Saturday 1 October 2016

Still trying to cope with Millennials at work? Prepare for World War Z

Published 10/09/2015 | 02:30

Employers are having to come to terms with the tech-savvy generation. Deposit Photo
Employers are having to come to terms with the tech-savvy generation. Deposit Photo

Maybe you're an employer coming to terms with the needs and desires of the tech-savvy Millennial generation.

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Or maybe you're a Millennial yourself, trying to come to terms with older colleagues who do things their way, and you don't get a look-in.

Now there's a new problem - the generation behind the millennials.

More than half of workers (52pc) say their employers are failing to meet the needs of different generations in the workplace, according to new research commissioned by Ricoh Europe. The stark finding points to a corporate collision course, as for the first time in history a fourth generation - Generation Z - enters the working population.

But what exactly does Generation Z (those currently aged 19 years and younger) want and expect? Do they deserve the crude label given by some as overly demanding screen-swipers in search of instant gratification?

A survey of over 3,300 people from all four generations - spanning 22 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa - answers this with an emphatic 'no'. Generation Z-ers are unique. They have been strongly shaped by their individualistic Generation X parents, heard stories from their Baby Boomer grandparents and witnessed the errors and successes of Millennials. Combining this with their appetite for all things digital means they have a solid grounding to achieve and educate others in an ever-evolving and demanding business world.

The good news is that, despite our worries of clashes, the majority of workers (88pc) surveyed from all generations believe that having a workforce of different ages is an asset to a company. However, the survey unearthed a key challenge that managers must overcome. Over a third (35pc) of older employees expect workplace tensions to increase with the arrival of Generation Z into their companies.

With the next wave of technology-led change sure to soon hit and disrupt the workplace further, the need to establish environments that enable and encourage truly harmonious and productive working across the generations is paramount. David Mills, CEO of Ricoh Europe, said: "Just like the possibilities afforded by digitalisation, the arrival of Gen Z-ers opens a catalogue of opportunities to all businesses. With only 7pc of SMBs currently selling across EU borders, Gen Z-ers who move on to managerial roles will be perfectly placed to drive borderless working and ensure their business competes in a single regional market. Enterprise organisations stand to benefit, too. The experience and business know-how Gen Zers acquire into the future, coupled with their upbringing of ultra connectivity and collaboration, will see them play the role of agility enablers for bigger businesses.

"Meanwhile, Gen Z's constant demand for workstyle innovation - where an ever-present stream of innovative new technologies, products and processes are the norm - will be a key enabler of vertical market players seeking globalisation."

The survey found that 65pc of respondents agree there are fundamental differences in how employees from each generation work. The clearest contrasts emerged in their attitudes, expectations and styles of working. Face-to-face communication at work, while still the most preferred method across every group, is in generational decline.

Preference for it drops from 77pc among Baby Boomers to 58pc among Generation Z. Meanwhile, 73pc of Generation Z respondents believe their future employer will cater to their needs, opposed to only 48pc of the other three generations. Mills added: "There is no doubt that Gen Z is heading towards a reality crunch and businesses must adapt now.

Trying to squeeze employees - particularly Gen Z - into the same traditional ways of working, and forcing them to use the same tools, will not work. People are often the biggest differentiator for an organisation and the most successful companies will be those who can empower and engage all generations in their workforce - from the most experienced through to the youngest rising star." (Business Wire)

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