In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about the millennials in the workplace — and it’s not always been positive. Now, there’s a shift in that discussion as the millennials, Generation Xers and baby boomers have a new generation to consider — and compete with — Generation Z. Gen Zs are already making inroads into the labour market and definitely making some waves with their entrepreneurial values, innovative ideas, and technology and social media skillsets.
Many companies already recognize the importance of attracting this young group of workers. TD Bank, recently selected as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for Young People, is one of them. “It’s a feather in our cap for sure,” says Asud Anderson, head of campus recruitment and early talent at TD. “[Attracting top young people] is exactly what my team’s mandate is.” With the way the workforce is changing, considering the growing role of new technologies, social media, as well as the introduction of new realms like crypto currencies, Anderson explains, Gen Zs have a skillset and a perspective unlike any other generation, as they were born and raised in the digital world. “From the youngest ages, they already understand way more than we do,” he says. “[Their] ability to learn is 10 times faster than past generations.” And many companies are actively seeking out these youth, rather than relying on the traditional candidate-seeks-employment route that we’ve grown used to, he adds.
Who are Gen Zs, really?
With a lack of Canadian information on this new and in-demand cohort, n-gen, a Toronto-based organization that trains industry leaders to manage multigenerational workforces, conducted a national survey to better understand who Gen Zs are. According to n-gen, Gen Zs were born between 1996 and 2012, predominantly to Gen X parents. While the new employees have a reputation for being tech savvy, Giselle Kovary, president and co-founder of n-gen, says this group is much more than that. “First and foremost, they’re incredibly optimistic,” Kovary says. “They believe they’re going to be better off than their parents, even though lots of data would suggest that would not be the case.” She adds that another finding was that Gen Zs value loyalty very highly, suggesting they may be interested in staying at a company more long-term than the millennials who came before them. Other key results of the survey show that, in line with the ever-changing mobile world this group was raised in, Gen Zs are also going to be notably flexible, highly educated, lifelong learners, and innovative at solving problems. But, similar to all of the generations who came before them, they will want to feel that they are contributing to a team. “I think Gen Zs are going to take the work ethic of the baby boomers, the independence of their Gen X parents, and the creativity and fluidity of the millennials,” says Kovary.
Impact on the workforce
As the oldest of this new generation are just graduating from school, their effect on the workforce has not really been determined yet. However, experts predict their impact will be significant, and they have suggestions for older generations, including internationally trained professionals in Canada, as to how they can learn from the soon-to-be young professionals. “Take the time to learn about this incoming generation and what separates them from their older counterparts,” says Murali Murthy, best-selling author of You Are HIRED!, columnist and career coach. “And then start crafting your competitive edge for the workforce of tomorrow.” Of course, you have to be tech savvy, he says, but he encourages individuals to be more mobile. He explains that older generations often wait until they’re at home on the computer to answer questions or find information, while Gen Zs will already have the answer, as they use their phones to problem solve instantly, regardless of where they are.
While many associate Gen Zs with having their eyes glued to their phones, Murthy says research shows that the young cohort actually values face-to-face communication very highly, whether in real life or video chat. He says that new immigrants should try their best to be collaborative, as, despite the digital growth, face-to-face interactions can be very effective. Anderson agrees. He says that when his team looks to recruit new talent, they’re not relying on traditional cover letter and resumé applications. Instead, they’re seeking talent at events and festivals that attract the type of people they’re trying to hire. For example, if TD is looking to hire a computer pro, they’ll head to Toronto’s Techfest. “You find that the people who really love what they do or what they want to do are at these events,” says Anderson. Therefore, he recommends that newcomers to Canada get out and join clubs, participate in activities, and attend events that are in line with their employment interests. It’s there that they may encounter potential employers — while simultaneously building new connections and learning new skills.
Power of a multi-general workforce
While it’s important that job-seeking immigrants learn what they can from Gen Zs, Sonia Morgan, head of talent at Capitol One Canada, says immigrants shouldn’t focus solely on emulating these youth. Instead, she says her company — who was also recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for Young People — finds that “a multi-generational workforce is ideal as it “brings balance to the workplace.” “Each generation can learn from the other and together they become a very powerful force,” she says. “We lay a large emphasis on diversity and inclusion … We encourage our people to be themselves and to bring their hearts and minds to work.”