Understand Gen Z to harness their strengths at work



Featured | Leadership

By Christian Lucarelli

By: Christian Lucarelli, Vice President Sales APAC, Nintex

Thinking of taking a young person on in your business and wondering how they’ll fit in? A rising tide of Generation Z – Australians born between 1996 and 2012 – has begun entering the workforce in recent years.

Understanding what makes them tick can help ensure both parties get off on the right foot and enjoy a productive and harmonious working relationship.

It seems like yesterday that Generation X, the now middle-aged Australians who came of age in the eighties and early nineties, were being dismissed as too individualistic, quick to find ways to “work to live”, rather than “live to work” as had been espoused by the generation before them.

More recently, millennials have come under fire. If you’ve absorbed the commentary over the past 15 years, you’ll know this cohort is touted as immature, self-absorbed, over-indulged by their baby boomer parents, and poised to demand the reason why if they’re not offered a management role in their second week on the job.

As the Millennials slide into their thirties and a growing tranche of Gen Zers transition from full-time education to the world of work, there’s a fair chance the latter group will start earning labels of their own.

A recent survey by Nintex looked at Gen Z’s goals and expectations for their first years in the workforce. The survey involved 325 current and future Australian graduate employees from the Gen Z cohort, on work, corporate culture and automation, resulting in the following insights that may help businesses manage and support this new crop of workers most productively.

Don’t tie me down: flexibility matters

You may think your company’s values, workplace flexibility and culture will be what lures Australian Gen Zers to join your ranks, and you’ll be right on one of those three counts. Flexibility is what matters most to Gen Z. It’s little surprise, given they’ve grown up in an era when digital technology became ubiquitous, the gig economy became a ‘thing’ and remote working became the norm for a large swathe of the population.

Make flexibility a priority if you want to get Gen Z on board – according to survey respondents, flexibility is their key determining factor in job selection, closely followed by salary and work-life balance.

Show me the feedback!

Gen Z may be the generation that lives life digitally, dishing up extraordinary dollops of data about their work and home lives for their followers on social media to digest. But when they’re in the office, it’s not likes and follows they crave. It’s feedback – the face-to-face kind. Offer them regular in-person coaching and the opportunity to suggest ways processes and technology usage can be improved if you want to see them shine.

Me… or the machine?

Artificial intelligence can seem like the stuff of Brave New World for some workers in the final quarter of their careers but for digital native Gen Zs, it’s unremarkable. That’s not to say they feel relaxed and comfortable about automation’s potential impact on their jobs and career paths. While the vast majority of young workers think automation has the potential to make their jobs easier, almost two thirds believe it will also make them more insecure.

Having said that, Gen Z can be handy folk to have on hand when technology doesn’t perform as it should. Most won’t bother calling the helpdesk; they’ll jump in and fix the issue themselves and have been known to step in and help team members – managers included – to troubleshoot in an emergency.

Doing it my way

In today’s rapidly-evolving work landscape, change is the new normal. The concept of selecting a specific career path in your early twenties and following it for decades seems quaint and outmoded to Gen Zers, who prefer the idea of dancing to their own drums.

Meanwhile, they see the once-clear line between work and home life as decidedly blurred. Gen Zers typically view their jobs as part of their personal identity and expect them to be congruent with their own values and interests. Give them tasks which they don’t consider to be meaningful, and you’re likely to lose our newest working generation.

Taking the lead with the next generation

The success of every organisation depends on its people. Mentoring and managing the next generation of workers is the collective responsibility of Australian employers of all shapes and sizes.

Appreciating what motivates – and demotivates – the country’s 4.6 million Gen Zers as they progressively transition from the education system to the workforce is a worthwhile exercise for businesses which aim to bring out the best in them.


Christian Lucarelli, Vice President Sales APAC, Nintex

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