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How Gen Z can impact the workplace and the steps organisations must take to adapt

Written by Nerys Mutlow on Tuesday, 21 September 2021. Posted in Leadership, People

As we move beyond the pandemic, we need to consider which lessons and experiences from remote working we carry over, and how they impact hybrid working moving forward.

How Gen Z can impact the workplace and the steps organisations must take to adapt

As we move beyond the pandemic, we need to consider which lessons and experiences from remote working we carry over, and how they impact hybrid working moving forward. One driving force is the ongoing demographic changes, which will result in 75% of the workforce being millennials and Gen Z by 2025. Organisations should take note of such a dramatic infusion of young talent and ask themselves how they can maximise new potential, and challenge some outdated working values and practices to enable a new period of innovation.

The flexible generation

Initially, companies must evaluate their approaches to upskilling and reskilling their workforce. Studies have found that Gen Z tends to be more interested in flexible, skill-based work whilst taking a leading role in their own development. In response, companies have an opportunity to re-organise their approach to hiring. Organisations could offer a more tailored approach to development and training in the workplace by reaching out to applicants without traditional qualifications. They could then focus upon developing skills that unlock the value and outcomes they are trying to achieve, rather than emulating outdated, unproductive values or practices which may clash with the sensibilities of Gen Z.

Gen Z has also become accustomed to learning, working remotely, and managing their own time and progress in unique and challenging settings. Companies must match the expected flexibility by providing Gen Z with some autonomy over their careers and introducing mechanisms that allow them to add value to the company while delivering results for their teams. These changes are important because Gen Z has matured and entered the workplace in a unique context of remote, isolated living. 

This generation has already embraced a learning and entrepreneurial culture. They have seen global empires being built from bedrooms, leveraging new technologies and adapting to changes, successfully connecting and driving value from a global, diverse audience. They adapted to remote experiences with ease, as it was an extension of the world they already enjoyed. If enabled and empowered, this experience can benefit both employer and employee with unique perspectives and solutions to tasks, projects, and problems.

Building trust to unlock potential 

Organisations must also consider the cultural complexities of the generation. Well before the pandemic, Gen Z experienced unprecedented social, political and environmental complexity, and studies show they have less trust in formal institutions as a result. Because of these external circumstances, they are overwhelmingly focused upon equity and fairness. Companies should demonstrate an active commitment to a range of diversity, inclusion and belonging initiatives, being ready to address issues that are important to their workforce. Matching the social conscience of Gen Z is not strictly a matter of appearing ‘woke’, a term used to describe alertness to social injustice. Rather, it is an opportunity to stay in touch, remain resilient, forward-thinking, and relevant.

As Gen Z brings their diversity and social conscience, companies must cultivate a natural, organic relationship which keeps them interested, engaged, and gives them a stronger sense of purpose. By championing such values, Gen Z can become exceptional drivers of value and output because their employment aligns with their sense of purpose. Additionally, organisations can break down the outdated and almost adversarial working paradigm of employer vs employee – the traditional us (employees) vs them (management) dynamic – which studies have argued to be an impediment to progress, resilience and adaptability. With this approach, hierarchical structures become collaborative networks, focused upon results rather than simply reporting to a manager. 

Technology is essential

For Gen Z, learning, development, and work, are all synonymous with technology. Mobile and digital working experiences are unquestionable necessities that increase productivity and allow access to the information required in order to excel. Organisations looking for the best Gen Z talent must be ready to provide similar consumer-like employee experiences to unlock their productive potential and innovate the workplace. 

With the circumstances of the pandemic and the rise of Gen Z, employers have the opportunity to recalibrate how they build and maintain traditional working relationships and revise the metrics they use to measure success. By focusing upon these values and approaches, we can fully maximise the potential of Gen Z and allow them to impact the workplace in a range of positive ways.

About the Author

Nerys Mutlow

Nerys Mutlow

Nerys Mutlow is Evangelist in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow, covering Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. She works closely with CxOs, leadership boards and business executives to understand their challenges and inspire innovations that drive value for their employees, customers and business. Nerys brings 20 years of technical, business and leadership experience from Xerox, Thales, and Fujitsu where she held senior business, consulting, and technical roles.

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