CEO, Ricoh Europe


Bursting the Gen Z bubble: digital natives could be in for a shock

Historically, the entrance of new generations into the workplace has caused varying levels of disruption. The arrival of Generation Z is expected to be no different.

Generation Z is the first fully digital generation, the true “children of the internet” who won’t remember a life before broadband – and are headed en-masse to workplaces now. Born after 1995, many are nearing 20 and starting to leave full-time education as they make their way into the working world. When businesses are still trying to get to grasps with millennials, however, how will this lack of preparation affect our newest additions?

Gen Z are not awestruck by technology in the same way as their older counterparts, and they are likely to be the most demanding cohort to enter the workplace. According to new research into the 4G Workplace by Coleman Parkes, sponsored by Ricoh Europe, they have high expectations of their future employers and are hugely positive that businesses are ready for their arrival. But will these expectations fall short, bursting the Gen Z “bubble”?

Great Expectations

Generation Z are by far the most optimistic group to enter the workplace, which is perhaps unsurprising since they’re yet to experience the realities of the corporate world. Will their expectations be met by their employers? The research found that 73 per cent of Gen Z believe their first employers will cater well to their needs. A stark contrast to the views of the current generations already in the workplace – from Baby Boomers to Millennials – where less than half thought their employers were satisfying their needs at this moment in time.

This optimism continues, with the youngest ages attracted to companies with good work-life balances, great people, and decent perks. In addition, they’re extremely self-confident with great expectations on their own positive impact on the workplace – most of them believing that they will bring new ways of working, exceptional technology skills and fresh thinking.

The path to disillusionment

The survey shows that older generations tend to demand less from employers, and their preferences also differ from Gen Z – with job security being front of mind for Baby Boomers and work-life balance for Gen X and Millennials. Generation Z might have big expectations from their future employers, but they’re also acutely aware of their weaknesses. Out of all the generations surveyed they ranked themselves the worst on skills that they will need to develop to work effectively.

This insecurity combined with their high expectations, which in reality many employers will struggle to meet, means that Gen Z could be in for a reality shock when they join the workforce. Here lies the real challenge for businesses; how do you cater for such a challenging generation while introducing them to the workings of the business world without disillusioning them and dampening their spirits?

Technology will be key. Unsurprisingly, this features as a big draw for Gen Z. Compared to older generations, three times as many of the younger generation are attracted to companies that offer technology to work more efficiently. While Gen Z may have high expectations, they aren’t outlandish demands. Remote working, work-life balance and technology to improve collaboration and communication are all things that businesses need to embrace.

Simply put, those who offer these are most likely to attract the brightest and most talented of this generation. From the SMB to the large multi-national, businesses need to make genuine commitments to accommodate all generations in the workforce, and implement the relevant underpinning processes to ensure their success.

It’s clear that Generation Z will be a big challenge for businesses – they certainly know what they want. But if organisations are able to cater to their needs early on, they could be the most positively disruptive generation ever to enter the workforce.

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