A whole new generation is entering the workplace. Loosely labeled Generation Z, their attitude to work will be vastly different from those of previous generations. Their attitude will soon shape our workplaces and how we work.  

HR Guide: Future-proofing your workforce

A whole new generation is entering the workplace. Loosely labeled Generation Z, their attitude to work will be vastly different from those of previous generations. Their attitude will soon shape our workplaces and how we work. 

As the Chartered Institutes of Personnel and Development's "Gen Up" research highlights, each generation's attitude to work is fostered by the environment in which they grew up. Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, experienced the end of the Cold War, deregulation and a recession in the 1980s. This is in contrast to the Baby Boomer generation who grew up during a period of positive change after World War II. 

The resulting contrast between the two is interesting. Baby Boomers tend to be more loyal to one single company, working their way up the ladder internally. Generation X workers tend to be slightly less loyal and perhaps more cynical, moving from company to company in order to further their careers. 

Generation Y, born between 1979 and 1991, have been shielded from the worst effects of recession -- until now. Their attitude to work is that change is inevitable, and the career certainties of old no longer apply to them. What is becoming clear is that they are beginning to lose trust in employers. 

Recent research highlights an increasing lack of trust. Nearly one-third (32.2 percent) of the Generation Y who were surveyed told UK-based recruitment consultants Badenoch & Clark that they refuse to believe either most or any of what they are told by their employer -- up from 18.2 percent in a similar survey last year. Only 1 in 10 "totally trust" their employer. 

Generation Z is about to enter the workplace. And that means workplaces must radically alter themselves in order to find, engage, motivate and retain talented individuals. The ever-increasing lack of trust in employers will have a financial impact -- HR professionals have to find ways of making the workplace more meaningful to Generations Y and Z. 

Use the technology they use 
The Internet and e-mail revolutionized the workplace in the 1990s, but many organizations have simply stopped there. At least 15 years after the first e-mail systems, younger generations have almost abandoned e-mail entirely, preferring to network through social media. Organizations need to recognize that Generations Y and Z need greater, more immediate interaction through technology. This need not be an added cost -- these media are free to use. However, this represents a mind shift. 

Organizations need to channel information quickly and efficiently. This can be through Twitter feeds or internal social media channels. While this does require a certain sensitivity in terms of information, the advantages for employer brand are clear. 

Be clear and honest up front 
The immediacy of information that Generations Y and Z are accustomed to has had three main effects: 

  • There is more "clutter" as more information is available than ever before.
  • The information is more distilled into "bite-size" and refined data.
  • While there is a greater impatience for the right information, there is also a greater ability to "pick through"' communication for the essentials.

Internal communication within an organization needs to be clear and to the point as well as honest and up front. An increasing lack of trust comes as a result of job losses, redundancies and pay freezes. Only those organizations whose communication has been clear and honest have fostered resilience in the recession. 

It's not all about money 
Salary used to be the deciding factor, but this is no longer the case. Generations Y and Z tend to be more attracted to appropriate benefits, and even corporate social responsibility. This means that attracting and retaining talent takes even more skill than before. 

In a time of pay freezes, however, this is not bad news. Offering flexible or voluntary benefits (e.g., shopping discounts) is a low-cost way of personalizing reward packages and boosting employee retention as a result. 

Charity work has also become popular. Many organizations now allow employees to take "charity days" in which they can take leave to volunteer for a designated charity. Many larger organizations sponsor specific charities. The employees can contribute via payroll directly and raise money through fundraising events. For many years, Ceridian has actively supported the United Way. In its 2009 campaign, Ceridian employees and the company donated more than $1.7 million to various agencies. 

Ultimately, the future of the workplace will be shaped by these younger generations. In 10 years' time, we may be working on iPads with instant communication through internal social networks in a workplace that is more interactive than ever before. 

However, in the here and now, businesses have to adjust to new employees who view work in a radically different way. 

This means that HR professionals need to become internal marketers by understanding the segments of employees. They must shape a workplace that stimulates people of all ages and makes them want to stay with the business. The financial impact of losing talented employees can be significant, but the financial gain of recruiting -- and retaining -- your best employees is obvious.