In February 2022, I welcomed the opportunity to share the stage with working professionals having 30+ years of experience as a panel speaker in the series of CMCE Next Gen discussions on the post-pandemic world of work. As a 21-year-old postgraduate entering the workforce, I was fascinated by the wealth of knowledge of other speakers. However, I was delighted to see that the insights I brought forward regarding Gen-Z working ethics sparked debate on the diverse perspectives currently present in the workplace and on the opportunities brought about by intergenerational work.
Gen Zers are actively making headlines, breaking decades worth of work habits, and conventional techniques, stepping into the workplace as young professionals. A research done by IBM Institute for Business Value revealed that 70% of Gen Zers have a significant impact on their families’ purchasing decisions. This demonstrates a rising consideration for this demographic on all organisational levels. This drastic shift is disrupting the traditional working methods that Millennials and Boomers are so accustomed to when it comes to technological integrations, cultures, political / social views, communication channels, etc. New perspectives and approaches are being introduced alongside this new generation. Deloitte has published an article regarding the various factors shaping Gen-Zers’ individual work attitudes. The insights challenged the traditional ‘human-machine’ collaborations, retiring age, and talent sourcing.
Millennials vs Gen-Z practices
In this digital age, where all organisations must be connected or ‘online’, only few industries appear to be equipped for this phenomenon that is significantly altering the work environment. Many organisations fall into the trap of using millennial practices on Gen Zers.
The main concern is a perceived lack of effort by current working professionals in developing adequate strategies to understand these digital natives. For example, even though you may have considerable experience in the marketing field, you cannot automatically assume to be well-equipped to manage a Tiktok page. The task would require higher levels of digital fluency. Ideally, you need to be an active Tiktok user to truly understand the types of people which make up this specific audience. Take the case of Duolingo, with 4.7M followers. The organisation's Tiktok page is directed by Zaria Parvez, a 23-year-old social media manager. She has successfully managed to build an online community of loyal Duolingo fans by having the owl (the Duolingo mascot) dance on conference tables, chase its coworkers, and ‘pledge allegiance’ to Dua Lipa. This issue would be the equivalent to Gen Zers not grasping an iconic trend like wearing jeans under dresses as a fashion statement in the Y2K era.
Fortunately, Gen Zers have taken the challenge upon themselves to reshape the markets and their practices. Micheal Pankowaski, Harvard University student and Founder of a Gen-Z marketing consulting firm, defines this generation as ‘the purpose generation’. One of the reasons why many Gen Zers are becoming company founders is to educate organisations on how to understand, communicate and market their brands and product / services to this growing demographic. Some notable statistics are:
So what does that mean for us as management consultants?
Gen-Z professionals are here to stay and represent the future cohort of colleagues and clients. This means that it is essential to encourage multi-directional discussions, in order to bring forward useful insights and foster a more inclusive workplace environment. It is a necessity to challenge the existing outlook to keep up the pace of the changing macro dynamics that characterise the current world of work.
As management consultants, we are well-placed to champion intergenerational communication and collaboration by developing the level of understanding required to empower young professionals and support our clients with this culture change. It can be argued that the main factors which need to be adapted are training and leadership programs. Internal operations need to leverage Gen-X, Gen-Y and Boomer talents to develop career opportunities for and with Gen Zers, and break the digital wall at a micro level. The benefits that this could bring are manyfold: this entrepreneurial generation is at the forefront of innovation by actively questioning the status quo and fostering creativity to find the new and disruptive solutions needed to overcome increasingly-complex business challenges.
Louna Raad, Gen-Z Professional and Social Executive at Bright Blue Day