How millennials, Generation Z are reshaping the workplace

Students from different universities during the launch of Millenials Speak at a Nairobi hotel, June 27, 2017. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

What do they want? That might be the question on many employers minds regarding the Millennials and Generation Z dominating the workplace.

Dubbed digital natives, these generations (born between 1981 and 1996) came of age alongside online platforms and phones, and are believed to make up half of the world’s working population.

Worklife spoke to Human Resources professionals to understand how these young generations are reshaping the workplace.

This new generation has been described as restless, impatient, entitled and unable to be loyal to one job. Are they just a fun-loving bunch afraid of responsibility?

Selwood Consultants Executive Director Gabriel Kariuki reckons that this new generation needs to be “properly” nurtured to harness their energy and capacity.

Perhaps, the verve that baby boomers (their parents) had has fizzled out with this new generation. “They have challenges in terms of attention to details, consistency and taking life extremely seriously,” he said.

This new generation has been described as restless, impatient, entitled and unable to be loyal to one job. [Courtesy]

How important is a work-life balance for them compared to the older generations? And are we being too harsh on people who just want decent working hours and pay?

“I think for them, life is more important than work. The upbringing is the real challenge because the parents have done most of the things for them even after they are employed,” said Kariuki alluding to the perceptions that they are spoilt brats.

“They will go to great lengths to do betting, take all kinds of loans from Mshwari, Tala, Branch, Fuliza, and even shylock, without caring much about how the same will be repaid. Literally short of living way beyond their means,” he added.

Does it take more than good pay to keep them? Firms have no choice but to adjust and accommodate them, explains Kariuki. This is as the future of work rapidly changes to incorporate more technology and even remote working.

“The firms have no choice but to make suitable adjustments because as the old generation exits the workplace, these are the people you are left to work with,” added Mr Kariuki.

“You need a workplace policy that accommodates their interests if you are to keep them. Such include flexitime, relaxed dress code, social media flexibility, availability of wifi.”

Kariuki notes that employers need to keep thinking of ways to accommodate their trends and styles as they even change the workplace dressing codes.

Employers need to keep thinking of ways to accommodate their trends. [Courtesy]

It’s no longer a stiff suit and ties but “business casual” he notes, previously unheard of.

“Unless checked, the dress code has changed to less formal, and management has to keep thinking of ways of accommodating their styles and trends.” But might have society gotten them wrong and want what all workers desire.

Kariuki noted that the misconceptions are that they are lazy and cannot be relied upon and don’t perform assigned tasks properly. He insists they are productive people when properly guided, directed and supervised.

“Whereas their uptake of professional advice from the older generation is low, they are technologically savvy and curious to know how to do things better, using less time and fewer resources,” said Kariuki, explaining the folly of them thinking they’ll never grow old. “The key thing is to understand them, train them and if possible, drill them accordingly on professional practices. They also need a change of mindset that the older generation is not all that outdated!”

A recent survey by Deloitte notes that online platforms and social media have handed Millennials and Generation Z the ability and power to dish out their opinions, influence distant people and institutions, and question authority in new ways.

“These forces have shaped their worldviews, values, and behaviours. Digital natives’ ability to connect, convene, and create disruption via their keyboards and smartphones has had a global impact,” said the Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey.

The global change movements such as Black Lives Matter marches on climate change and the #MeToo movement have been fueled by these generations.

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