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Perspectives

Gen Z: hiring them means HR needs to evolve as well

  • From employer branding to achieving balanced rewards strategy, companies need to take various factors into account to hire the 'right' candidates
Published November 19, 2022
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters
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The oldest Generation Z employee is 25 years old today. Gen Z is the youngest generation of employees entering our workplace and shaping it as “a very bumpy road for the next few years”, according to leadership expert Simon Sinek.

“Bumpy” seems to be pretty in line with this decade that has been characterised with extreme flux and change. But change can lead to progress if harnessed the right way.

Work-life balance

Gen Z have recently been in the spotlight for their 'quiet quitting' strategies to obtain their top priorities of work-life balance and flexibility. One would argue that this is a reaction to the hustle culture made prevalent by the earlier generation of Millennials that rendered work-life balance to zilch.

However, quiet quitting also points to their undeniably strong sense of identity. Establishing their identity takes a core part of their conversations, and hence, they do not overwork themselves to feel validated. They keep work as work, maintain boundaries and recognise the importance of well being.

Businesses will need an emphasised focus on their social or environmental responsibilities or at least the employee experiences they offer

For HR, this means evaluating the non value-added tasks, implementing hybrid models of work as well as experimenting like Unilever’s 4 day work week trial in New Zealand. The trial so far has resulted in tailoring work to include essential tasks only, a reduction in absenteeism and most importantly, an increase in sales growth to exceed expectations.

A greater work-balance gives more opportunity for HR initiatives, especially in the organisational learning and development arena. In organisations where you have employees working more than an average of 12 hours shifts, it is irrational to expect that they would have the mental energy or inclination to engage in any self work like, for example, what coaching requires. There are some great initiatives out there that never get their due diligence and their potential is still to be realised.

The activists

This 'activist' generation expresses their identity through their job, purchases and social media. They are politically aggressive and are driven by purpose of an organisation. Their strong sense of responsibility results from inherited issues like climate change, rising global inequality, the recent pandemic that are causing them to increasingly bear the brunt of looming instability.

Employer branding will play a more pivotal role as the organisation’s need to align with this generation’s values increases. Businesses will need an emphasised focus on their social or environmental responsibilities or at least the employee experiences they offer. And since businesses cannot be expected to turn 'green' overnight, marketing in the social media realm where Gen Z spends more than 10 hours a day will be the strategy to implement.

Money still takes priority

Despite this generation valuing salary the least compared to the others, it still takes top priority. This generation seems to be mentally prepared for financial struggle and in fact, almost half of them seem to be going through financial anxiety every day, according to a recent Deloitte survey.

And this is possibly why salary is ranked as the top reason why more than 50% of Gen Z employees would leave an organisation, according to workplace training company TalentLMs’s recent research. Work-life balance and passion about work ranked second and third, respectively.

Hierarchy will be challenged. These digital natives are ready to challenge status quo either through information obtained by a simple search that takes a few seconds or through the influx of information they are bombarded with on a daily basis. All ideas will be put to the test

The total rewards strategy will have to achieve a balance of idealism and pragmatism. This will include more lifestyle benefits especially mental health days, evident by the 82% of the respondents who want this benefit.

Benefits will need to go digital - telemedicine, virtual mental health counseling, and surprisingly financial counseling will need to be included as well. More than half do not know how much they have in their savings accounts and as a result have been turning to dubious social media for investment strategies.

Some creativity will also need to be employed keeping in mind their side hustles which they use to express their personal identity and thus, can have a resounding effect. For example, by donating to a cause they support.

Who needs Google?

Latest research by Google says that Gen Z are now using social media like Instagram or TikTok to search for information rather than the usual 'Google Search'. This illustrates two things.

Firstly, that the skills they learn will be greatly tied to their social media experiences. It can present as both an opportunity and a challenge in terms of training and development as there can be transferable and entrepreneurial skills in the mix but also a lacking in soft skills like work place conflict and negotiation skills.

Secondly, hierarchy will be challenged. These digital natives are ready to challenge status quo either through information obtained by a simple search that takes a few seconds or through the influx of information they are bombarded with on a daily basis. All ideas will be put to the test, which can be great because after all diamonds are formed under pressure.

Recruiting in Virtual Reality

According to a recent study, Generation Z feel that they more accurately express themselves online. They are spending more time in the Metaverse or virtual reality situations, and 45% feel like their digital identity represented their character better.

This can have many implications including venturing into virtual reality or gamification for recruiting as well as training.

It would also lead to re-evaluating interviews by ridding of stale questions to make way for a more wholesome and empowering two-way conversation. Also, acknowledging that this recruitment method only presents a limited picture of the applicant so vetting social media accounts would be essential for a more accurate outlook on the candidate.

Another important implication for talent management teams is the tilt towards introverts. Gen Z are usually categorised as the loneliest generation and research indicates them to being more insular and introverted.

The lack of emotionally maturity has helped brew “cancel culture” as it can render an individual incapable to handle different opinions. The lack of tolerance towards a different opinion – the complete opposite to what they celebrate (diversity) – is ironically their downfall

Therapist or organisation?

There are two potential ways they could burn out – social media and cancel culture. When it comes to social media, they may be extremely passionate about their cause but it does lend to overexposure especially when you are always tuned in.

Along with overexposure, it also adds to how insular this generation is. Sinek claims that this has resulted in Gen Z turning to the organisation to fulfill the role of a therapist .

“One of the struggles of this generation is they are not equipped to deal with stress,” says Sinek. “And as a result they are 'emotionally unprofessional' where instead of dealing with an issue they choose to quit instead.”

The lack of emotionally maturity has helped brew “cancel culture” as it can render an individual incapable to handle different opinions. The lack of tolerance towards a different opinion – the complete opposite to what they celebrate (diversity) – is ironically their downfall. At work, that can possibly lead to a toxic work culture where people are ostracized by their difference in opinion.

Whatever the future of workplace holds, we do know that we have given Gen Z a basket of inherited problems. Empathy will ultimately be the key to success.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Khadija Husain

The writer is a HR professional based in the US

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