Zoomers Are Your New Workplace Influencers

Photo credit: iStockphoto/ABEMOS

They are the youngest and most junior employees in the company, but Generation Z is already having a significant influence on how organizations use and procure new technology.

That is one of the findings from new research commissioned by process management and automation solutions provider Nintex, which has just published a global study of Gen Z in the workplace.

As the first digitally native generation to join the workforce, the “Zoomers” as they are sometimes known, have an innate understanding of technology issues which can often make them the go-to person in the office.

Individualistic in character and tech preference

As the survey shows, 70% of the respondents to the global survey reported that at some point, they had been approached by a senior team member to fix a technology problem.

This is the generation born between 1996 and the millennium. The oldest of whom have now been in the workforce for three years.

As a group, they are also impatient and resentful when technology fails to perform. Broken IT processes, according to the report, are more likely to drive attrition levels than bad culture and missed promotions.

Broken IT processes are more likely to drive attrition levels than bad culture and missed promotions.

While they are hyper fluent in collaborative platforms like Google Docs, GroupMe, and Facebook Messenger, 60% say they preferred individual to group assignments in their tertiary study, and 34% prefer individual assignments at work.

They also like their own technology. Faced with a choice between the company technology, and once they know they will most effectively handle the task, more than eight in ten will use the "shadow IT" to get the job done.

Geographical differences exist

The study is split into geographies and looks at Zoomers in the U.K., the U.S., and Australasia. The responses show key differences in subjects such as automation in the workplace.

Where 57% of U.S. Zoomers interviewed were concerned that automation will cost them their jobs, the figure was only 30% in the U.K. and 43% in Australasia, where 450 young people were interviewed along with 430 enterprise decision-makers.

Fears of job loss were preventing Gen Z from fully embracing automation.

Across the survey, the broader impact was that fears of job loss were preventing Gen Z from fully embracing these new technologies, a trait they likely share with older generations.

The survey also underlines the difficulty of retaining Zoomer talent in the long term, with 29% of the cohort in Australasia planning to leave a job after just one year.

Slightly more encouraging was the 61% who said they planned to stay for more than a year, with 61% of this group planning to stay for two years or more.

They value their value, not necessarily money

So, what can be done to retain them? Six in ten will leave for a higher paid job, the three in ten say it will be because there is a lack of new learning opportunities for long term career growth.

“Far from being Millennials 2.0, Gen Z is uniquely driven by personal convictions, a desire to grow within, and add lasting value to a company,” the report says.

“They just need the flexibility and support to flourish.”

That involves weekly check-ins. Rather than shying away from regular engagement with more senior colleagues, Zoomers welcome it.

Money, as a concept, is not as initially motivating as other factors.

In work flexibility, they are similar to other generations. The ability to set their own hours and work remotely is the biggest draw for any entry-level job and is even ahead of salary.

Money, as a concept, is not as initially motivating as other factors. In selecting their university studies, for example, 62% of the Zoomers in Australasia chose what they found "most personally interesting." At the same time, only 4% said their motivation was to study something which set them up "to make a lot of money."

We all know this as parents

Anecdotally, this changes over time. As the parent of a Zoomer, who has not been in his first job for three years post-university, many of these survey results resonate.

He studied something out of passion, thinking he would find a way to pursue it professionally. Now he’s been in the workforce for three years, his ambitions have changed. He has now embraced a path which was similar to his original ambitions, but more commercial and practical.

After six months in the job, he was ready to quit, screaming that it was "boring and stultifying."

Encouraged by his parents to stay a little longer, he’s just done three years and is now hoping to move, with the same company, in the same role to another city.

Part of this is that he has been well managed. His employers have given him extra time off without pay to travel in Europe and have been flexible in accommodating his needs.

They have also continually given him positive feedback and several increases in salary along the way, as well as agreeing to his request to change roles to the creative team.

All up, it has been a win-win both for him and the employer. He has increased his skills, is earning more money, is enjoying the flexibility, and his employers have won his loyalty.

For how much longer this will continue will be interesting to watch.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/ABEMOS