What Generation Z Really Means for the Future of Work

August 20, 2020 | 5 minute read
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By Abi Taylor, Sales Development Manager — Oracle 

Most “The Future of Work” articles only focus on technology, including AI, chatbots, and automation. While technology is incredibly important, human element matters too—especially with Generation Z, the latest generation of young people entering the workforce.

First, a disclaimer: I am a member of Generation Z. We are the age group following the Millennials, born between 1995 and 2010, and as a 1995 baby, I find myself on the cusp of the Millennial and “Gen Z” groupings. With a foot in both camps, I’m therefore well positioned to ask the question of whether Gen Z is really that different from previous professional cohorts including the Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers. What do I and my peers want from an employer and a career, and what might this mean for the future of the workplace?

Flexible Working

Despite the perceived wisdom that my generation is happy to rent and loan, not earn and own, I have actually just bought my first house (I don’t know who’s more excited, me or my parents…).While a stable career and good salary have been, and still are important to me in helping achieve this milestone (elements of a career that are apparently less favored than  others for Gen Z), the timeframe within which I can achieve this is far longer. According to the ONS, the average home in England and Wales now costs eight times the average annual income, compared to just five times as recently as 2002 when Gen X were buying houses.  Gen- Z according to a recent survey place a great deal of importance in being a homeowner, with 86% claiming to want to be a homeowner one day, with a median age of doing so being 30 years old.

Now that I’m paying for a mortgage (she says, reluctantly) and living away from home (less reluctantly, ice cream for breakfast?), I have forfeited the “luxury” of being able to work flexibly in terms of location. With COVID-19, this may not be so pertinent, but nonetheless the likelihood of being able to change locations with ease for my career now has several more barriers. During this time, the pandemic has elevated the importance of flexible working and work-life balance—including grocery shopping and home schooling. 

Flexible working and work-life balance are typical qualities that Gen Z workers are looking for from an employer, since they have grown up in a period of social and economic uncertainty. While job security is ultimately the most important characteristic of our careers and more so than generations before

To grow these skills effectively into tangible practice, Gen Z needs to be welcomed and nurtured into the workforce, given the right technologies that match their savviness, and integrated into organizational culture right away, so they can be productive faster and grow their career. With these newly learned skills are also existing skills including social media communications, data science, and cyber security. Degrees based around computing, information science, and statistics are amongst the fastest growing for this generation, all of which are crucial to any organization.  It’s a win-win for all parties. 

From all the articles written about “The Future of Work”, most focus on technology. But what about the latest generation of people entering the workforce?

Retention in the gig economy

While many organizations are recruiting top Gen Z talent in traditional ways and offering incentives such as a flexible workplace and new skills, retention continues to be a major challenge. 

According to Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey (2019), Gen Z places their greatest motivations around workplace mobility. With a more entrepreneurial mindset than previous generations, workers in this demographic want to make impact—and make it quickly. To retain their workforce, employers must respond appropriately with the right career mobility programs that keep both boss and worker happy. We understand the need for career mobility and included features in our Oracle Spring 2020 Product Update, where we launched a talent marketplace that helps employees move between roles within a company.

Driving retention also means support at work, and Gen Z workers prefer it face-to-face by a margin of 72 percent, according to the WEF. While current circumstances make this tricky, it is important for managers to balance between giving autonomy and providing guidance .

Think of it this way: in today’s self-service, consumer-driven society, we are used to doing things for ourselves. We can set up a new iPhone with ease, whereas our parents’ generation may have wanted to follow a weighty instruction manual. However, we do expect a human to be on hand should we face any significant challenge (enter the Apple Genius squad). While it almost seems like an oxymoron – needing both less help yet more human interaction – this is just the way it is for those growing up in the modern world.

Read More: Four Reasons Why Inclusion and Belonging Remain Timeless Priorities

Inclusion with Individuality

Lastly, Generation Z believes in support, independence, and equality in the workplace.  While that isn’t so different from other workforce age groups, many HR articles continue to give Gen Z a bad reputation, indicating a hesitancy to hire— saying that we are ‘[disconnected] from [our] elders’, ‘less equipped to handle uncertainty’, or ‘uncurious about others’ . Coincidentally, these are similar to articles that critiqued Millennials and Gen X arrivals to the workforce, and follows a pattern of distrusting young workers. While our study on AI at work suggests that 64% of participants would more likely trust a robot than a human, perhaps the real challenge is having five generations of humans working together for the first time ever. 

Much as we like to segment age groups in the workplace and attribute broad definitions to them, we all like to see ourselves as individuals at heart. Take my mother, for example: she’s a Baby Boomer, but also a sucker for scrolling through Instagram or tapping at her Apple Watch for her daily steps every five minutes (#mumsofinstagram – though she still doesn’t fully understand hashtags, so I have the upper hand there at least).

Like it or not, the future workforce is here—fear and distrust will get us nowhere. If you really want to know how to manage Gen Z, then think back to how you were in the first years of your career. What were your hopes, dreams, needs and expectations? Chances are, they are exactly the same for Gen Z now, but the best news is that the HR and IT software available today is way better now than it ever was for previous generations starting work. In many ways, HR and management are now dealing with knowns rather than unknowns, with live dashboards and real-time employment data replacing spreadsheets and once-a-quarter updates. Oracle Strategic Workforce Planning can help to model future workforce needs and skills requirements, while Oracle Global HR can monitor how your plans are being implemented and use machine learning to make recommendations for change. 

So, who are Gen Z? They are simply the latest wave of eager young employees in need of support to grow into capable and inspiring leaders and be challenged in a supportive and flexible culture. Oracle can help to attract, recruit, retain and engage the very best of Gen Z and the generations that will follow. In time, your Gen Z employees will inject new thinking into your workplace and business strategies. This generation is ready to go in the modern, cloud-based, mobile, nimble world of work – just make sure that you’re ready for them.

Learn More

Are you managing multiple generations of employees in your workforce? Learn how Oracle Cloud HCM can help with everything from recruiting and retaining your future workforce to talent and performance management. Contact us today for a demo. 

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