Why Generation Z does not stand for Zombies?

We’ve been lately hearing a lot of rattle and hum about new generations in the workplace. Millennials and lately Generation Z are being discussed and dissected in what relates to their attitudes, behaviors, perception of work, career aspirations and the like. More so, what is noteworthy is how businesses and many professionals are tagging them. We read a lot about those Generations being lazy, not committed, not loyal, not disciplined, shallow, and seekers of shortcuts. However, let’s think a bit before judging them, especially when it comes to ‘Generation Z’. 

Generation Z are not different in terms of their needs. Just like all of us they want to thrive, prove themselves, progress in their jobs, get good exposure, and learn. The difference however is in their perception of how they want or can achieve this. Their perception of how they want to achieve their career aspirations is somehow different from how the Millennials perceived their career aspirations, and surely a lot different from how Generation X, and the Baby boomers perceived their careers. To prove this, let’s
look at a study of 770 individuals born between 1990 and 1999 conducted by staffing company Robert Half & Enactus (a Student focused nonprofit that encourages Entrepreneurship). They found that Generation Z values the following qualities in a manager:

Honesty/Integrity (38%), and Mentoring Ability (22%). 45% of them prefer to work in a private office, and 74% prefer face-to-face communication with colleagues. Further, the study
showed that 45% of Generation Z anticipates potential challenges working with baby boomers, 17% with Generation X, and 5% with Millennials.

They expect to work for 4 employers throughout their career, and their top job search priorities are growth opportunity, generous pay, and ability to make an impact. The first question that jumps onto one’s mind in light of this study is: How different are those people from anyone of us?
True that Generation Z are digital, disruptive, fast and furious, differently disciplined, more pragmatic than compassionate, self-learners, authority is a killer for them, with a built-in global database. This makes corporate culture an extremely important aspect to them if they want to work whole heartedly, commit, and stay with their employer. But wait a second! Don’t we all think and feel the same. Who of us would put his heart and mind in a workplace that does not match his values or perspective of a worthwhile career? Don’t we all want to work with an honest manager and a good mentor? Don’t we all want to have face-to-face communication with colleagues? The difference however remains in that the Corporate Cultures of many (older) businesses today are set by Baby Boomers or Generation X, and that is why Generation Z are finding difficulties in blending well with the corporate cultures of companies they are joining.

The problem is neither with older generations, nor with new ones. The issue is that Organizations today need to adapt their Values System and consequently their Corporate Cultures to accommodate the Values and thinking patterns brought about by Millennials and Generation Z. If Businesses do not work persistently to fix this glitch, we will continue to see more tagging of Generation Z, and more nagging about how they are undisciplined, not loyal, and lazy. And as such, we will see a more difficult-to-handle talent, major attraction and retention issues, not to mention the significant risk on performance for companies who are still unable to make the link between Values, Corporate Culture and new Generations at Work.

An easy way to read this, is to compare newly established Businesses (maximum 10 years old), and older businesses. We can easily notice that new Businesses are more at ease handling new generations than older ones, and for obvious reasons. Newly established businesses are founded mostly by people of a closer generation to Millennials and Generation Z (if not by Millennials and Generation Z themselves). Hence their Corporate Values and Culture are more reflective of what new generations expect from their workplace. Now, compare this to older companies who continue to embrace different values and cultures!

Companies who are crying their luck about how to handle Millennials will be in big trouble when Generation Z hits the talent market, not because ‘Z’ stands for Zombies, but because they didn’t prepare themselves well. As such, if companies want to get over the ‘New Generation’ complex, they need to learn from newer companies’ practice, and consequently secure the tools, the culture, and the treatment that would make those generations functional. Here are some ideas to get started:

1. Re-read your Corporate values and Culture with the above thoughts in mind. Maybe you just need to adapt a bit of them to accommodate new generations well.
2. Rethink all your HR Policies and Procedures, and I mean “Rethink” not fine tune.
3. Think Entrepreneur (inside-company entrepreneurial mindset); if you do not allow them to be part of the Vision and Strategy they will leave, or at least won’t be committed.
4. Go fully digital -using mobile Apps – but don’t fully eliminate face-to-face interaction.
5. Chill out; shift from ‘Discipline’ to ‘Impact on bottom line’. Let them set the rules, and hold them accountable for the results. This needs a lot of guts.
6. Continuously communicate with your new Generations. They too seek attention, and love to hear from the Big Boss frequently (in person, and though other means).
7. Expect them to leave so give them a great stay to minimize probability of them leaving; but still they will leave.
8. Think Network; the age of Full Timers might be gone soon, so think Contractual.
9. Choose your HR Leader well. If she/he doesn’t understand Generation Z they will leave or create an upheaval at your company; they won’t hesitate.
10. Train your older Generation Leaders on how to understand, accommodate and handle new Generations at work.

Bottom line, surely the ‘Z’ in ‘Generation Z’ doesn’t stand for Zombies. They are as young and wild as we all were when we were their age. It is only that they came into a World that makes available so many tools, ideas, paradigms, and knowledge that are so much different from those that we rubbed shoulders with. This is enough to breed young people who think and behave differently. We only need to see, read and understand this equation about their World to be able to interact with them and bring out the best of this rich generations’ melting pot that we never saw before in the Business World.