The term ‘generation’ describing social grouping of persons “born and living at about the same time, most of whom are approximately the same age and have similar ideas, problems, and attitudes” came widely in use as from the 19th century. Since then, the world has observed the Lost generation followed by the G.I generation, the Silent generation, the Baby Boomers, the generation X and the Millennials. Each one has brought something new to the world, either art movements, revolutions or innovations. Now it’s Gen Z’s turn.
The birth of Generation Z, or Gen Z-ers, is raising interest of many sociologists and researchers. Aged between 7 and 22 years old, they are also described as a generation of Connection, Communication, Creativity and Collaboration. According to Australian researchers, the world population actually comprises of around 30% of the Gen Z-ers who will make up to 27% of the global workforce by 2025. According to Statistics Mauritius demographic and labour statistics, Mauritius has around the same percentage of Z-ers, which represents almost 13% of the Mauritian labour force at present.
What makes this new generation so special?
Gen Z-ers are the real digital natives. They did not have to adapt to the rise of technology, they were born in it. The memory of a world without Facebook or WhatsApp is fade or inexistent in their minds. Words like ‘hashtag’, ‘like’, ‘share’, ‘tweet’, ‘follower’, ‘apple’, ‘tablet’, ‘viral’… are ingrained in their vocabulary. They also converse more visually, with emoticons, infographics and memes.
Gen Z-ers are the first global citizens. Their thinking and interactions are highly influenced by their global counterparts on social media. Being always connected, they are more up-to-date with the world events and trends than ever before. Gen Z- ers have the world in their pocket. They are aware that they do not know it all, but knowledge is just a click away; Google has got their back!
It has also been observed that Gen Z-ers are the best multi-tasker and their visual ability is much more developed than earlier generations. According to neurologists, the way they respond to their digital environment, their ability to handle several gadgets at the same time and to continuously absorb information resulted in their brains being wired differently.
Another positive point about this generation is that they are tolerant and comprehensive on social issues. In a recent study published by the OECD, out of 20 088 Z-ers surveyed in 20 countries, nearly 90% want gender equality, 64% have no problem having friends from other religions than theirs and 74% think that transgender should have same rights as non-transgender. Accordingly, more than 65% has an inner desire to contribute to society beyond oneself and their closed ones.
However, it should be noted that Gen Z are faced with problems never faced before. They will face increasing competition for automation and robotisation, they have grown-up in an environment of increasing security concerns and terrorism. Additionally climate change, economic crises and a backlash against globalization are seen as constant threat for the future. This is also the generation of uncertainty and anxiety.
Gen Z-ers and the labour market
In most Mauritian companies, either private or public, we can observe a rigid and hierarchical set-up. This kind of environment usually convey the message: “Either you fit in or just too bad!”. Locally and worldwide, companies are finding it hard to keep their Gen-Z-ers (and the millennial before them).
If young adults normally prepare themselves to join the labour market, it is high time that the latter should also prepare itself to welcome them. No matter in which sector of activity you are, you will need technology to achieve higher efficiency and productivity. Fresh, innovative and creative talents are needed for you to stay relevant in your sector. To attract and keep these talents, their needs should be identified and fulfilled.
As such, it has been observed that Gen Z-ers need leaders instead of bosses at work. That is, they need people who inspire them rather than impose on them; who work with them rather than use them; who trust them rather than micromanage them. “They like to be tied in directly with leaders. They’re looking for a leader who is communicative and able to share mission and vision and values, and how those things tie in with the work that they’re doing and with the work of the corporation” says Jim Link, chief human resources officer with Randstad North America. They tend to work for causes they are truly passionate about.
For them, making mistakes is no big deal; trial-and-error is an important step to reach perfection. They are also uncomfortable with hierarchy and red-tapism. They need teamwork and flexibility. Gen-Z rate workplace flexibility even over healthcare, the two benefits are equally important to Millennials, but among Gen Z workers flexibility is almost 5% more important than being covered for healthcare costs (2016 Survey by Netherlands-based human resources Randstad, Millennial Branding, and London-based Morar Consulting). Going to a workplace that doesn’t have that or doesn’t enable access to technology, team-work and flexibility will be difficult for them.
However, if given more consideration, these young adults can be wonderful human capital to enterprises. “When you look at Millennials, in particular, in the workplace, they have an underlying desire to shape where they work; to make a contribution, to see that the role they play has a direct tie to a benefit in society.” Gen-Zers are only going to continue that trend. This could be of huge benefit to organisations as well as the society at large.
The challenge for the labour market is to prepare for a transformation and a transition because we will now face a period where the newcomers will transform the workplace while the experienced instructors will become the new learners.