This year has also intensified the focus on questions related to existing trends, such as whether flexi-time will become the norm in the future.
You may be one of hundreds of millions of people globally with an interest in the answers. As the pandemic increases the pressure for businesses to change, a new generation of ‘digital natives’ is ready to take advantage of new opportunities as they finish their studies and begin their careers.
The world is already changing around them – and soon they’ll be further transforming it themselves. Here, The Local, in partnership with the prestigious ESCP Business School, takes a closer look at Generation Z (those born from the mid-1990s until the early 2010s) and the ways in which they could change companies and workplaces.
Connections that are personal (not only digital!)
The colleagues you once saw every day may have become increasingly distant over the course of this year. It’s easy to feel that digitalisation is taking over everything – and that the next generation will want it that way.
Not according to Karima Belkacemi, careers advisor coach at ESCP Business School, who says the students she works with thrive on “face-to-face connection”. In fact, they’ll expect deeper relationships with their bosses than earlier generations, she says.
“They want managers who act as mentors,” she says. “That’s what real leadership means to this generation: a person who will always be there for you. They want a personal relationship with a manager who will focus on their development and be willing to help explain things.”
So, your future workplace might see much more personal connection – not less.
Work from anywhere – not only from home
Today’s students had to rapidly adjust to studying online from home due to the pandemic. Many students on ESCP’s Bachelor in Management (BSc) also ended up doing internships lasting three or four months remotely from home.
While this gave them a chance to let their digital skills shine, they would have preferred to physically attend. “While the school has provided the best possible transition to distance learning, the change has meant students now understand even more clearly the value of working in close collaboration with other people,” says Belkacemi.
She says young people want to shape the world to give them both work-life balance and the option of working from anywhere, not only at home.
Photos: Karima Belkacemi of ESCP/Getty Images
Promoting fun, flexibility and fluidity
Until now, only a lucky few have turned up to work expecting to have fun. But the new generation aren’t too concerned about how things worked in the past.
Growing up as ‘digital natives’, they see entertainment and experimentation as crucial aspects of life – and work.
“Our students really want managers with a gift for making their work fun,” says Belkacemi. “This generation loves to test stuff out and learn about new things.”
Asked what they most want from their employer, almost half (47 percent) of ‘Gen Z’ respondents said a fun work environment, according to a KPMG report entitled Generation Z Talent. Almost as many (44 percent) wanted flexibility in their work schedule.
The option of working ‘flexitime’ remains a notable benefit today. But amid so many wider social changes, many young people about to enter the workforce may see it as part of the ‘new normal’.
Belkacemi says Generation Z have no fear of trying different paths and companies will have to change how they operate in order to attract talent. Many young people are not only interested in working for companies or leaders who inspire them – but also in having the freedom to create their own inspirational brands. Established companies will have to respond to the challenges posed by this new wave of businesses.
“They aren’t scared of the pace of change and they all want to try entrepreneurship at some point,” says Belkacemi. “The working environment is really important too – if they work for a company, they want big open plan offices like Facebook or Google.”
An end to old school management?
Whatever happens in the business world today, its next generation of employees is watching. One slip up in a company’s social media communications could do serious harm to its image among young people.
“These students care about the values of a company they might apply to,” says Belkacemi. “I think the old style of management is over. This generation won’t want to work with you if they think your company doesn’t care about sustainability or if they don’t like your managerial practices. They’re very open about that.”
The ESCP Bachelor in Management (BSc) focuses on new ways of managing – and is designed to inspire its students with the principles of ethics, responsibility and sustainability.
Companies today must adapt and many are also making these values more central to their operations, as well as allowing more remote working via digital tools. Such actions could help a business recruit the best of Generation Z.
“Their attitude is that they want a goal to work towards, before deciding on a job,” continues Belkacemi. “Then they want the freedom to achieve that goal in the best possible way – which means flexibility in when, how and where the work is done.”
Companies that can convince young people they offer all of this will be successful, she predicts. “If someone from Generation Z loves what they do, they’ll work hard and bring you success,” she says. “They want to change the world in five minutes.”
It may take a little longer than that. But their positive impact on workplaces of the future has already begun.