Gen Z are here, and they want our jobs. Are you prepared?
If you’re like me, ‘the 90s’ is always only 10 years ago, and 2020 feels like the distant future. And then I think about the fact that 2020 is a mere three years from now and my stomach does a little flip. “Even when we think about 2010, so much has changed since then,” says Eliane Miles, social researcher, trends analyst and director of research for McCrindle. “The speed and scope of change often leaves us overwhelmed.” Speaking at a recent Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) state conference, Miles went off the well-trod millennials path and focused on the newest generation du jour: Gen Z.
According to McCrindle’s latest research, Gen Z (those born between 1995 and 2010) are currently 9 per cent of the workforce in Australia; by 2026, they will comprise 32 per cent, while baby boomers will shrink to 8 per cent, Gen X to 28 per cent and Gen Y to 33 per cent.
There are a few key trends Miles says workplaces need to know to stay on top of what Gen Z expects – and demands – from their jobs. First, their lives are non-linear, meaning it’s no longer about a “one job or career for life,” as Miles says. Right now, the average tenure for an under-25 employee is 1.7 years. By the time generation Z retires, they will have held an average of 17 jobs spanning five careers.
Millennial employees are similar, but Miles says this incoming generation is extremely mobile. “As a result, workplaces are feeling the pressure to get the most from them in the shortest amount of time,” says Miles. “There is more demand to develop employees quickly, to increase levels of productivity.”
Individuals in this generation were also born at a time when electronic communication really proliferated – even surpassing face-to-face interaction. Organisations can expect to see this affect how younger people learn and behave in the workplace.
For example, traditional in-person, lecture-style learning and development programs will no longer be effective because this generation takes a ‘try-and-see’ approach, says Miles. They will also push back against hierarchical leadership styles that take a ‘hard yards’ approach to moving through the ranks.
“People in this generation have aspirations, but they get stuck when they have a role but no opportunities for growth,” she says. This is especially true for organisations that fail to grasp the inevitable: recent research shows that nearly 40 per cent of roles are at risk of digital disruption by 2020. “They are intrinsically aware that they are being trained for jobs that don’t exist yet. Businesses need to let go and let them innovate and collaborate – they are just ready to get their hands dirty.”
The biggest pain point for organisations employing Gen Zers will be employee engagement, Miles says, and technology could be the deciding factor.
“Workers feel the pressure of being in an organisation that’s not staying up to speed with technology,” she says. Falling behind in this area is dangerous, as it could lead to higher levels of disengagement for Gen Z employees. Although they have a constant need to stay current, Miles says organisations need to be discerning about what is a fad versus a trend.
“Work out the timeless human drivers and think about the needs of your workforce,” she says. “It needs to be authentic and fit with your company culture.”