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The realities of Generation Z in the workplace

The realities of Generation Z in the workplace

Employers are set to face a series of new challenges when it comes to managing the entrance of Generation Z into the workplace over the next few years. Currently aged 16 to 19, this generation is maturing at a time of great change in the world, when technology is the dominant shaper of social experience, and people feel greater cultural bonds with other young people across the world, rather than in their own local communities or families.

Not that this is negative. Technology has allowed young people to feel a new sense of idealism, and recent studies have shown that around 60% of 16 to 19-year-olds want to have a positive impact on the wider world.

Around a quarter of this age group also volunteers for social projects. This contradicts the received wisdom that technology is creating a generation of self-obsessed weaklings with little wider awareness of the world.

Managers need to tap into this social conscience. Charity projects and other aspects of community engagement are a good way of motivating younger workers, and of bringing teams of workers closer together. Using social media as a tool in this also makes use of younger workers' talents and aptitudes.

Generation Z youngsters are also more focused on retaining a good work/life balance. Not for them the punishing schedules and limited family life that were seen as a sign of hard work and commitment in the past. Around 38% of today's young people see a good work/life balance as essential.

Yet, many of those same youngsters see free time as a time for creativity and inventiveness. Whether it is building apps or writing code, creating art or broadening their digital skills base, many of today's young people are just as busy away from work as they are when they are in the office. Employers need to be aware of this, and shape and mould roles at work to suit individuals' overall skills package. Good ideas can spring from an employee's hobbies, whether technological or otherwise.

One thing technology does create, however, is short attention spans. Many of Generation Z cannot concentrate for long periods on one task. Indeed, recent studies have shown that members of Generation Z have an average attention span of just eight seconds. Troublingly, around 11% have been diagnosed with ADHD.

This means that meetings and training sessions need to be tailored accordingly. Rather than long feedback sessions, or whole afternoons spent in planning meetings, it is a good idea to break things up a little. Smaller tasks in shorter periods of time can often bring better results with Generation Z. This is a challenge for management, but can bring great results in terms of productivity.

Generation Z is coming into our workplaces, and it promises to bring great gifts of talent and positive attitude with it. The challenge for employers is to create the fertile soil for young people from which great things can spring.

By Kimberley Axon, People Services Director, Africa & Middle East, Sage.

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