How to prepare for the next generation of workers

Dominic Gill, Director, Intequal looks at the best ways to train generation Z staff and engage them in the workplace. Forget ping pong, a commitment to schemes such as reverse mentoring and the promise of ongoing learning and career development are key when engaging with the next generation of talent within your company.

Meet Generation Z

As the number of Generation Z workers arriving into the workplace continues to increase year-on-year, it’s time for organisations to seriously consider how ways of working and methods of managing employees may need to evolve to respond to changing workplace expectations. Familiarizing yourself with the new generation’s priorities, careers expectations and ways of working will prevent generational friction and ensure lasting business success.

Managers and HR professionals should approach this challenge as an exciting opportunity for growth and development. With the correct level of understanding, preparation and adaption, organisations can ensure that they are not only attracting Gen Z talent but are also retaining and utilising the next generation of workers.

Next in line after the much-discussed Millennials, Generation Z can be broadly defined as those born between the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. This younger generation has been shaped by a range of events and external influences, varying from heightened academia to witnessing the effects of economic recession. The spectre of potential debt as a result of student loans has also acted as a catalyst for Gen Z to consider the apprenticeship route as an attractive alternative option to university education.

Notably, having never experienced a time without technology and social media, Gen Z workers can be categorised as the first ‘digital natives’, making them more innately connected and digitally minded than any previous generation.

Gen Z expert and founder of Embrace Change Now, Franki Johnson, comments: 

“Generation Z has a completely different mindset to their predecessors. As digital natives, this generation is hyper-connected and approach all aspects of their life with a firmly digital mindset.

This mindset naturally filters down to career expectations, with the Gen Z workers expecting a faster pace of both working and learning, instant reward and recognition and accelerated career progression. Often labelled as self-entitled, this younger generation do have a greater awareness of what their time is worth and prioritise efficiency and flexibility within the workplace.

“While at odds with the more industrial mindset of previous generations, these new career priorities and ways of thinking can help businesses to adapt to an ever-changing digital world. Employers must allow for this contribution to take place by remaining open to new ways of working and managing resistance to change.”

Franki Johnson

Gen Z Expert, Founder of Embrace Change

Rethinking recruitment

This shift in the priorities and expectations of Generation Z presents several challenges to businesses including impacting upon how companies recruit and retain younger employees.

As career priorities shift, attracting young talent to more technical roles has become increasingly challenging. To combat this, employers must consider many factors that would once have attracted younger applicants to roles, such as a corporate environment and the potential to climb the career ladder, are now not as attractive.

Having paid witness to the impact of the recession on their parents, many Gen Z candidates wish to find roles which offer career stability alongside continued development and recognition. To attract Gen Z to entry-level roles it is vital that the wording of recruitment adverts and job roles reflects this.

While many envisage the offer of tangible work perks such as ping-pong tables and ball-pits as appealing to young workers, it is, in fact, the promise of continued learning and recognition, flexibility and structured career progression as well as variety of experience that young applicants are seeking when searching for new roles.

Nuture and Develop

Companies must also consider how Gen Z consume information and learn new skills. With Gen Z accustomed to a fast pace of learning, often independently, both on the job and digital forms of learning work well for both young workers and their employers.

Apprenticeship positions offer entry-level Gen Z workers a structured and transparent learning plan which allows apprentices to fully understand of their development and gives clear goals to work towards. Apprentices can build their skills incrementally while simultaneously implementing their learnings in real-world practice.

The training and coaching element on which apprenticeships are built naturally appeal to Gen Z workers’ desire for continued communication and constant feedback, while also ensuring that the employee’s skills are developed to meet the high standards of their employer.

This professional development alongside continued learning of new and relevant skills is, if implemented correctly, an investment which both the apprentice and the employer benefit from, with employee retention rates well exceeding the average.

Bridge the generation gap 

Despite being digitally minded and ultra-connected, studies have shown that Gen Z workers value verbal communication above other forms. With this in mind, continued appraisal, feedback and recognition are key for those managing Gen Z workers. By fostering an open and adaptable workplace culture, organisations will keep younger workers both engaged and productive.

The values of Gen Z are heavily focused on flexibility and continued innovation, and companies should ensure they keep an open mind when evaluating HR strategy and ways of working. Reverse mentoring can work as a positive way of allowing young employees to demonstrate their skills and voice opinions on how ways of working and company culture can be improved.

Along with altered mindsets, priorities and ways of working Gen Z have the potential to bring a wealth of innovation with them as they join the workforce. It is therefore vital for employers to approach these elements, some of which may be new to their business culture, with an open mind.

By embracing this emerging generation of self-motivated digital natives, employers have the opportunity to continue building productive and innovative workplaces with an engaged, skilled workforce.