Great Expectations, a Charles Dickens coming of age novel about PIP, exploring his expectations as a boy, as a youth and growing into a man and the humbling lesson that wealth does not bring him happiness.
Last year, I took part in the leadership shadowing scheme and had the pleasure of being shaddowed by Naomi. By the end of the time together, Naomi thought HR could be a possible career choice. I was pleased I made a positive impact that she liked the type of leader I was, and liked how I manage my team.
I invited her to share her presentation with me and my colleagues prior to the event. The presentation was going smoothly, she oozed confidence and then she made a statement that took me by surprise, namely concluded that the biggest problem I faced in my role was her. I learned that she was my biggest problem.
My team had just spent a few months recruiting for a number of roles suitable for students and graduates and I indicated that there’s an obvious shift in the expectations of this generation moving into the world of work. It got me thinking about how Gen Z and alpha are going to change our businesses.
Gen Z currently make up 20% of our workforce. They are the first digital native generation since the birth of the Internet. Education is on Google Classrooms, information is at their fingertips and they want instant results, no waiting. Gen Z are a diverse generation, passionate about values, human rights, social activism. 75% want their work to have impact and meaning. They are pragmatic and driven, and to them success is thrown shown throughout there followed by generation alpha, born entirely in the 21st century. So they see everything around them dependent on technology. They are yet to enter our workforce, but they are ready to make decisions, will start their careers earlier than Gen Z. But tech is not everything to them. They care more about the environment and quality than any other generation. They are and will be the most diverse generation in history. They expect no glass ceiling, no gender pay gap. And no minorities.
So what can we expect from Gen Z and alpha bring to our workforce. As digital savvy individual, they’re primed to leverage their knowledge to create opportunities, their independence, entrepreneurial competitive – they will use tech to work smarter not harder. They will find efficiencies in our processes, multitask effectively, embrace our evolving businesses and respond quickly to change. Their opinions are reshaping our societal norms, diversity, society and inclusion are more than just passwords and tick boxes. They will bring these matters to the top of our agenda.
They have their finger on the pulse of ESG issues, they will make a stand to make sure we listen to what they have to say, they will work towards a carbon neutrality, encourage businesses to care.
You can expect them to leave if you don’t have a corporate sustainability agenda and tools they need from us. Whilst they may favour Snapchat and Instagram to communicate with their friends, they value and expect in person interaction in the workplace. They need optimal work environments and to feel included. They want opportunities to speak with management, to be heard, get feedback, seek recognition for their successes. Our challenge – delivering messages for improvement or politely saying no, they expect critique to be dealt in person and in real time,
prioritising communication means genuine relationships, sharing experiences and how we learned to get through situations, advising what we can control and what we cannot, when we can take accountability, or seek support and trust in the processes. In turn, we prepare our young workforce for the high stress situations, they need to build resilience into their life jacket to success, offering a motivational speech simply won’t cut it.
So I challenge you, armed with a snapshot of the great expectations of our future workforce, to proactively meet and connect with your Gen Z employees. This is not inviting many to lunch and learn in the boardroom, it’s finding the right space and environment, offering authentic communication. Find out their aspirations and their passions. Make this a regular practice. Ask them how they would improve their role and their experience. What could they teach you and your colleagues? Ask them what they want to know from you to succeed and flourish. Offer them your wisdom. What we have learnt over our careers is not wasted, it is valid and holds power. Build bridges, break stereotypes. Evolve businesses together and that’s a great expectations.