Gen Z vs Businesses: Who Bends, Who Blends?

GenZ is a curveball thrown at organizations and when it comes to the question of whether businesses should adjust to Gen Z or if Gen Z should adopt, the answer lies in finding the perfect balance—a harmonious blend of both. After all, a workplace where everyone's needs are met is where the magic truly happens.

Naina Bajaj, an 18-year-old intern at Fountane Inc., shares her experience of joining a stand-up call: "I remember joining this first stand-up call where pretty much everyone at Fountane was present. And as soon as I joined, without a blink, I just started speaking for about 20 minutes. And everyone was kind of shocked. And during every standup, we ask 'What did we learn this week,' and I mention things apart from work, and everybody realizes how they should do it too."

Saurabh Garg, Partner at C4E, a creative collective, further explains the importance of creating an inclusive environment for Gen Z and freshers: "It has been a challenging journey for me to establish a structure where Gen Z or freshers are given a seat at the table and treated with respect and equality. It took me three years to build a network and process where people feel comfortable and happy working with such a setup. It is important not to make preconceived assumptions about Gen Z individuals joining the workforce. In my experience, all the 16-25-year-olds I have encountered have proven themselves capable of performing well. I believe in assuming that people will do well."

Chandni Menda, Entrepreneur in Residence at C4E, shares her perspective on the current work culture she is part of: "In the current setup I work with (C4E), we believe in creating a roundtable instead of  hierarchical structures. You don't have to follow a pre-defined path that your age demands. While I respect hierarchies, we are just not a fan of it at C4E." However, she also acknowledges the reality outside: "Sometimes, people do treat me differently when they see that I'm 21. I've also seen some meetings go better when I have a senior with. But, I go out in the world with confidence in my age. And I do find setups that look beyond age treat you with respect, regardless."

Another Interviewee mentioned “As an 18-year-old, I often fear being judged and generalized. Balancing work and personal life is important, but there are times when I simply want to have fun instead of prioritizing work. For instance, I wanted to go to Adventure Island recently, but I hesitated to ask for time off, so I took a menstrual leave instead. However, I feel that some people question my priorities and how I can engage in leisure activities while having work responsibilities. I did my work, I still could not take a leave”

Generalizing Gen Z's Mannerisms: A Limitation for Businesses?

Gen Z often falls victim to stereotypes and generalizations, such as being irresponsible and lacking professional hygiene. However, upon conversing with multiple individuals, it becomes evident that these claims are unfounded, and such generalizations in the workplace are more harmful than beneficial.

As Saurabh explains, "This generation is incredibly smart, and the upcoming generation will surpass us. They are invited to the table from day one. Then, it's on them to earn their respect by delivering results and putting in their best. From our side, we should enable that by giving them a say in decision-making and shaping the future."

However, organizations often underestimate Gen Z, as illustrated by Saurabh's example: "One of the most outstanding individuals on my team, a remarkable 19-year-old, was mistaken for an intern at a larger agency and asked for photocopies only. They were given menial tasks, which is a foolish move. If you assign a smart person a menial job, they will rebel."

Chandni criticizes the issue of generalizations, emphasizing the importance of looking beyond preconceived notions. She states, "My problem with most people is that there's generalisation happening. When you hire someone with an assumption that they won't do well, you lose the ability to recognise their efforts. There's a mental block." She urges both individuals and organizations to be open-minded and refrain from judging based on stereotypes. Chandni desires to be evaluated based on skills and effort rather than being subject to the general perception of her generation. Also, as someone who's designed hiring processes herself, she suggests that organizations work on making their filters stronger instead of relying on anecdotal experiences that define an entire generation.

Changing Business Landscape

Breaking Stereotypes and Seeking Growth

Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with the internet and social media. This has given them a different perspective on the world and a different way of communicating.

Chandni emphasizes the importance of earning respect and owning one's place, stating, "To reach somewhere, you need to earn your place. Put in the hours."

Members of Gen Z are focused on career development and advancement, seeking clarity and a clear growth path. Chandni further explains, "Every 10 years back, people had limited options for career development. Now, we have multiple opportunities online. If not fulfilled, we can explore other options." The demand for clarity on growth opportunities is crucial, as Gen Z individuals are more likely to seek better opportunities if their questions remain unanswered. Transparency about expectations and growth prospects is seen as vital, and it should be practised by everyone.

Staying Informed and Embracing Diversity

Gen Z's exposure to a wide range of experiences sets them apart from previous generations. They have been exposed to concepts like AI, diverse gender identities (LGBTQIA), and mental health issues.

In today's dynamic work environment, staying informed about current trends is crucial. As one interviewee explains, "For example, when hiring someone in a generalist role, we expect them to be knowledgeable about current trends, like leveraging ChatGPT. There is pressure for young people to adapt and stand out by staying informed and utilizing available resources."

Diversity is another significant aspect of Gen Z. Chandni shared "You're right, we are a diverse group, and so we come with diverse expectations. My personal ask from organisations would always be respect, growth, and transparency."

Sense of Insecurity with Fast-moving Technology

The unstoppable advancements, while promising a brighter future, can leave us wondering if we'll ever catch up. There is a new significant development every week.

Naina reflects on her experience with the wave of AI, stating, "I do feel like that as soon as the wave of AI has come. I just have this imposter syndrome going on... Why am I unable to adapt to this? Why don't I know about my journey? Why don't I know about how this works?" She further shares her surprise at her workplace not using ChatGPT, saying, "I was so shocked. I just told them I generated this copy using ChatGPT and they were like, 'Oh, you should share it because it isn't that common. Now? I think everyone should adopt that. I'd have to integrate it into the workflow."

Naina also describes her encounter with someone who suggested that AI would replace product designers, sharing, "He told us, 'Oh, you will be replaced by AI in six months.' And that kind of hit me hard and made me feel very insecure about my career." Despite her concerns, she emphasizes the need for adaptation and integration, stating, "I knew that it won't replace me, but I will have to adapt to AI as soon as possible and integrate it into my daily workflow." Naina concludes by expressing a general sense of not feeling acknowledged and the continuous need to keep up with technology, noting, "At the end of the day, technology is made by us."

Technology is changing every day and the pressure to adopt is on GenZ more than anyone else.

The Road Ahead: Navigating Gen Z's Potential

To fully harness the potential of Gen Z in the workplace, businesses must avoid falling into the trap of generalizations. Recognizing their diverse backgrounds, skills, and aspirations is crucial. By creating an inclusive environment that values their contributions, organizations can foster a positive and productive work culture that attracts, retains, and unleashes the true potential of Gen Z employees.

In conclusion, Gen Z's entrance into the workforce brings both challenges and opportunities. Their unique perspectives, digital prowess, and hunger for innovation are transforming businesses across the globe. Companies that embrace their qualities, support their development, and adapt to their preferences are poised to thrive in an ever-evolving workplace landscape. It's time to ditch the stereotypes and tap into the immense potential that Gen Z brings to the table.

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