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Gen Y and Gen Z Workplace Expectations white paper

Thursday 25 May, 2017

Over 30 people gathered at Kinnarps Farringdon showroom for the second of Aberley’s 2017 seminars focusing on the workplace expectations of Gen Y and Gen Z workers. The main force of the presentations was: “is there a difference between the generations in work? Or is it just a marketing ploy?”

The generations

Fiona Anderson Aberley’s Communications Director, gave the first presentation, highlighting that there are many ways to define these generations. Gen Y are usually classed as those born between 1980 and 2001 with Gen Z being between 2002 and 2013. Gen Y grew up with email, mobile phones and Margaret Thatcher whereas Gen Z had iPad’s social networks and Tony Blair. Not to be discounted are Gen X (1965-79) and the Baby Boomers (1946-1964). There were people from all the generations attending.

Statistically Gen Y are now the biggest group in overall terms (32%) and it is now believed to be the biggest group in the workplace. Interestingly the Baby Boomers tend to live in rural areas, whilst Gen X live in urban areas and Gen Y tend to be focussed on university cities. In 2017 a staggering 81% work in services industries with just 9% in manufacturing, 7% in construction and 3% in agriculture.

Are the differences real?

Most of want to be respected, recognised and remembered and to be coached and consulted. But Fiona argued there are many differences between generations from learning methods to communication – the younger generations doing more and more through social media. Interestingly mentoring is seen to be increasingly important for younger workers who want this more than their managers and in addition the annual performance review is now considered redundant as they want constant and immediate feedback Work / life balance is seen as being seamless and they want work to have a purpose. This modern form of flat structure is somewhat challenging for older generations. So e-mail as the principle communication method in business and that corner office as a status symbol are all becoming things of the past. The newer types of workspace designed for younger people are more domestic and collegiate which can seem messy to Gen X and older. Gen Z’s have grown up with Apple and equivalent technologies and how they have revolutionised communication and information sharing.

Lessons from mints

The second presentation was given by Adam Baker, founder of Inclusive Cultures, and stressed a view that much of this apparent distinction was creative marketing hype. He began reminding us that even tic-tacs were not safe from this attack. The older generation just had mint – now there are “mixers” peach >> lemonade and cherry >> cola: all to give “entertainment, release from boredom, emotional rescue” (Ferrero’s marketing strategy!)

Research has shown that job satisfaction, intention to leave (or not) and engagement with the organisation, drive the Gen Y and Gen Z workers most. Doing a good job, real-time (instant) feedback, respect, loyalty and trustworthy leaders are the main drivers. Is this so different from their older colleagues? And, as all people are individuals, all of us do tasks in a unique way and it is all very personal. So, what do people need to work at their best and how do we facilitate that? Managers need to understand how to get the best out of their staff, but they don’t necessarily have the skills to do that.

Considerable discussion ensued with the audience participating in the debate along with a panel member from Gen Y, who through in some insightful comments on his views on the world of work, not least stating that “obviously” he would not be looking for “a boring 9 to 5 job”. Mentoring – exchanging information and sharing experiences is becoming more widespread – sometimes bottom up as the Gen Z’s explain the new technologies to their elders in the workplace. This almost becomes 360° mentoring as behaviour patterns blend and work-styles blurred.

Blaming the technology

Are we all just becoming too reliant on technology though? James Dyson, for example is trying to restrict emails and encourage his staff to talk to each other and use notebooks and pens. Sometimes we blame the technology for managers who are unable to lead / manage, and that has very little to do with the generational divides. Filling the talent pipeline has never been so critical now that the U.K is facing a skills gap in most industries and we therefore need to understand the consequences of the use of technology and put it to the best appropriate use with the different generations in the workplace.

Next seminar: 14th September 2017

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