By Petra Urhofer
The next generation of workers – Generation Gen Zs (or also known as Gen Zs, iGen’s or Post Millennials) are set to enter the workforce in full force over the next five years. With industries worldwide suffering a shortage of skills, now has never been a more important time to prepare your business and leadership skills to attract and retain this next wave of talent. Yet, it’s expected that this next generation will bring another set of behaviours to add to the already differing expectations of today’s multi-generational workforce. It’s no surprise then to find that Forum’s recent study into what Gen Zs want from a job and boss, and are leaders prepared, found that over half, 55%, of business leaders are highly and moderately concerned with Gen Zs entering the workforce.
We interviewed 250 Gen Zs, those born between 1994 and 2000, to discover what is important to them about work. The research also examined how well prepared 750 leaders are to attract and retain these workers and what challenges they foresee. Despite a high level of concern amongst leaders, only 8% of organisations have engaged in extensive training to prepare leaders with the skills to manage post-millennials and their unique set of engagement needs and career aspirations. So what should leaders do to prepare for the arrival of Gen Zs?
What motivates Gen Zs
Our research found that salary (67%), flexible working and good work-life balance (40%), job security (39%), regular training and development (29%) and good holiday allowance (18%) were the top five most important things Gen Zs look for in a job.
Companies that offer continuous learning programmes will be attractive to a large proportion of Gen Zs. Over a quarter (29%) of Gen Zs place importance on regular training and development with 26% describing a boss that doesn’t spend time training and developing, as ‘irritating.’ 35% are eager to develop new skills, which they consider their strength, and 17% are attracted by employers that offer a variety of work to help them to expand their abilities.
Despite a thirst for learning, ‘providing better training and development’ came out top of the things leaders and companies need to do more of to appeal to Gen Zs with 26% of leaders stating that, meeting the training and development needs of this generation will be challenging. In terms of how Gen Zs like to learn, 45% prefer regular training and mentoring by a line manager or mentor. A quarter like e-learning and PC based programmes whilst 23% chose classroom and activity based learning, showing that a combination of techniques are best suited. But be aware that whilst Gen Zs like to be nurtured, they do dislike being told what to do – a challenge that 30% of leaders also highlighted in our research. 27% of Gen Zs also admitted to lacking confidence in face-to-face communications, which 26% of leaders agreed with. Bearing this in mind, more experiential training that requires Gen Zs to use their own initiative and to work as teams, would be the best approach to learning in most situations.
What’s less important to Gen Zs
Despite the heighten publicity around the need to improve workplace equality and diversity across businesses overall, surprisingly very few Gen Zs (14%) place importance on working for companies that have strong diversity policies and show good gender equality. Even less (3%) are worried about working for employers with clear corporate social responsibility programmes. Also astonishingly, just 7% of the ‘iGeneration’ – born during the spread of home internet use and the mobile phone – put access to the latest technology as essential in a job, and only 4% worry about working in a modern office environment with the latest facilities and permission to use social media at any time.
Disconnect between leaders and Gen Zs
It was no surprise then to find that leaders, when asked what more they as a boss and the company could do to attract, retain and develop Gen Zs, went for the more ‘stereotypical’ answers, with 27% (around four times more than Gen Zs) ticking ‘having the latest technology.’ 23% (approximately six times more than Gen Zs) chose’ an improved office environment and modern facilities’ and nearly twice as many leaders (21%) believe that having strong diversity policies and demonstrating good gender equality is key. Only 23%, compared to 40% of Gen Zs, identified flexible working and good work-life balance as important. This shows a disconnect between what leaders think will magnetize Gen Zs and what will actually appeal to them. The areas they did both agree on though, was the value of training and development. Thirty-eight per cent of leaders said their company needs to offer better learning and development (versus 29% of Gen Zs valuing L&D), and 33% of managers admit that they need to invest more of their time in training their team to attract this next generation of worker.
More than a quarter of leaders also recognised that this generation wants to be communicated to regularly with 34% of Gen Zs annoyed by bosses that are not clear in their instructions and 19% put off by a leader that offers very little face-to-face contact. However, only 13% of managers realise the value of other soft skills such as praise, and being open and honest with just 7% placing importance on listening and encouraging ideas. This is even though over 30% of post-millennials dislike managers who show a lack of appreciation and praise, give little recognition, or appear untrustworthy by lying, gossiping, or taking credit for other’s work.