Generation Z— generally characterized as being comprised of individuals born from 1997 to 2012 — are entering the workforce at a difficult time. Rising interest rates, inflation and a post pandemic world have made these individuals adaptable, and tolerant of change, something that companies should be looking for as they prepare their organizations for the future, according to Scott Redfearn, executive vice president of global human resources at Protiviti.
As uncertainty abounds and economic volatility tops business leaders’ worries, resistance to change within organizations can put CFOs in a risky positions, according to a survey of 1,304 board members and executives at various businesses across industires by Protiviti and North Carolina State University. Gen-Z hires may help companies remain competitive in today’s challenging environment:
Tolerant to change:
“Gen-Z kids have been through a lot of change,” said Julia Coronado, president and founder of economic research firm MacroPolicy Perspectives in a Dec. 6 panel discussion on the survey.
Coronado noted her own children identify as a part of this generation, “I think that they're more adaptable and resilient than we give them credit for. I mean, it's been tough with the pandemic, and we've come soaring out of it with the best labor market in generations. And maybe the younger generations won't be as much of a challenge,” she said.
There are a few key events that have really shaped Gen-Z to be the great adapters that they are in the workforce today, agreed Redfearn. The pandemic really changed the narrative around how work and specifically, where work can get done.
“But even since then, the inflation that we have seen and rising interest rates have affected the affordability of things for this generation. Home ownership — a goal that many come into the workforce with plans of achieving, for example, is becoming more and more lofty,” said Redfearn in an interview with CFO Dive.
Despite these obstacles, there is some evidence that Gen-Z is shaping up to be a generation that is ambitious and career driven.
Forty percent of Gen Zers are willing to accept a pay cut of up to 5% of their salary for a role that offers better career growth — compared with 26% of overall workers, according to LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index Survey released in April.
Although this drive is not necessarily something we haven’t seen in prior generations, said Redfearn, we are seeing different skills from Gen-Z that can be extremely helpful for organizations, especially in this environment, he said.
Besides having an appetite for change, Redfearn also cited collaboration, digital savviness and having a focus on making an impact not only in their organization, but in the world at large, as skill sets unique to Gen-Z that make them valuable to organizations.
Employers as a platform:
Gen-Z tends to possess a unique “make the world a better place” perspective that they want to carry into the workplace, said Redfearn. Today’s workforce is looking for organizations that share their values, he said, whether that be on the social, environmental or equity front.
This call to action by the new workforce is causing organizations to make ESG commitments, for example, and take a stance on social issues, which can also position them in a competitive spot.
“In the world of consumers, people are buying products that represent their values and the investor community is also tightening the screws on values, especially with ESG,” said Redfearn.
Although Gen-Z may pose a challenge to their employers, in terms of what they demand, whether that be hybrid work options or clear company values, “for every challenge they bring, they also bring an opportunity,” said Redfearn.
“They definitely have some nuances,” he said. “They come wired with a desire for change and they require their organizations to adapt.”
This appetite for adaptation, however, may be exactly what organizations need in an impending recessionary environment.
Resistance to change may restrict organizations from making necessary adjustments to their business model and core operations, the risk survey said.