As the workforce worldwide warms up to 2021, many baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are on the verge of retirement. Simultaneously, millennials (born 1981 to 1996) and Gen Z (1997-98 to 2012-15) persons are beginning to make up the predominant employee numbers. Today, the ongoing generational transition is invisibly and inevitably reshaping the workplace in myriad ways.
From baby boomers to millennials, every generation of employees has introduced a distinct ethos at the workplace. Given the sustained rise of Gen Z workers (or post-millennials), the workforce is slowly transforming into a more youthful cohort. As these people of around 20-odd years begin working, HR analysts believe they will influence the office ambience in multiple ways. In the days ahead, this will trigger a steady shift in the office ethos – from structured to flexible and traditional to unconventional.
Preferences and Trends
Broadly, some of these trends and preferences include a focus on personal development, freelance or flexible roles, remote working and future-proof plans, among others. For example, unlike baby boomers, zoomers – another colloquial term for Gen Z – believe that upskilling and reskilling is their responsibility rather than that of the organisation.
No surprise then that young managers are more accommodative about requests for flexible working hours, compared to older managers who frown at this. Meanwhile, Gen Z staff understand and accept that steady automation at jobs is an inevitable reality of the current times. Therefore, these employees believe upskilling/reskilling must be a constant facet of their professional lives. Thanks to this mindset, they proactively opt for self-development and training courses.
Worldwide, the pandemic has accelerated the move towards remote working and the work-from-home regime. While many boomers accepted the new normal somewhat reluctantly, zoomers have taken to remote working like ducks take to the water. Sooner or later when the lockdown restrictions are lifted, select companies will offer staff the WFH option. It’s a no-brainer that the cohort most likely to opt for WFH would be Gen Z.
Yet another trend is the emergence of freelancers at the workplace. Although not many boomers are keen on using freelancers, millennial managers are more likely to hire gig workers. As for Gen Z managers, they are also more receptive about hiring freelancers. What’s more, some may even be open to themselves working as part of the freelance or gig ecosystem!
As a result, hiring managers value the higher productivity that gig workers provide, coupled with the cost efficiencies. As for Gen Z gig employees, the freedom and flexibility of freelance work are valued the most.
The other key element about younger managers is a preference for planning and future-proofing their role, which may be an unstated priority. This contrasts sharply with the attitude of boomers who don’t believe in looking far into the future. Not so with Gen Z, who believe in having a flexible skilling strategy and are happy about investing in technology and/or joining digital skills courses that facilitate remote working.
Flexibility plus Other Pros & Cons
Between the spread of the pandemic throughout 2020 and the advent of 2021, the traditional 9-to-5 office routine is seemingly outdated. Instead, flexi hours, remote work, WFH, freelancing and the gig economy are buzzwords for post-millennials. The new work ethos makes these employees feel more empowered.
Significantly, organisations and society at large are also benefiting from WFH. For instance, due to the liberty of working from hometowns or elsewhere, the pressure on overcrowded cities is being eased to some extent.
According to a Deloitte study, Gen Z places more stress on the role of varied diversities. These include age, gender, disability and education as well as an extra emphasis on diversity of religion and LGBT identity. The study also highlighted that post-millennials expect to maintain shorter tenures at any company, unlike millennials. Conversely, they expect more ethical behaviour from employers.
One more major behavioural change is in the way workers interact with and address people in positions of power. While the older employees were schooled to address seniors formally, the younger generation expects a more informal equation with others, irrespective of hierarchy. This can be problematic for employees higher up the chain of command, who may view the lack of deference and formal greeting as a sign of disrespect.
No doubt, there are pros and cons during this transition to a younger workforce. On the one hand, they may seem less committed to an organisation since they inhabit a world of nonstop updates. Consequently, they process information faster but tend to have shorter attention spans.
On the other hand, Gen Z can be adept at multitasking as well as working hard, proactively and pragmatically, driven by a DIY (do-it-yourself) mindset. Mobile-centric and device-savvy, they are also comfortable communicating and collaborating across various virtual platforms in real-time. For them, managers and mentors are not their sole source of learning but an additional medium.
Finally, as self-motivated individuals, they remain self-starters and self-learners, wishing to make a speedy impact while working. Overall, the strengths and benefits of Gen Z employees far outweigh their downsides – which will help in raising the vibrancy and productivity quotient of workplaces.