IQ Blog

What our very own IQers have to say…

GenerationZ – hacking the future workforce

26 Oct 2017 |

GenerationZ – hacking the future workforce

By Reneshan Moodley – Agile Consultant, IQ Business

GenerationZ’ers are defined as people born post 1994/6, which means they are currently or will be entering the workforce about now. While most people are on the “new ideas, fresh thinking and innovation craze”, I am not convinced that everything is ok just yet. I am not convinced we have a handle on how to attract, recruit, mentor, lead and, ultimately, off-board these GenZ’ers.

Here’s why, and we will start with a story (which may or may not have happened).
New graduate comes forward for an interview. As the interview progresses, the senior interviewer asks, “where do you see yourself in 5 years?”. The grad responds, “CEO or similar level”. (Thankfully the interviewer was strong enough to curtail their laughter), but the grad was serious, his main concern and probably key acceptance criteria for accepting an employment offer was can you provide me with the pathway and opportunity to go from recruit to CEO in 5 years?

Simon Sinek (legendary author and thought leader) says that the workforce of millennials* are looking for two key things. Purpose (and alignment to purpose) + Opportunity to use their skill to do valuable work. Sounds great, here’s two problems though:

  1. Most organisations do not have a easily digestible purpose or the documented purpose is so ‘fluffy’ that the recruit would have better luck becoming ‘twitter famous’.
  2. The recruits “skills” don’t fit into the current organisational roles and responsibilities. Their skills (as valuable as they seem) don’t map neatly to existing roles. (Note: This does not address their competence state though).

So, it may seem easy to say, “either they fit on or they move on”. The folly of that approach is that the largest workforce over the next 5-15 years is going to be GenZ. So if we (as the established career people) intend on recruiting and retaining this young talent, we’d best figure out how to deal with this conundrum.

This is an exhaustive and long process that deserves the rigour of proper examination and analysis. To kick us off, I have jotted down a possible area to start unravelling.

The younger workforce has some fundamental differences in how they want to work and build careers (in the domain that I work in at least). One of these factors includes Rapid experience accumulation.

GenZ’ers are more focused and driven by expanding their list of differing experiences (and subsequently their list of differing skills).

For a long time (and it still happens today), job hopping was thought of as bad and negatively impacted recruitment views since the potential recruit seemed ‘disloyal’ and prone to job hopping. This does not hold true for the GenZ workforce. In fact, the opposite is true in that GenZ want to gain the most diverse set of skills and experiences in the shortest possible time. This means they want (and are attracted to) challenging new types of work that doesn’t require or result in ‘long service awards’.

Note: Try explaining to a GenZ’er that it might take 15-20 years of hard work to achieve senior management level and that only a few select people get to a title that starts with C. You can watch the hope drain out of their faces.

To make this happen, we as leaders, need to make sure that work is ‘packaged’ into small, compartmentalised units that express a purpose and that the work aligns with people’s personal goals and current or desired skills. By making these smaller, valued pieces of attractive work, we gain rapid value delivery while providing the core drivers for GenZ to be energised.

We also need to make different types of projects or work easy to access. Enforcing ‘red tape’ related to work allocation or the distribution of workload will results in a frustrated workforce who will be more focused on navigating the corporate maelstrom than doing the actual work. In essence, people should sign up for the ‘value’ they want to contribute.

This approach might lead to increased coordination overheads and possibly delivery of ‘unexpected’ result; the organisations of the future are going to have to learn to embrace and capitalise on this diverse and abnormal innovation.