Generation Z (born in the early 1990s to 2000s) are already the biggest percentage of our global population. Just as baby boomers and millennials changed the way we work and what we expect from it, so too will Gen Z with their focus on skills development and engaging work. Enforced working from home has also changed how generations view work. Some employees have enjoyed the ability to spend more time with family, work at their own pace, while others deal with the loneliness and claustrophobia of working in cramped flats and shared houses. Bringing competing desires together and rebuilding organisational culture will be a challenge, particularly as we live and work longer. So, what does the future employee look like?
One of the main drivers behind the ageing workforce is that we are all living longer. According to the Resolution Foundation’s 2019 paper Ageing, fast and slow, men born today in the UK can expect to live 8.4 years longer and women 6.1 years longer than in the 1980s. Around half of children born after the millennium can expect to live to 100 years of age.
The impact of this is two-fold. First, people are staying in work longer than previously. There are now 185% more over-65’s in the workforce than there were in 1992. The average employee in the UK is in their 40s, with one in three workers aged 50 or over. Attracting, retaining, and reskilling more mature employees will be a key challenge to businesses in the coming years.
Secondly, there is the integration of Gen Z into the workforce. While generalisations about any generational cohort should be taken with a pinch of salt, there are some things that mark them out.
The most obvious factor is that Gen Z is a digitally native generation, and its members have never known a world without the internet or mobile phones. Gen Z are diverse and open to researching new ideas. Information is at the touch of the button and knowing why they are doing something is more important than simply doing it. If a Gen Zer is going to work for 50 years, they want to know why. Organisations will increasingly need to articulate their brand, standpoint on global issues and motivations.
Emma Birchall, MD, from Hot Spots Movement explains that when you look at the impact of the pandemic on Gen Z, you can see two competing trends. Firstly, Gen Z is living in a time of huge instability. Unemployment has hit younger people especially, even more so in roles in the leisure and entertainment industries. Going forward, she expects they will want to manage their lives in a way that assumes employers may not want to keep them around for a length of time. They won’t rely on job security in the way you could a couple of generations ago.
On the other side, it has been an important time for organisations to show their true colours. COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and gender pay gaps have been the real test: are they who they say they are? The element of purpose and meaning in work has become stronger among the section of Gen Z who had a choice about where they’re going to work. For Emma’s full commentary, and the case studies of our clients Two Sisters Food Group and LV=, download the full report here.
Employee wellbeing and psychological safety
During the pandemic, remote working and the very real threat of illness have thrust mental health and emotional wellbeing into the spotlight like never before. Most organisations have reacted in a similar way. The first wave of lockdowns saw organisations focus on ensuring employees were able to continue working remotely, whether through supplying office equipment or moving data to cloud servers.
Next came a focus on the individual circumstances of employees. This saw businesses offering split working hours for parents, coffee catchups for those working alone and webinars and classes to alleviate stress.
As the pandemic enters a second year, businesses are now looking into the future. How can they ensure their employees feel supported to keep working, whether remotely or in preparation for a return to the office? How much has our collective experience changed what we want from work?
The true answer is that no one quite knows yet. However, there are practical steps businesses can take to support their employees, such as planning phases returns, introducing temperature checks and lateral flow testing, and redesigning office layouts to minimise anxiety. But the bigger future challenge will be around psychological safety in the workplace. Recent months have been all about fear: illness, job losses, recession, loneliness. Businesses will have to create an environment where employees feel able to innovate, challenge and disrupt, as businesses cautiously look into the future.
The acceleration of digital transformation has also accelerated the skills profile organisations need. According to the World Economic Forum, there are four key skill types for the future of work:
- Working with people
- Technology use and development
Within these, innovation, influencing, critical thinking and active learning stand out as skills organisations need to develop. Greater adoption of technology over the coming years means that the more in-demand skills will be social, emotional, and technical, as machines take over repetitive and basic tasks. However, HR leaders have repeatedly found these skills harder to recruit. The organisations we spoke to for our report: Work – A Paradigm Shift that is available and free to download here, are certainly aware of potential skills gaps within their talent. The challenge is attracting candidates in a competitive market. The growth of remote working has also impacted on certain companies, as they lose potential recruits to organisations in other cities and even countries. For employees, remote working has the chance to open up new avenues and opportunities.
Learning & Development
Perhaps the solution to the skills crisis lies within. Gen Z – with an eye on the 100-year life- are motivated by the chance to develop new skills. The question is how to deliver that training?
For Gen-Z, the key lies in delivering bitesize learning that they can work through at their own pace. Hudson RPO has recently implemented this format with Social Talent, reducing our ramp-up times by over 66%. Microlearning tools and software could be the best way to encourage younger employees to upskill, while for existing employees it might be more about reskilling into new areas. In the next 5 years, it is predicted that a staggering 50% of employees will need to reskill to meet the demands of automation and artificial intelligence on our jobs. Another reason why skills such as resilience, adaptability, and innovation are so vital. To read more about the future employee, download our free to download report here.
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