I came across a certain Twitter thread by millennials and older generations discussing newly recruited Gen Zs in their workplaces.
The sentiments ranged all the way from impressed to sheer disbelief. Many commented on how the managers were being taught by the Zs or how quickly they completed tasks that took others longer.
One story in particular I thought was hilarious: A manager needed certain work done that would require overtime hours and subsequently overtime pay. But the one kid in the office who could effortlessly do it, when it was time, casually packed his belongings and left the office, saying he had a life and he didn’t necessarily need the pay. The horror on their faces!
Please welcome the generation that looks at their day jobs as their part-time jobs, and living life as their full-time jobs.
Generation Z — the zoomers — were born between 1997 and 2012. The coming of age of Gen Zs has been felt across every sphere; politics, retail consumption, technology and the workplace. They are emerging and taking the world by storm.
On a global scale, Gen Zs have surpassed millennials as the largest generation, making up 32 per cent of the global population (Bloomberg reports) and are projected to make up 30 per cent of the workforce by 2025.
This new cohort in the workforce brings with it unique definitions of success and perspectives on career advancement. Their behaviours, attitudes and preferences differ significantly from their predecessors Generation Y, and more so X.
Studies show that only 73 per cent of Gen Zs look forward to going to their workplace, a whopping 10 per cent lower than other generations.
They are also more discerning and intentional about finding a sense of purpose in their work with an eight per cent drop in the positive appraisal of the statement: “My work has special meaning.”
Only 69 per cent of Gen Zs compared to 75 per cent of older generations felt they got compensated fairly, and 76 per cent contrasted with 83 per cent of millennials felt that their companies provided a psychologically and emotionally healthy place to work.
Moreover, statistics show that Gen Zs evaluate their employers lower than any other generation and are more likely to contemplate leaving.
In perspective, they are 32 per cent more likely to leave than millennials, twice as likely as Gen X and a staggering three times more likely than boomers. They are estimated to change jobs up to five times between the ages of 18 and 34.
In spite of the fact that they are still relatively young and make up a comparatively small portion of the workforce at the moment, businesses must be mindful of the expectations and accommodations necessary to attract amazing Gen Z talent and help them be absorbed successfully into the workforce.
So who are the Gen Zs?
Gen Zs are digital natives. They have never known a world without the internet. They have been named the first global generation growing up in a society where global interactions are taken for granted, and because of this, they are more likely to embrace digital nomadic careers. They have a one-upper in technology savviness and heavily rely on automation.
Gen Zs are also social activists. In politics, they are proving to be a prominent voting bloc that will require politicians to engage differently with them.
Many countries reported that most of their young eligible voters refused to participate in elections as their way to show disdain for the electoral processes. They care about their governments and corporations’ attitudes towards the environment and commitment to fighting climate change.
They also have high standards in regard to ethics and transparency.
Gen Zs have different definitions of quality of job, good working environment and great working ethics. The old rigid narrative of climbing the corporate ladder has been replaced with a more provisional and flexible concept.
Job security does not worry them as much as job fulfilment does. Work-life balance, the ability to work remotely and flexible leave are very important to them.
Born in the era of Hunger Games and Avengers, Gen Zs have developed an appetite for risk and adventure. Unlike their parent generations, job benefits and perks rank very low in their preferences, as well as the company brand.
There has been an obvious gap between companies and the newly employed workforce, which has resulted in misunderstanding, miscommunication and miss-expectations. Gen Zs’ unique perspectives have given them a bad reputation in the workplace, dubbing them lazy or unmotivated.
So what do Gen Zs want in the marketplace?
Stagnation is one of the greatest fears for Gen Zs. This generation prioritises jobs where they can expand their skills and broaden their talent and experience. They want opportunities where they not only grow professionally but also personally.
They are looking for a variety and jobs that make sense to them. Monotony is the enemy! They care that their work makes a difference and not just mundane unvaried work.
Simon Sinek, author and speaker, points this out by saying that young people these days are not able to stick it out in work environments where they felt their impact was not being felt.
This attribute is important for managers and recruiters to phrase their job offerings in a way that communicates the values and mission of a company. “Yes, this is a data entry job but this is how it ties into the bigger picture.” To attract the best Gen Z talent, employers will also have to foster personal development within the company.
Company culture and team
Brought up under the heavy influence of social media, Gen Z is highly addicted to likes and recognition. They want companies where they feel engaged, wanted and socialised with.
Even veteran employers such as the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (KMPDC) have to grapple with the change in culture where young teachers and medics have Tiktok accounts and a heavy online presence, unlike the previous regime where employers in these sectors assumed certain ascribed roles. Today, both the student and the teacher are dancing on Tiktok.
Gen Zs are more likely to thrive in teams where they are utility players so don’t archive them with a job description. They want more visibility and grip on their impact on the performance or growth of a business unit or division.
Conceivably, this defines the preference to work in high-growth start-ups: “It’s exciting, it’s thrilling”. And you can own bottom-line growth and success in a space where you feel safe to drive change without fighting an army of bureaucratic red-tied executives or you can give a radical opinion without getting icy silence and cold stares during the departmental meeting.
The reality of remote work is also one that employers will have to encounter. Given the option for a slight pay decrease and the option of working remotely, Gen Z will pick this option over slightly more pay.
A contradiction is presented by Gen Zs who, though not necessarily motivated by salary, ask for a lot more than their predecessors for the same job description.
Their incentive to work isn’t largely monetary or job safety, it can be something as dismal as the founder’s passion and how they communicate it. However, they evaluate their value higher. This may be a result of being brought up in a very child-centred era where there was a lot of hand-holding.
Every generation brings its own unique perspective to the workforce - the boomers brought more women to the workplace, Generation X gave the workplace an entrepreneurial touch while the millennials brought to light matters concerning mental health.
And now, ready or not, Generation Z is in full force. They are taking on the workplace in the wake of many historical occurrences including the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, an increase in democracy, social media, identity narratives and many freedoms.
The writer is Group Chief Executive, Jubilee Insurance and Deputy Chairman, Standard Group