By Adam Passonnii, Client Solutions Director at Davidson Technology
It may be uncomfortable for some to hear that we live in a time when 14-year-olds are already re-searching what companies they would like to work for and children who have not yet made it to double digits are starting their own online business.
Welcome to the world of GenZ, a generation of true digital native accounting for anyone aged 25 or under.
Flight Centre, Australia’s largest retail travel group, is already working on strategies to attract this generation which is 100 per cent tech reliant and incredibly, they believe staff leaving can be a very good thing for an organisation of its size - if they come back with new skills to share.
“We need to recruit GenZ because they are the people who will be employable,” Jamie Glenn, CTO Leisure Solutions Australia with Flight Centre Travel Group said.
“Technology is changing the kind of candidates we are looking for because there is a blend of what we call legacy tech and new tech emerging, so the skills of people we have need to be able to support the legacy tech, albeit on a diminishing level, and adapt and evolve to some of the new tech.
“As digital natives, GenZ understand different aspects of technology that us old people won’t. We also think they have good ideas and good ways of thinking and it’s important for us as an organisation to understand that and tap into it.”
There are some complacent companies who believe attracting GenZ to their workforce is an issue for the next generation, but it unequivocally is not. Ignoring this will prove to be an expensive mistake and may mean the business is not around for the next generation.
This new generation has been exposed to YouTube and reality television since they were born. They see Silicon Valley stories and read about nine-year-olds starting their own businesses and earning six figures annually before they make it to high school.
Everything shows that they are not, typically, interested at starting at the bottom and working their way to the top. Flat hierarchies and opportunities to structure their own career are attractive to them. They don’t expect to stay in the one job or at the one company forever and they are more than willing to start their own company if an existing organisation is unable to meet their needs or expectations.
Our research shows that 14-year-olds are already researching which companies they want to work for in the future based on incentive packages, approaches to Corporate Social Responsibility and the opportunity to learn.
So what is it these digital natives, innovative thinkers and would-be-entrepreneurs are looking for in a workplace and how can a business attract them?
“In this space we talk about what we call brightness of future or one’s individual journey or path,” Ben Barnes , the Exec Technology Business Support Leader in the office of the CIO with Flight Centre Technology explained.
“We have a diverse range of rewards and opportunities whether that is conferencing and enter-tainment or travel opportunities or engagement with peers. That includes providing flexible work conditions where we can allow people to work remotely or even work while travelling.
“We also don’t take it personally when people leave us,” he said. “We have a history of that with-in our organisation of staff staying with us for some time and disappearing whether it’s to travel or learn more or be exposed to different things and many of them return and bring that knowledge back with them. I anticipate that will continue at some level, perhaps at a higher velocity with GenZ.”
Notably Flight Centre’s technology division enjoys a retention rate of 90 per cent and has done so for a number of years.
Ben explained there had been a clear rise in the level of interest in collaboration and idea sharing with this generation and at Flight Centre, staff were encouraged to “have your say and be on your way.”
“We like to hear different opinions and we need the opinions to reflect our customer base, some of who are GenZ,” he said. “It’s important to them to feel they have been heard and it’s important to us that they feel they have been. However, they also need to understand the decisions are made by the decision-makers who understand the business holistically.”
Jamie said Flight Centre had also come to recognise that many of the “benefits” which were once described as improving work/life balance were now seen as just life balance for GenZ.
“Our policy is the right people, in the right role doing the right thing,” Jamie said. “For people who have demonstrated their value to the business, we are happy to do what we can to accommodate them.
“If that means they need two days a week to go and create their start-up or to go fishing and they work with us for three days, and he role allows for that level of flexibility, we are happy to offer that.
“It is our responsibility to make sure that when they are here, we get the best of them and they are motivated, engaged and interested.”
Both Ben and Jamie were clear that a candidate’s cultural fit with Flight Centre was one of the de-fining factors on new hires.
“There is an evolution of thinking which is an important attribute of this workforce and we need to move with that,” Ben said. “That means making sure the talent being hired comes in understand-ing that this is a fun workplace and we don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do take our work seriously and if they can’t accept that, this is not the right place for them.
“It’s the same as trying to keep staff who are born entrepreneurs. If they feel a drive to go and start their own business and become a millionaire in a few years, trying to squeeze them into a static role and strangling that drive and ambition won’t work for them or us.”
Jamie added that it was valuable for businesses to take the time to understand GenZ; and not just what motivates them if successful working relationships were to be established.
“We find that this generation does not do plan and map the way generations before them have,” he said. “All they need to do is walk out the door with their phone and they have their map with them.
“And they are more reactive and agile so they don’t plan the way we used to which means the end for strategic planning and goal setting can be difficult for them for them for no reason other than they are skills they have not had to develop.
“If we do what we can to bridge understanding between the generations, we are setting them and us up for success.”
Key takeaways from Jamie and Ben in sourcing and retaining GenZ workers:
• Jamie said the workforce needs to be able to adapt to technology and have staff who can work with the new and legacy technology. “They will be the generation which is employable in the fu-ture because as digital natives they understand tech in a way us older people can’t and won’t,” Jamie said.
• Create a workforce where staff feel they can leave to pursue other interests, study or travel and come back with new skills and experience. “We have a history of staff leaving Flight Centre and coming back and we encourage that,” Ben explained.
• Flexible workplaces and working arrangements will not be an option of the future - they are the future. “If staff have proven their value to the business, we do what we can to accommodate their work requirements,” Jamie said. “Some want to work three days a week with us and spend two days a week working on their own online business. That works for us if they are engaged and committed while they are at work.”
• Foster a culture of collaboration. “This generation wants to have a level of collaboration which we have not seen in the workplace before,” Ben said. “They want to have their say and know they have been heard and it is important to them that. And it’s important listen to them because they represent some of our customer base and we need to know what they are thinking and feel-ing.”