The power of individuals to create change

4 mins

Posted on 05 Apr 2022

The power of individuals to create change

Generation Z and workforce planning

Last week saw a team of Amazon workers force the technology giant (and the country’s second largest employer) to recognise a trade union in the US for the first time. The Amazon Labor Union was established last year by Chris Smalls, a former Amazon worker in New York, and called for higher pay, stronger medical benefits, anti-discrimination policies and better leave.

Whilst commentators suggest that many of those demands (and the health & safety issues in particular) were driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, we should not overlook the impact of the changing expectations of the new generations. We hear a lot about the changing workplace and the future world of work, but do we spend enough time planning for the changing workforce? Over the last decade, seismic shifts in global policies and cultures are leading to radical changes in the expectations of employees. Are businesses prepared for these changes and will they be able to meet the expectations of the next generations? These issues will be key to attracting and retaining the talent that drives the success of their business.

Generation Z (or GenZ) will soon surpass millennials with more than one third of the world’s population counting themselves as GenZ, meaning people born between 1997 and 2012 who are now aged between 10 and 25. Today’s workforce is made up of this group together with Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996, aged 26-41), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1981) and the Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964).

GenZ was raised on the internet and social media and these online platforms gave them a new power – the power to share their opinions with a much broader sphere of influence and to question authority in new ways. This generation embraces personal responsibility and believes in the power of individuals to create change. Their expectations in the workplace will be radically different from those of the preceding generations. According to a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, GenZ will focus on a meaningful work life balance and personal wellbeing. They are likely to value purely financial benefits less than every other generation and will be drawn to colleagues who can demonstrate their efforts to be a good global citizen. Increasingly, employers must demonstrate their commitment to a broader set of societal challenges such as climate change and sustainability. Diversity is non-negotiable for generation Z, not just in relation to race and gender, but also identity and orientation. This generation will be concerned with the efficacy and ethics around AI and the human/machine collaboration. They will also need to plan for a much longer working life.

So, what does this all mean for employers?

Will we see a shift in recruitment strategy to reflect a move towards hiring smart talented people and then matching them with a role once they have joined? Should employers consider partnering new recruits at university level to attract the diverse talent they need? Will companies create new and alternative career paths to drive social mobility and to achieve the meritocracy required? Should businesses explore the adoption of an internal gig system to meet expectations around flexibility and to achieve the matching of skills to different projects? Should employers radically rethink the benefits package on offer?

We cannot know the answers to those questions today but what we can say with more certainty is that the minimum expectations of the new generation will be flexibility, well-being, up to date technology, transparency of communications and a strong corporate social conscience. Employers will need to be creative and bold in their workforce planning and in their recruitment and retention strategies. They will need to be prepared to try new approaches in the knowledge that not all those initiatives will be successful.

Key Contacts :

Helen Brooks

With over 25 years’ experience, Helen is an established employment litigator and adviser working with both employers and employees. She advises on all aspects of employment law and HR strategy.

  • Partner
  • T: +44 (0)20 3696 7173
  • Email me

View profile

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

Back to top