As the world continues to evolve, the spotlight is now being shone on the next generation in the workforce, Gen Z. Born between 1995 and 2010, the Gen Zers make up 25% of the Nigerian workforce, according to the CIA World Factbook. This unprecedented generation, often referred to as digital natives because they were born into the world of the internet and digitalisation.
Research has shown that every generation has its peculiarities, and in Nigeria, these differences are often glaring in the workplace. With most managers and executives being Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, the Nigerian work environment is like a colony where people raised with different fundamental views and understandings of culture cohabit. In some ways, the typical Nigerian work environment is like the tower of Babel with members of the workforce speaking different languages. This generational gap often results in an “us and them” dynamic with the older generation thinking of the younger generation as volatile and the younger generation thinking, the older people are too rigid.
However, as the older generations, phase-out of the workforce, and more Gen Zers begin to transition into the workforce, every organisation needs to understand and harness the new generation’s potentials. Key steps to bridge this gap include:
1. Refrain from Stereotyping:
As one of the most individualistic generations, Gen Zers do not fit into any of the boxes placed before them. Often in search of their own true identity, they prefer to be treated as individuals with their working styles. It will be wise for companies and managers not to label Gen Zers based on defined labels but engage with them based on their uniqueness.
2. Effective communication:
Unlike the older generations raised to decrypt what they have been told to do by their managers, the Gen Zers thrive when there is clear communication of tasks and feedback. When work is assigned, it is crucial that managers effectively communicate the desired outcomes and their expectations. This communication helps the Gen Zers set goals and have a clear focus.
Feedback is also essential for the Gen Zers. Upon completing a task, managers should give constructive feedback on a job well done or provide details for improvement. Gen Zers loves to learn and understand why things happen. Giving feedback helps them appraise their skills and output, and also appreciate your appraisal of them. They want to be invested in their daily work and know that their time and effort are meaningful.
3. Prioritise Learning and Development:
Born into an era when information is available at the click of a button, the Gen Zer is on a constant quest for knowledge and requires a work environment that deliberately prioritises learning and development. This learning can come in the form of dedicated training but can also come from hands-on work experiences and coaching. It is worth mentioning that employers should ensure the training prescribed is relevant for the job description and career growth of the Gen Zer. With the fast pace of the world they live in, the Gen Zer will not appreciate taking courses that are of no value.
4. Give Them Space:
As an individualistic generation, Gen Zers prefer to have some level of autonomy over their work and hate being micro-managed. Thus, managers need to learn to equip them with the task’s skills and step back. Trust their ability and be available to guide them when they need help, but do not stand in their way. Gen Zers appreciate having room to innovate and develop their solutions to a problem or task.
5. They Want to Get Involved:
the Gen Zer is naturally curious, and unlike their older colleagues, they are not afraid to ask questions or state their opinion. For them, coasting through an organisation and being a “yes man” may be a fate worse than death. As such, managers need to allow them to participate in the unit and the organisation’s activities.
Remember that they are mostly inexperienced and so a good coach is required to help them channel their energy and discover the best way to be heard. This coach must listen to them and guide them without imposing his/her ideas on the Gen Zer.
6. Compensation and Benefits:
Growing up in a volatile environment with information on humans’ corrupt nature readily available, the Gen Zer prioritises stability and work-life balance. Salary and benefits play a large role in this. Research by Accenture supports this as it showed that members of this generation are more likely to search for career options in a particular field before selecting a course of study.
To this end, it is essential that executives and HR managers properly assess their compensation and benefits packages to ensure they meet employee needs. HR Managers should also prioritise benefits such as health insurance, lunch packages, access to mental health services, and other allowances that show that the organisation cares about its staff’s well-being. Organisations should also have competitive salary packages that consider the cost of living in their geographical location.
7. Get Tech Savvy:
Any organisation that wants to retain Gen Z talent must be ready to move with the times. As a generation born into the era of instant messaging and online shopping, Gen Zers would not appreciate a traditional analogue environment. Organisations need to update their IT platforms and work tools. It should replace outdated fillings systems with cloud-based record-keeping, functional and up-to-date work tools should be given to make work more comfortable, and work processes should be automated.
Born into a fast-paced world, the Gen Zer has proved to be an excellent multitasker, and so equipping them with the right tools helps your business effectively maximise this potential.
Someone once said, “the youth are the leaders of tomorrow.” I dare say, the future will be bleak if we do not begin to prepare this generation for tomorrow. The 4th revolution is technology-driven, and this generation of thinkers is a great asset to any organisation that can adequately harness their potential. Thus, employers must learn to listen to them and acknowledge their peculiarities – this will help you understand them and identify the best ways to maximise the value they bring to your organisation.