The Gen Z worker presents a challenge to employers particularly startups and small businesses.
First, let’s define our terms:
Generation Z workers are 25 and younger
Millennials are 26 – 41
Gen X workers are 42 – 57
Boomers II are 58 – 67
Boomers I are 68 – 76
How does Gen Z see itself, Big Red Car?
Gen Z sees itself as being:
1. Digital natives — distinctly different from digital “pioneers” like the Millennials — with a high level of computer and smartphone literacy, moreso than their predecessors.
2. They believe their social awareness borders on divine enlightenment and their view is global. Being young, they have not seen the culture wars such as #MeToo in the workplace.
3. For Gen Z social goods (outcomes) are more important than any other measure chief amongst which are diversity and the environment.
4. They see companies as brands rather than profit machines discharging a fiduciary duty to their shareholders and value culture above all else.
Gen Z believes stakeholders trump shareholders.
5. They want meaningful work and independence while highly valuing work – life balance. They also value flexibility in which they are the ones who exercise it.
6. They are competitive and want upward mobility and financial rewards now.
Again, this is how the Gen Z worker sees themselves.
The Gen Z worker is terminally young. Not naïve, but young.
Remember, we are talking about workers who top out at 25 here, so not many have much real life work experience.
Here are the challenges the Gen Z worker faces and brings to the workplace.
1. All Gen Z workers have spent the last two years in Pandemic mode. This has interrupted education, professional development, social development, and normal employer – employee relationships.
2. Gen Z has been sheep dipped in Work From Home without having had the frame of reference of working in a normal office environment.
3. Gen Z has enjoyed a time of relatively high employment with extraordinarily low unemployment rates and been exposed to the Great Resignation.
4. Gen Z is too young to have been marked by the horrors of 9-11 or the Great Recession of 2008. In many ways, they arrive in a virginal wrapper.
5. Gen Z sees the “side hustle” as being part of a normal employment arrangement with their day job paying the bills whilst their side hustle releases their creative instincts and is displayed across social media which is their playground.
Gen Z is hopelessly exhibitionist on social media.
As in any broad assessment, nothing applies to everybody, so be skeptical.
How do employers see Gen Z?
Employers see Gen Z in the following way:
1. Woefully inexperienced and lacking in self-awareness often believing knowledge of the vernacular makes them subject matter experts.
“But I did stay in a Holiday Express last night.”
2. Perhaps the most frequent observation is Gen Z appears entitled and having high expectations far exceeding the norm for entry level employees.
3. Work From Home has denied Gen Z a profound link with the company culture thereby killing company loyalty, something completely devalued by Gen Z.
4. Employers find Gen Z difficult to train as they doubt the necessity and it has been extraordinarily difficult to present training in the WFH pandemic environment.
5. Employers find Gen Z to over value their contribution which when taken with the lack of loyalty results in high turnover – higher than other segments of the work force – and the Great Resignation.
6. Employers find Gen Z unwilling to make the extra effort, an effort they reserve for their side hustle.
So, what’s the future look like, Big Red Car?
Ahh, dear reader, here it is:
1. The American work force is going to return from home to the office and WFH will become a 15% phenomenon. This will cause a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth for Gen Z who adores WFH.
2. Once back from their pajama clad work environment, Gen Z will do just fine in absorbing the culture and competing in the workforce. They will be just peachy, but there will some transition pain.
3. The US is going to experience a ferocious recession of Biblical Jimmy Carter proportions and Gen Z will get its ears pinned back. Not their fault, but there will be pain.
4. Employers will become more careful in their hiring practices and hire away from normative Gen Z undesirable traits wherever they can.
Bottom line it, Big Red Car
The Dow broke below 30,000 today and the Gen Z worker will slowly come into line with business practices as will employers. It’s all going to be fine, but there will be changes.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.