Bridging the generation gap: How to cater to a Gen Z workforce

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The pandemic has altered the way we all operate. It has made us re-evaluate the time and energy we spend at work. Most of us have taken a holistic look at our life, health, and wellness. Consequently, the relationship between the organization and its employees has also changed.

Today’s young workforce has different goals, aspirations, and priorities compared to the generation before it, providing its own leadership and direction.

Before bridging the generation gap, we should re-examine the culture we’re creating and the environment we’re offering to unlock the fullest potential of Gen Z. Based on my experience in mentoring young leaders, here are a few things that can help.

Gen Z requires a strong sense of culture and community

Candidates today want to understand the kind of work environment they are joining, and they evaluate a prospective employer through online reviews, Glassdoor, speaking to peers, etc. They ask our past and current employees, vendors, partners, and customers to learn about our culture and work environment, so it is imperative that we design a people-friendly culture and put it to practice every day.

Do we respect each other’s time? Do we provide opportunities to grow and learn? Will we schedule meetings outside work hours? Do we work on the latest technologies? Are we truly practicing diversity, equality, and inclusion? Do we contribute to the community? Our every act should reflect organizational culture.

Meaningful work

Money is no longer the only motivator for Gen Z. They have clear goals and aspirations chalked out for themselves, and they see their job and organization as an enabler to help them accomplish those in the long term. As a result, they are continuously searching for meaningful work and learning that will challenge them intellectually while contributing to the organization’s goals and the overall community.

Work-life balance

Gen Z likes to take time for themselves and use the time to rejuvenate to do their best work. This is also beneficial for everyone in the organization because the more energized an employee is, the more innovative they can be at work.

We need to create systems that will enable a sense of community, a healthy work-life balance, and flexible work models to attract and retain a strong Gen Z workforce.

Flexibility

Often, we misunderstand what Gen Z means by flexibility. It is not just the flexibility of work hours but also the work itself. Young technologists aren’t satisfied with being the best Python developer globally. They want to be ‘deep generalists.’ They want to creatively bring together diverse skills and experiences to solve real-world problems. They want a good challenge and the space to take it on. As organizational leaders, we must create a space fostering diversified learning experiences.

Workplace design

Gen Z is a generation that has never known a world without the World Wide Web. As digital natives, they do more with mobile phones than we can even imagine. Can we gamify the rewards and recognitions program to inspire their competitive spirit? For instance, can we automate mundane tasks — like filling timesheets— to free them up for creative work?

There is an opportunity to create a digital workspace for a generation that doesn’t see digital and physical as two different universes. It would be fair to say this digital generation expects the same technology experience at work as they have in their personal lives.

Policies and processes

Most HR practices today, such as the 8-hour workday, 21-day vacation policy, and so on., are from the industrial era. The world has changed, and so should we. We need to prioritize our people’s lives and design policies to support them. For instance, equity at home — both parents playing an equal role as caregivers — needs to stem from equitable policies at work. We need to reimagine parental leave, bridge the gender pay gap, offer equal opportunities, and more.

We also need to remember that not all employees have the same lives. Our policies must also be flexible enough to meet the individual needs of each employee. This is a difficult but highly rewarding task if we can accomplish it.

Gen Z-adaptive management

We have a lot to learn from today’s generation about work-life balance, professional aspirations, individual goals, and life in general. Instead of judging or resisting their priorities, we must empathize, understand, and adapt. The next generation has clarity of thought and cleverness of action, making them fully equipped to architect their future.

Our job as organizational leaders is quite simple: Identify and acknowledge the aspirations of the new workforce, a generation that brings the right amount of magnitude and direction to solve real-world problems. Those who don’t will lose the opportunity to capitalize on the knowledge economy’s single biggest competitive advantage: People.

Author

Rekha Nair, HR head-India, Tredence

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