer input as well as access to transparent and relevant information.

Both as consumers and employees, millennials need to understand the reasons why they need to buy into a product, or support an organisation. They strongly interrogate the core of the companies and brands that they associate with, as they see any association with a brand or company as an expression of their own values and beliefs.

They are attracted to companies that think globally and embrace technology. They are furthermore extremely entrepreneurial and may hold multiple jobs at the same time, or pursue multiple career paths. The business processes that they develop prioritise data, speed and execution.

While Gen Z is still forming, there key traits that will define them as a group. We know that their character and mind-set is already different to those of other generations. The era in which they grew up in can provide us with a few clues of what they will value most in their adult lives. While Gen Y was still surprised by technological advancements, Gen Z was exposed to technology from the start and it is second nature to them. This means that a paper process, or a process that cannot be accessed through an app, is not likely to make much sense.

Unlike previous generations, Gen Z feel the same level of connectedness through technology as others would experience when seeing someone in person. They will value mobility and will most likely feel frustrated with a lack thereof. They too live by a strong community feel, which means that the organisational culture will need to create an interactive and collaborative environment. Their access to information will make them outspoken. We can expect a workforce that is defined by great flexibility which will mean freelance and contract work that specialises in a specific expertise.

So here’s to balancing the demands of another generation in the workplace, but also tapping into this exciting new source of ideas and perspective.

A few things to consider with regards to Gen Z and how to incorporate all of these elements into your organisational culture:

Core values of your organisation

What are the core values, principles and beliefs of your organisation? Does your company create shared value for society? Do you live by, and lead by, your core values? Basically, will an individual be able to connect, and agree, with your purpose and practices?

Your recruitment processes

Are your recruitment processes easily accessible through technology? It is time to improve online processes, and perhaps start including peer reviews.

Be transparent in sharing company information

What is the current employee access to company information? Both Gen Y and Gen Z will require increased access to business information for performance as well as strategy.

Value collaboration and incorporate this across all levels

Both Gen Y and Z are collaborators. If you want to retain employees, as well as get the best out of them, you need to actively create an environment of collaboration.

Communication mechanisms in your organisation

How are you creating an environment for information sharing, knowledge sharing and collaboration?

Work flexibility

The world of work will become increasingly flexible and every organisation must review their work hours, as well as mobility policies. The focus will be on contribution, not hours spent at the office.

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