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Gen Z at work
Gen Z at work

Generation Z: introducing our future leaders

5th Oct 2018
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Closely following in the footsteps of the millennials that have come before them, Generation Z is now entering the workforce – and believe me, they’re here to make an impact.

What does this mean for businesses and, ultimately, HR professionals? How are they different to ‘Baby Boomers’, Gen X and Y? How are they the same? How can we make the most of the talent that will derive from this generation of true digital natives? What are the best ways to integrate these young people in to a multigenerational workforce?

With so many questions around this latest working generation, I recently chaired a roundtable for that examined these topics with senior directors and HR leaders from companies including Nando’s,, RBS and Speedy Services.

All the companies present were aware of the impact this generation will have on their business and, for some, this impact is already being felt. But one thing that was agreed; this generation will one day be managing teams and running businesses across the country, they are our future leaders.

So now, as HR professionals, we need to make sure they are coached, trained and developed to be the best leaders possible. Here I share some key tips that were discussed throughout Lakeside Hotel’s roundtable.

Attracting the best of the future leaders  

The overriding consensus at the roundtable was that the entry of Gen Z into the workforce is exciting. They are going to be a force for change, and are already passionate about learning and developing.

However they have different drivers and motivators than the millennials that came before them, and as organisations we need to recognise these.

They are less concerned with funky offices and fully stocked beer fridges, and more concerned with their career path and how they will grow and develop within an organisation. Remember, these are the children of a recession, who could have witnessed people suffering from job insecurity at an early age.

Easy access to Google and endless information at the touch of a button has impacted this generation’s interpersonal communication and problem solving skills.

First and foremost it is this generation that requires a vision for themselves and the organisation they work for, they want less formal settings, flexibility, job rotation (the traditional career ladder is no longer seen as important) and involvement in projects.

CSR and the idea of doing good for the wider environment is also important to this generation. Having a CSR policy is no longer about ticking boxes for an organisation, or trying to attract additional sales, it is about genuinely doing good for the world that we live in.

So when trying to attract Gen Z always consider these three simple things, what can this generation do for our company, what can we do for them and collectively what can we do for the world that we operate in.

Instant information gratification

Communication was a theme that came up time and again in the roundtable. What we’re saying is obviously important, but now, more than ever before, how we’re saying it is also changing. Don’t forget this generation may never have used dial up internet or a landline, and will get the majority of their news and information at the click of a button.

They’re not used to waiting, and this ‘instant information gratification’ will be reflected in the way they work. Some of the companies are responding to this by delivering induction training via bite-sized videos rather than the typical employee handbook, ideal for the YouTube generation.

We all know that you can’t get to the top without making a few mistakes, otherwise how do you learn?

Others discussed ‘the death of email’, which may sound extreme at this stage, but for a generation who is used to WhatsApp and messenger style platforms, it makes sense to use these tools.

When asked how to incorporate these different styles within an organisation the consensus was to allow them to utilise these tools among themselves, in project groups, for example, but to set out early the communication expectations when working within a wider team.

Leaders are made, not born

So you’ve attracted Gen Z into your workforce, you’re communicating with them in the right way and now there is the challenge of moulding them into our future leaders.

With all of the positives that come from living as a digital native, there also comes some negatives. All of the roundtable participants agreed that easy access to Google and endless information at the touch of a button has impacted this generation’s interpersonal communication and problem solving skills.

Two-way mentoring was highlighted as a key asset to help coach and develop this generation and others in an organisation. Despite being new to the workforce, Gen Z already boasts a unique skillset based around their technological knowledge, which can be shared with others in return for coaching on problem solving and people management. The workplace is no longer linear.

The impact of social media on leadership skills was also discussed. With Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and more all very much ingrained in this generation’s day-to-day lives, everything they do is on show.

On one hand this has helped make succeeding and doing well become ‘cool’ again, but on the other, it has made them a generation afraid to fail.

We all know that you can’t get to the top without making a few mistakes, otherwise how do you learn? So as HR and L&D professionals, we need to put this generation in situations where they’re challenged and able to take risks, sometimes they’ll pay off, sometimes they won’t, but both are OK if they are then coached on how to learn and grow from these experiences.

Olive Strachan MBE chaired this roundtable session for Lakeside Hotel & Spa. Attendees included: Helen England, RBS; Lorna Webster, Lakeside Hotel & Spa; Ailsa Charnock, AO; Amanda Nicholls, AO; Tony Walton, Speedy Services; Sarah Mashiter, Refresh PR and Jude Brosnan-Holt, Nando’s.


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