Over the last 17 years I have managed, led and developed 27 people, of which 25 are currently flourishing in their respective roles. I am extremely proud to have worked with and helped develop some truly outstanding individuals and I take pride in seeing them progressing. I am still in touch with most of these former team members.
My management style was brutally honest, heart on my sleeve, passionate and ambitious. I used comedy to minimise the pain of typical business challenges and viewed my role as a line manager to help my team deliver their goals and ambitions in life, whether they be financial or personal.
Over the years, as the gap between my age and the graduates I'm interviewing grows ever wider there are numerous changes that seem to have become more and more apparent to me as a manager. One major obvious difference is the fact that most school leavers I meet don't have the same forgone desire to go to University. They don't want to rack up debt. They want to make money and they want to get started straight away. I interviewed one amazing guy the day before his final A-Level exam. It's an incredibly competitive job market and those with 3 or 4 years of purely theory based degree work risk being left behind. A lot of courses now include time in industry and this often single year can be the difference between getting the job you want in the industry you want. Most managers today would value even a year of experience over three years of theoretical studying.
The Millennials vs Generation Z
A lot has been written about generation Y (born between 1980s & 1995) and their impact on the workplace. They are a more demanding type of employee with traits stretching from confidence and tolerance through to an inflated sense of entitlement and even narcissism. They have an extensive knowledge of technological innovations, social media, networking and ultimately the first working generation who's career has been superceeded by the internet. The university of Michigan's study showed an increase in the proportion of students who consider wealth a very important attribute from 45% (baby boomers) to 75% (Millennials). While Generation Y are tolerating the traditional 'work for someone else' philosophy, the subsequent generation are already rebelling against that status quo.
Generation Z's that are just now entering the job market have grown up in a world not only defined by but also delivered by the internet. They see the working environment more purely as a way to make money primarily but more importantly define themselves as successful by making money rather than impressing their bosses or hitting internal KPIs. They don't relate to office based working environments and don't understand the issues around commuting, set business hours, having your own desk or even a company supplied laptop. They demand a different working philosophy based around flexible working hours and location but also a greater focus on project based tasks and expect to be rewarded for the projects & profit they deliver. They see an ever expanding number of start ups carve their own niche, using the power of social media and delivering marketing campaigns that don't follow traditional patterns. The explosion in particularly tech start ups over the past couple of years has been phenomenal (+155% since 2013). The support available now for start up businesses in the UK both from the Government and also other start ups is greater than ever before. Why work to make someone else rich when you can make yourself rich!
How should todays employers react?
So, what are the implications of this new generation of 18 year olds for today's business leaders? Quite simply huge. Employee loyalty has been in steady decline since the 1960s and staff turnover in all sectors has been accelerating in the last 10 years. This isn't purely a bad reflection on today's employers and managers, as the job market is much for fluid today, but it should highlight to every employer the importance of both tangible and intangible employee benefits. It should also highlight that today's employers need to listen to the requirements of their new and recent employees to understand how they want to structure their working environments. Generation Zers have a huge desire to start their own business, gain respect amongst their peers and make themselves rich. Employers shouldn't be afraid of this but acutally embrace it, as Google has done where every employee gets 1 day a month to work on their own business.
This may just sound like the rest of us have to conform to the demands of this new world order of school leavers. However, when the biggest and most admired companies are already accommodating Zers desires, if other companies truly want to compete for the best talent of the next generation, they too should be delivering their wants and needs.
Generation Z, as every generation before it, is the future. They bring skills, new ways of working, technical knowledge and unwaivering ambition to get to the top. As I start to think about building a new workforce for my new company, I would prefer to cater for the employee of the future not the employee of the past.