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Don't blame Gen Z for all your workforce woes

Don't blame Gen Z for all your workforce woes

I had just finished university and at the end of my first week on the job, an older colleague took me aside, in a coffee shop, out of the blue. "You seem like a good guy," this weary veteran, who might have been 32 at the time, told me, "but you give the impression you're studying journalism, not practicing it." He was right about something, which I took seriously. This theme came back to me as I read the latest headlines about how worried today's employers seem about their newest recruits.

Deloitte and PêC have felt the need to give their new UK staff extra training after their years in the Covid lockdowns and restrictions had left them less adept at networking and speaking in meetings.

For those Gen Zers who entered the workforce post-Covid-19, "the pandemic turned their first jobs into a two-year video call," according to a new report that paints a picture of a group that is more interested for their part-time rather than full-time jobs.

We are witnessing one of the periodic panics of the working world that its newest arrivals will not fit the way things are done. This time, that anxiety is compounded by a premonition that the pandemic years disrupted normal university experiences so much that a Covid-affected microgeneration is descending into the workplace without the usual social skills.

"Career development happens by teaching between team members," BlackRock told staff last week to explain why they must be in its offices at least four days a week.

Managers are right to debate how often their younger employees should be at their desks as they try to strike a balance between flexibility and "teachable moments." But they also need to think about what they're doing for Gen Z employees once they're in the office. Melissa Swift, a partner at consultancy Mercer, sees Gen Z 'stuck' between Covid and ChatGPT. The pandemic left them "in the wilderness" as students, and now artificial intelligence is helping a lot in their work.

That said, she finds that the unusual needs of this group collide with the fact that their managers are so professionally burned out that they have little time to spend on training the next generation, or even noticing what their experience is like. at the workplace. In other words, you can't chalk it all up to Generation Z. Companies have spent billions of dollars to improve the customer experience, notes Tiffani Bova, a labor expert, but have made no comparable effort to improve employee experience. Instead, workloads have left new employees overwhelmed.

So what should Gen X and Millennial managers do to improve Gen Z's work life? Wayne Berson, a CEO in America, says his firm has rethought its approach to training, assigning mentors to all its recruits and talking to managers about how to create more camaraderie within the workplace. This can mean anything from creating teams to work on to hosting a dinner party, he says.

Most of what I learned about my craft, and the places I used it, I learned not at my desk, but over evenings, lunches and coffees with my colleagues. Employers should also give managers and newcomers time to do this, realizing that time spent exchanging stories and advice is not stolen from the workday, but a vital part of it.