Workforce issues cannot be pinned down to Generation Z
I was just at university and at the end of my first week of work when an older colleague inevitably took me aside to the pub. “He seems like a nice guy,” said this troubled veteran, who must have been 32 at the time, “but he gives the impression that he’s studying journalism, not practicing it.”
He had an opinion that I took to heart. But this exchange came to mind when I read the latest news about how worried today’s employers are about their newest recruits.
Deloitte and PwC felt the need to give their youngest UK staff extra training after they wrapped up the Covid years and were less adept at networking and speaking at meetings due to restrictions, the FT reported this month.
For Gen Z members who entered the workforce after the onset of Covid-19, “the pandemic turned their first job into a two-year video call,” worries a new report by Oliver Wyman and The News Movement, which paints a picture of a disconnected people. cohort is more interested in their side hustle than their day job.
We are witnessing one of the periodic panics in the working world that the latest arrivals will not adapt to the way things have been. This time, the anxiety is heightened by the suspicion that the epidemic years have disrupted normal university experiences to such an extent that the Covid-affected microgeneration lands in the workplace without the usual social skills.
This fear is not consistently supported by surveys: a recent Conference panel study found that job satisfaction among American workers has never been higher, while research by Oliver Wyman shows that Generation Z workers are more likely to thrive at work than their elders.
Still, many employers are concerned about getting people back into the office where Gen X and Millennial managers started their careers. “Career development happens in teaching moments between team members,” he told BlackRock staff last week to explain why they must be in his office at least four days a week.
Managers rightly debate how often their youngest employees should sit at their desks as they try to balance flexibility with “teachable moments.” But they also need to think about what they do for Gen Z employees once they’re in the office—and how often they’re taken out of the office.
Melissa Swift, a partner at the consulting firm Mercer, sees Generation Z as “a collision between Covid and ChatGPT”. The pandemic left them “out in the wild” as students, and now artificial intelligence is upending the work that entry-level professionals once learned their craft, he says.
Still, he sees the unusual needs of this group clashing with the fact that their leaders are so burned out that they have little time to train the next generation or notice what their workplace experience is like. In other words, you can’t pin it all down to Gen Z.
Companies have spent billions of dollars improving the customer experience, notes Tiffani Bova, global growth evangelist at Salesforce, but haven’t made a similar effort to improve the employee experience. Instead, their productivity efforts have overwhelmed junior employees while continuing to promote bosses with little training in skills like coaching into leadership roles.
What do Generation X and Millennial managers need to do to improve how Generation Z works?
Wayne Berson, chief executive of accountants BDO USA, says his firm, like PwC and Deloitte, has rethought its approach to training. But he also assigned mentors to each of his recruits and talked to his leaders about how to create more camaraderie.
That could mean anything from getting teams to work in co-working spaces to hosting a happy hour or dinner, he says. Swift is also an advocate for happy hours, encouraged by restaurant clubs and sports leagues that see young employees forming.
During the epidemic, the entertainment budget for employees was reduced, but it is justified to support those informal occasions where colleagues can learn from each other in a less forced framework than training. Most of what they learned about my profession and the places there was not at my desk, but in the evenings, over lunch and coffee with my colleagues.
Employers should give managers and newcomers time for this as well, understanding that time spent exchanging stories and advice is not stolen from the workday, but an essential part of it.
Not everyone is as comfortable in a pub as I was in my twenties, so if happy hour is a recipe for unhappiness, at least take your new recruits out to lunch. And as you share insights from your long career, take a moment to ask what insights they have for you.