Providing purpose – adapting to Gen Z’s demands for social responsibility

March 10, 2022

Gen Z; The Great Reshuffle; Social Responsibility. Three buzzwords that every business interested in retaining or expanding their workforce in 2022 should know.

With 65% of Gen Z forecast to quit their job this year, the newest generation of workers are upending the status quo, demanding wide-reaching changes to businesses’ culture and priorities. If companies want to retain their valuable skill base and weather the ‘Great Reshuffle’, then they will need to placate their youngest workers.

In an era of remote working, the tech-savvy and independent Gen Z are entering the workforce on their own terms, demanding bold change in a way that has not been seen in previous generations. Unlike their more risk-averse millennial middle managers, whose careers were shaped by a poor labour market and who are used to long, structured workdays, Gen Z-ers have demonstrated that they have no issue questioning pre-pandemic workplace norms, such as a 9-5 workday or a lack of corporate social responsibility.

In responding to this new, demanding generation, businesses should not assume that the lofty expectations of Gen Z will be dampened when they are faced with the ‘realities’ of the working world. In truth, Gen Z are rapidly redefining what it means to work, and while millennials and Gen Z may work differently, they are strong allies when it comes to creating workplace change.

Ultimately, both generations want the same thing: a decent work-life balance and, above all, work that they can be proud of and that gives them purpose. The pandemic has proved that the ‘utopian ideals’ of the youngest generations are not in fact a fantasy, but rather realistic desires with undeniable benefits. Now workers from both generations are asking, “What else is possible?”

For businesses, the most important thing to remember now, is that while the ideals of millennials and Gen X may have been easily pacified with the promise of higher wages, Gen Z have shown that they have no qualms about taking a pay cut, if it means joining a company that offers flexibility and a sense of purpose. Even where it is not feasible to just walk away from a job, employees are choosing a path of resistance, organising walkouts as well as diversity and inclusion efforts to generate change from within. In either case, if managers want to attract and retain talent in 2022, then they are going to need to put their money away, roll up their sleeves and make real change.

For starters, senior leadership will need to improve how they communicate their company’s social responsibility goals to the younger generations, and champion management styles that offer support without smothering and micromanaging employees. Leadership will also need to demonstrate to their young workers that they can ‘walk the talk’ with regard to environmental and social responsibility, as well as recruit managers who are flexible enough to value and engage with their youngest employees’ opinions and knowledge.

Management that fail to action these policies, risk alienating a sizeable proportion of the workforce, putting themselves permanently on the back foot in the ‘battle for talent’. The world is changing, and it is high time that the business world follows suit.

Author: Joe Gosney