In September, the TBTech team caught up with three experts on how Covid-19, Generation-Z and Millenials have influenced the workplace of today.
For so many of us, we can still recall a life where technology was not so heavily interlaced into our everyday. But, while many of us can remember the days of a dial-up connection, floppy disks, and flip phones, a generation of digital nomads are rising, who have spent infancy with smartphones in their hands.
As we pair the digital fluency of Generation-Z and its subsequent generations with the acceleration of digital transformation across all sectors in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it is no surprise that the standard working model has given way to remote and hybrid work.
The rise of digital natives
Dr Paul Redmond, Director of Student Experience and Enhancement, University of Liverpool, believes that the pandemic has “turbocharged” a digital transformation in the workplace that was inevitable. “The fact that we’ve got colleagues [on this digital webinar] from South Africa, the South of England and North of England, just shows how quickly we’ve adapted,” he said. “It’s become a Gen-Z world very quickly now, and I think this generation will transform organizations very quickly.” As a member of a generation preceding Generation Z, Redmond considers himself “a digital immigrant” as opposed to the “natives” that are Generation-Z, as he had to learn technology later in life, as opposed to Generation-Z, which grew up with smartphones in their hands.
More than just technology
Redmond observes that Generation-Z is very good at considering the world of work as a cause and something that an employee must believe in passionately. “Work is an identity rather than a paycheck. They’re looking for development and for an opportunity to express themselves something that they believe in. So I think they’ve turbocharged the future. They’ve brought great changes, great opportunities to organizations, but they are very different, and they will challenge organizations in ways which the previous generation didn’t.”
Can organizations meet this challenge?
One of the most important things that a CEO can do, listen, says Redmond. “I’ve found from many case studies that I’ve done, the more senior you become in your career, the higher up you go in an organization, the harder it is to listen, and that’s partly because everyone expects you to be the one with the answer,” he explains. So Redmond advises CEOs to ensure that they are the last ones to speak during meetings and to find themselves a mentor who is at least two generations younger and can advise on generational differences.
“So only 8% of firms at the moment have a multi-generational policy. We’re great at having policies around, equality, diversity and inclusion, but very rarely to be included are generational policies. I think we’ve got to really help organizations think about how we are going to approach a multi-generational world of work, because crucially, if you’re going to engage with all different generations, you need staff who are from all different generations,” he said.
Josephine Hansom, Managing Director: Insight, YouthSight, has also observed tensions between generations, most notably, between Generation-Z and Boomers at the start of the pandemic, and more recently, between Generation-Z and Millenials. “[Generation-Z and Millenials] are both quite young in age, comparatively to the older generations that might be in your organization. Organizations need to recognize that those traditional milestones that people might be going through and those milestones have been put back quite a lot since the pandemic as well.”
Hansom shares that the pandemic has further pushed these milestones back. Data reveals that pandemic meant 75% of 16 to 20 fours were living with their parents “That’s a huge number of young people who were going back home and yet, if you look at, another set of our data, moving out of the parental home is a big milestone in terms of feeling like an adult and being independent.”
Attracting Generation-Z to your workforce
Hansom emphasizes that younger generations don’t want gimmicks; they don’t want table tennis and free things, “they want to feel that what they’re doing is meaningful to them. Looking at our data, the most important thing that young people are looking for at the moment is a good working environment.” She adds that this has only increased in recent years, with a company’s success and ethics following as follow-up values. “A good working environment can be interpreted in many different ways. Once, it would’ve been the working office environment, and now we have seen this evolve to reflect the flexibility of work in the wake of Covid-19.” Hansom adds that younger generations want to understand their progression and achieve their milestones as fast as possible.
Creating a culture that attracts Generation-Z
Julia Robson, Founder and CEO of DNMK Esports. Brand Ambassador at Acer Africa & Predator Gaming explained that for many in the gaming industry, gaming is a key part of their identity, so they are passionate about their work. And this is key for Robson in her hiring process: “I initially have conversations with people who are really interested in joining DMK, I always ask, what are your passions?”
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“So it’s really understanding, you know, the culture, the subculture, and also just, the social aspects of it and how you can benefit from putting your business within these niches and making sure that you’re contributing to the growth of those platforms. Because again, for us, being a video gamer might not seem so ‘new age’ anymore but being a cosplayer that streams on Twitter speak to a specific niche culture; that’s something that someone else would personally feel a lot more passionate about. So it really is just having that open discussion and making sure that you’re conveying your businesses passions and focuses from the get-go and that you express that outwardly again, social media being one of these technology progressions in the world.”