Born between 1990 and 1999, the oldest members of Generation Z are now 24 years old, the first generation to be born and grow up in the digital age. Over the next decade large numbers of baby-boomers will be retiring, and taking their place will be an equally vast number of “GenZers”. This heralds the beginning of a profound shift in workplace composition and culture, and the need for training methods that are tailored towards the new generation of workers. Not only that, but it's also important to understand what motivates GenZers, and why they may thrive in an entirely new kind of work environment.
The GenZers who are now joining the workforce are people who have grown up in an era characterised by financial uncertainty, rising unemployment, and constant connectivity. Cautious about their futures, thanks to the global recession and its aftermath, and fully a part of the digital age Generation Z is the first to grow up in a world where you can talk to anyone, anywhere, at any time and where virtually any information can be found in seconds. Generation Z are familiar with and quick to adopt new technology and social media platforms. On the other hand, growing up in the information age has led to a global mindset that can be at odds with the more localised nature of many work environments. GenZers enjoy discovering and sharing information online, and are likely to adapt well to collaborative work, but they often have a strong concept of individualism too.
A structured work environment
Current thinking about GenZers in the workplace is that this new generation will perform best in a highly structured working environment that provides new hires with well-defined roles, an equally well-defined chain of command, and a leader with whom they can form a close working relationship.
It's also going to be necessary to provide ongoing guidance and training, as the expectation is that the new generation of workers will be eager to do their jobs, and do them well, but may be lacking in basic workplace skills.
Invest heavily in guidance and training
There's an ever-widening gap between skilled and unskilled workers, in terms of both technical and non-technical skills, which means that Generation Z is one that will require initial training to perform well in the workplace. For example, with their focus on digital communication, there's likely to be a lack of interpersonal skills for many GenZers, and a requirement for training to focus on this aspect of the job. Ongoing training and education should provide the individualised personal mentoring that GenZers need to stay motivated.
This generation is made up of individuals who have have grown up with a constant stream of information at their fingertips, and are more adept at multi-tasking. It's therefore important to engage them quickly and provide ongoing stimulation to make training a productive exercise. Informal learning and on-the-job training, integrated with fully accessible technology whenever possible, such as webinars and e-learning courses, are the ideal way to provide information, but training needs to have clearly-defined performance-based goals and outcomes to be effective.
The workplace always changes. Those who follow the generations theory say that there are four generations in the workplace at any one time and each brings behavioural changes. The last change saw Generation Y, the so-called 'Millennials', coming in to the workforce and bringing their more liberal and tolerant views, along with personal narcissism according to some commentators. Business has certainly become more relaxed which is shown in such ways as the death of the necktie. Now we await the arrival of a new generation as another retires.