NEW GENERATIONS AND THE WORKPLACE – OPPORTUNITY OR A CHALLENGE?

Millennials and Generation Z in the workforce and in the workplace

Laziness, narcissism, egocentrism, unmanageability and the feeling of entitlement are just some of the attributes ascribed to new generations entering the workplace today, the so-called Millennials and Generation Z. Although their age range is not well defined, the former term (Millennials) usually refers to people born between years 1981-2000, while Generation Z is represented by those born in the second half of the 1990s and the beginning of 2000s. Millennials currently represent the largest share of the working population, while Generation Z is also starting to take an active role in the labour market. For the employer it is essential to understand the core of their existential dilemma: this enables them to successfully recruit, and more importantly, effectively integrate the new generations into work processes, as well as retain younger generations in a particular workplace. In order to meet the needs of the latter in the labour market, having a deeper understanding of the modern hierarchy of their priorities is even more important.

Notwithstanding the many prejudices and stereotypes that emerge about new generations in the workplace, something holds true – the impact of the innumerable profound changes in our society (e.g. technological development) has been shaping younger generations in a different way than the Generation X before them. This has brought us to the point where we refer to them as ‘instant generations’: generations that want to reach for everything very quickly, which includes seeing the results of their work (promotions or financial awards).

A survey conducted by Deloitte in 2019 showed that Millennials are overall dissatisfied with the work they do – as many as 49% say they would want to change jobs within the next two years of their life. This figure is far greater than what we could find in the same survey conducted in 2017, in which 38% of the interviewees were similarly chronically dissatisfied. This undeniably poses a significant challenge for structures of businesses and organizations that want a reliable and stable workforce. The reasons behind new generations leaving their current jobs are primarily related to dissatisfaction with the payment and a lack of opportunities for promotion and professional development. High on the list are also the lack of diversity in the workplace and a lack of integration policies. Millennials were found to be largely (49%) distrustful of corporate business ethics (this figure turned out to be as high as 65% in 2017 survey). This has multidimensional effects for the generations in question since complementarity of business and their personal principles is also very high on their priority list. It comes as no surprise that freelancing work is attractive to as many as 84% ​​of millennials and 81% of Generation Z members.

So what can an employer do to attract the best millennial staff to their company or organization?

1. Impacting the society through the prism of social responsibility: Deloitte study also found that Millennials and Generation Z designed very high standards related to the positive effects that a business should have on society. As many as 80% of millennials say that they would be more dedicated and motivated to work in a company or organisation if they felt that their employer was seeking to make a positive impact on society. When applying for a job position, they strive for employment at a company whose value system is aligned with theirs. If a modern company wishes to thrive in its markets it is, therefore, important to realize that their best job candidates will pay attention to their outward image (reputation) that should reflect socially responsible practices at all levels. The survey also found that key values ​​for younger generations also contain caring about a healthy environment (addressing also climate change), and gender equality and diversity in the workplace. Organizational culture can, therefore, be a key contributor to the higher satisfaction of younger generations in the workplace, which needs to be constantly nurtured. Through socially responsible corporate policies, Millennials and Generation Z members grasp their most important work-related priority: to find meaning in their work.

2. Enable learning and developing professional competencies in the workplace: Millennials and Generation Z are looking for workplaces that they engage with fully, they learn quickly and present positive effects of their work already early on. Most often, they strive for positions through which they can influence the functioning of their company or organisations in at least some ways. They want to constantly improve their knowledge and competences; hence it is not difficult for them to engage with work also outside their prescribed workday.

3. Actively involve employees in work and decision-making processes: new generations want to be actively involved in work processes to a greater extent than the Generation X while taking responsibilities seriously and maintaining a strong relationship with their employer (or their immediate supervisor). Gallup’s research has shown that the latter is in 70% of cases crucial to how well a Millennial or a Generation Z member feels in the existing structure and processes. Consequently, they need to be managed by people who are not afraid of strong and ambitious young people and truly believe in their skills, abilities and potentials. Millennials are also eager to be involved in decision-making processes within a business or organization, believing that they can contribute their share to the already existing knowledge and experience. These generations are much more proactive than most Generation X members are, as well as not afraid to voice their opinions. They are not ashamed of failures either. When a Millennial feels that he/she is not contributing to the financial well-being of the company or organisation (either through innovation, new knowledge, concrete improvements etc.), this can lead to dissatisfaction with the latter and their impulsiveness of his/her engagement with the labour market. Fulfilling this aspect is particularly important when employing the members of Generation Z, whose top priority in the workplace is supportive leadership. Nearly a third of Generation Z members say that they are more motivated to work and do not find it difficult to stay in work late into the night if the management of the company or organization is supportive. As many as 37% also claim that they would not work for a person that does not act constructively or supportively. They need to feel “acquainted” in the workplace (47% value trust the most, while 40% support). This translates into a fact that (if they want greater employee effectiveness) their superiors should make a sincere effort to be acquainted with their employees, which includes inquiring about their career paths and wants.

3. The flexibility of working time and space: younger generations are constantly connected to and engaged with their work. This means that there is no need to be physically present in the office. A survey conducted by PwC found that millennials are most effective when they are provided with clear guidance and concrete goals by their superiors before commencing the task. It is better if the superior focus on the quality of the task and the accuracy of the achieved goals, rather than on where/where the task was performed. Last but not least, the quality of the work done is what really counts for employers – even though someone might do it on the other half of the Earth in their pyjamas.

However, companies and organisations also face the challenge of retaining outstanding employees, not only hiring them. Deloitte research outlines that both diversity in the workplace, as well as opportunities for ongoing training and corporate learning,  influence the retention of good employees. For long-term business engagement with new generations, it is also crucial to know and understand the concept of reverse loyalty. More individualised young workers today do not perceive loyalty to a particular company or organization as positively and nobly representatives of generation X did. Loyalty at any cost for them is overvalued, youth is much more aware of their value in the labour market and they are not afraid to navigate between different employers. The concept of reverse loyalty, therefore, comes into place when younger generations expect a loyal relationship from their superiors instead (supportive activities, personal engagement at the individual level, corporate learning, etc.). They do not want to exist in a company as a mere ‘number’, because their work (under the condition that it is self-fulfilling), no longer represents only a necessity to them. Work has with younger generations and new technologies transitioned from being a virtue to being an actual lifestyle.

Why cannot a challenge be an opportunity at the same time? By properly understanding the mind-sets of Millennials and Generation Z members, an employer can enrich his or her organizational structure, culture and work processes in a manner that promotes their creativity, innovativeness and personal development. In doing so, the employers secure indispensable individuals; the ones, who do not mind long hours and are prepared to put in great effort to work for a company or organisation, which has a clearly defined purpose, as well as offers possibilities of promotion and advancement.

GEMA certification ensures that your company or organisation reaches and attracts the young and the talented in a greater way. Being one of GEMA certificate holders engages with the youth through showing that your company or organisation strives for social responsibility in the field of gender equality in its employment processes and at the workplace itself. The mentoring system will also allow them to quickly develop old and acquire new skills, while a regulated wage gap will show your commitment to the de-facto equality of your employees and promotion of diversity in the workplace.

Mentioned 2019 Deloitte survey is available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/ Deloitte/global/Documents/About-Deloitte/deloitte-2019-millennial-survey.pdf