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Children of the demographic cohort known as Generation Z – the youngest generation currently entering the workforce – are the successors of the widely discussed Millennials. Their older sibling generation has been described with all kinds of attributes, ranging from tech-savvy and socially conscious to narcissistic and volatile.
Owing to both generations’ general proficiency with technical devices, digital communication and information-seeking, and their concern to contribute to a better world, Millennials and Gen Zers have sometimes been lumped together. But wrongfully so.
Several studies and articles have shown how the economic, political, demographic and technological environment during their childhood has shaped children of Generation Z to become significantly distinct from Millennials. Zers are perceived to be more risk-averse and security-driven, entrepreneurial, competitive, demanding of diversity and equality, and not only tech-savvy but tech natives. Yet – and in contrast to Millennials – they prefer face-to-face interactions with their colleagues to digital communication at the workplace.
But how can employers best prepare their companies for this new generation, which is estimated to make up almost one-third of the global population in 2019?
Children of Gen Z were born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. This means that they were either too young to consciously be aware of one of the most crucial events of recent history, or they were not even born. In either case, 9/11 has shaped Gen Zers political environment. They grew up with the awareness that terrorism and extremism are omnipresent.
On the other hand, Zers’ economic environment was determined by the financial crisis and the financial insecurity and monetary loss of their parents’ generation that it brought with it.
These political-economic conditions during Zers’ early childhood have contributed to a certain realism in terms of their career ideas. While Millennials have chased an idealistic career dream, Zers aim to build up their businesses in an entrepreneurial way to gain experience and secure a financially stable future. Moreover, they are determined to constantly develop their skills, which might result in increased competitive behaviour.
The smart use of recent approaches to CSR – such as implementing gaming techniques in the workplace – can pick up Zers’ entrepreneurial and competitive character. The competitive nature of games will provide direct and quantified feedback to the players, which helps them to develop their personal and business skills. In addition, the engagement with other team members to reach a join and socially desirable goal draws on the creative and entrepreneurial skills of the employees.
Embracing diversity and equality as corporate responsibility issues
Not only will the generation of Zers be the most diverse one in terms of ethnicity and gender but it is also the first to accept and demand diversity and equality as normalcy. In fact, a survey found that 72% of the interviewed Zers found racial equality to be the most important issues these days, followed by gender equality (64%) and equality of sexual orientation (48%).
These findings have clear implications for employers. Diversity and equality must be treated as important corporate responsibility issues within the firm. This can be done in several ways: through mentoring to support ethnic and gender minorities, through a thorough analysis of the current talent pool and hiring processes, and a serious handling of harassment.
On the other hand, a study from Deloitte emphasised that not only factual diversity but also “cognitive diversity” should be part of the workplace. Thus, it will be imperative for employers to create flat hierarchies and to regularly rotate the teams to ensure the equality and diversity of ideas.
Employee volunteering fosters meaningful face to face interactions
As mentioned above, in contrast to Millennials, Generation Zers are not only tech-savvy. Since they have had mobile devices available during most of their early childhood and adolescence, they must be considered tech-natives. However, to conclude that their digital nature has made them tech addicts in every situation in their lives would be wrong. The constant possible interaction through social communication channels has, on the contrary, fuelled Gen Zers’ desire to communicate from face to face.
In corporate social responsibility programmes, such as employee volunteering, face to face interactions are crucial to the success of the initiative. During these programmes, employees can develop important soft skills, such as communication and teamwork skills, which they might lack in a workplace purely relying on digital means of communication. Equally important, employee volunteering programmes provide meaningful topics for communications, which speaks to one of the things Generation Z has in common with Millennials: their social ethos.