Who are Generation Z and why do employers hate them?

Generation Z (Gen Z), also known as Zoomers, is the demographic group that follows Millennials and precedes Generation Alpha. Media use the mid-to-late 1990s as starting birth years and the early 2010s as ending birth years. They are, therefore, aged 12-27. Most members of Generation Z are the children of Generation X or older Millennials.

And hiring Gen Z is a nightmare.

James McNeil, 38, ran a team collecting music royalties from businesses, and he says young workers are barely able to get through an interview, are unwilling to pick up the phone and have even ghosted their new companies on the first day of employment.

McNeil says: “We’d book interviews, but people wouldn’t turn up, or they’d turn up late, or they’d turn up and were wildly unprepared.” He now runs car leasing firm, Ready2Lease, and adds: “They didn’t know anything about what they were doing, what they were there for.”

Jade Arnell, of Rebellion Marketing, shares his upset with Gen Z, saying she had to fire four workers of this generation because they were unreliable.

Generation Z, are expected to make up a quarter of the workforce by 2025. It’s never been more important for businesses to understand the generation leading into the future.

Each generation complains about the previous ones, but there appears to be a deeper divide at work with this particular demographic.

Deloitte published a report on this generation, saying: “As more Boomers enter retirement, Gen Z will be replacing them, bringing with them an entirely different worldview and perspective on their careers and how to succeed in the workplace.”

It describes this age group as a social-media savvy, socially-aware cohort that “proactively seeks out learning opportunities to enhance skills”, and “desires diverse and entrepreneurial opportunities”.

For McNeil, though, some members of Gen Z can barely get through an interview – never mind being able to deploy sophisticated skills.

“The biggest issue in interviews was the language they would use,” he says. “They were quite negative about things. When you go for a job, you always have to put a positive spin on everything, but they would make comments like, ‘My old job was crap. My manager was horrible, I hated it’, and things like that, which, as an employer, turned you off straight away.”

“Once I hired two people for a senior sales role. It was £35,000 a year, company car, laptop, phone; a decent position for somebody. On both occasions on the first day, they just didn’t show up. They never responded to us again, never answered the phone, never replied to email, nothing. Just vanished off the face of the earth.”

Others were “afraid of getting on the phone” and thought “that everything should just be done via email or text”, McNeil says.

“Back in the day when I first started in sales, everything was done by phone; email was a secondary thing. They wouldn’t want to pick up the phone and speak to somebody because they didn’t like that one-to-one conversation or confrontation sometimes. They’re good with technology, but not good with life skills.”

Arnell describes her experience with Gen Z as “pretty poor” and says Gen Z took advantage of her flexible workplace attitude. “They want everything and deliver nothing in return,” she says.

At worst, Arnell says, “I’ve had situations multiple times with people that have literally gone out with their friends all day and then basically done their work at 3am in the morning, drunk, and then couldn’t understand why that was unacceptable.”

“Until they reach a certain age, I think they just can’t work remotely; they need to be in an office environment. Even though they claim that they want the freedom and the flexibility, they’re not structured themselves to actually be disciplined”.

McNeil found Gen Z workers repeatedly asking for flexible working, and says they had “an automatic assumption they could work from home”. He describes it as a “consistent battle of trying to get people into the office”.

McNeill and Arnell are wary from their experiences; nowadays Arnell takes longer to interview people applying to work at her company. McNeil blames Gen Z’s woes on technology making “things too easy for people, so that when it fails, they don’t know how to get around it” and schools not teaching teenagers enough about “the real world”.

Some researchers have suggested that Gen Z – having grown up around social media and influencers who encourage them to be their authentic selves – tend to talk and dress in more “informal” ways. This, in turn, can lead older colleagues and employers to perceive them as unprofessional.

In her interactions with Gen Z, Davis finds that they are very ambitious. “Sometimes I get feedback from clients that they’re too ambitious; they want to walk before they can run.”

She says there could be a bit of a misunderstanding, with employers thinking their younger recruits are asking too quickly for a promotion and being entitled, whereas younger generations are simply aspiring to it.

Given demographic trends, we will be finding out the reality of Gen Z’s workplace habits rather soon. Maybe someone could suggest some kind of national service.


On Topic

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We will fight for a world where everyone feels safe, valued, able to grow, and be inspired by their role and the organisation that they work for. And that starts with us…