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Is your workplace ready for Generation Z? How to connect with the generation that will count for 1/5 of the workforce by 2021

01Sep Posted by Ele Emmerson

Get ready to adapt

In a recent study by Deloitte, the company predicted that “entire industries and businesses will rise and fall in the wake of the Gen Zers”. They will soon overtake the Millennial demographic as the largest on earth, making up over 1/3 of the global populace, and we are less than a year away from when it is estimated that Gen Z will make up a fifth of the workplace. The big question is whether the majority of companies are prepared for this next wave of employees. So, how can you and your company not only prepare for Gen Zers, but benefit from their skills and outlook? Well, the first thing to do is understand what the habits and behaviours of this influential demographic.

Profiling Gen Z

Gen Z was born in the period between the late 1990s and the early 2010s, meaning they have grown up in a world where digital technology is ubiquitous and few remember a world without widespread social media. They have grown up in a world characterised by unprecedented change and seismic shifts, and a number of these events have had a profound effect on the Gen Z outlook. Millennials, who make up the largest demographic proportion of the current workforce, are considered to be entrepreneurial, focused on a good work-life balance, and tend to explore different careers paths compared to previous generations. It is perfectly normal for millennials to explore different careers throughout their lives, a stark contrast to the “job for life” slogans of the past.

Gen Zers, as a result of the trauma of events like the 2008 global financial crisis and 9/11, value safe and stable employment and prioritise financial security over “personal fulfilment”, a dramatic comparison to the Millennials. It wouldn’t be surprising if the latest seismic event, COVID-19, only adds to this. One might go as far as suggesting that Gen Z is more conservative in their career outlooks, but that is not the case; they value diversity, career development within specific companies, and the ethics and social contribution of companies more than just effective products and services. This unique perspective doesn’t mean that their attitudes will have to change if they want to be successful in the workforce; companies will likely need to change for them.

Being genuine is key

Having grown up with technology, Gen Z are generally highly fluent in communicating through tech, and you might think it is their preferred way of communication. In reality, research has shown that Gen Z much prefer face-to-face communications, partly because it’s much easier to read a person directly. They are used to having to figure out the tone of messages and emails, and this is sometimes difficult to do. It seems the realism that face-to-face communications demands is attractive to them.

Authenticity in communications is paramount to Gen Z. They appreciate direct and honest messaging, advertising and transparency in company policy. If you take a step back, this focus on authenticity and honesty is no real surprise. Gen Z have grown up in the environment of the #Metoo movement and a global climate crisis, a period defined by lack of trust in senior officials and entire industries; reputations can no longer be built by relying on good service and effective products. Gen Z care about the social value of companies, good ethics and practice. If your company is going to benefit from the talent of Gen Z then your mission statement and social responsibility need to be clear, reinforced and fully understood by the workforce. Words must be supported by action.

The role of internal communications

With Gen Zers soon to be in the ascendancy in the workforce, it’s clear that organisations should take steps now to prepare for this new generation of professionals.  Culture will be a significant aspect of this preparation and clearly making sure that your organisation’s corporate purpose and social approach is defined is vital.  But for those companies which have already taken this step, the key will be to ensure this is clearly and regularly communicated internally.  Communication should be tailored not only to how Gen Zers like to communicate – perhaps with more in-person events and sessions (pandemic allowing), but also through other communications channels to ensure the whole workforce is communicated with effectively. Gen Zers, along with the rest of the workforce cannot take pride in an organisation and what it stands for if they don’t know about it.  This will help the new Gen Zers integrate into the businesses and will make it more likely for Gen Zers to thrive in the modern workplace – a goal in the interests of all.

Ele Emmerson

Ele has over 15 years’ experience working in corporate communications and public affairs, working across a range of sectors including retail, technology, manufacturing and healthcare. Her expertise includes messaging and strategy, stakeholder engagement, campaign planning, issues management, and corporate responsibility communications.
[br]Before joining Sermelo Ele was a Director at Burson-Marsteller, leading client teams of up to 30 consultants across 10 countries, she provided strategic counsel and delivered, business-driven communications programmes for global, regional and local clients. She led teams for international organisations including, Aldi, Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, Danone Baby Nutrition, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, supporting them in identifying and utilising opportunities for communicating with key stakeholders.[br][br]Ele also led the global Burson-Marsteller team for the Global Infrastructure Investor Association, working with multiple stakeholders within the new organisation, to identify key priorities, develop communications and stakeholder engagement frameworks and deliver communications support through teams in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.[br][br]In the healthcare sector, Ele has developed and delivered strategies for pharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostic and wider advocacy clients from awareness campaigns to stakeholder engagement and product launches. She also has significant experience of assisting clients in navigating often complex regulatory and political processes and assisting clients in overcoming barriers to patient access.[br][br]Prior to Burson-Marsteller Ele headed up the London office of independent agency Morgan Allen Moore. She held overarching responsibility for developing the team, managing key clients and research and intelligence gathering.[br][br]Ele has a degree in History, Politics and International Relations from Lancaster University. Ele is married with two young children, she loves both watching (mostly) and doing (occasionally) sport, particularly netball, and when she has time, enjoys reading a good book.

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