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Wednesday 20 November 2019
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How to engage Gen Z

ACCA Column

The following is the second part of an excerpt from LEO LEE’s presentation at the 37th Annual Caribbean Conference of Accountants held recently in Jamaica. Leo Lee is the immediate past president of ACCA. Part 1 was published in Business Day on June 27, 2019.

As shown by the number of politicians caught out by unwise social media comments, blog posts and Facebook discussions, earlier generations have frequently been embarrassed by bad management of their digital privacy. This isn’t such a danger for Gen Z, who’ve grown up with a keen understanding of the line between public and private with online settings, and who guard their privacy carefully as a result. It’s one of the reasons that Gen Z now has little interest in Facebook, preferring social media where they can more easily keep their interactions restricted to their closest friends, or present a carefully edited image when they do post for a wider audience, such as on Instagram.

That’s not to say that Gen Z are privacy-conscious at the expense of all else. They have, after all, grown up in a world where it is usual for their favourite brands to gather extensive data on them in order to tailor marketing communications to their specific wants.

The difference is that unlike older generations, Gen Z does not view this as an invasion of privacy, but instead an expected marketing technique of any company wanting to provide a good customer experience. It’s not a contradiction; it’s just that Gen Z expect to keep their communications private, but not their customer preferences. In fact, they will avoid brands that do not offer them a sufficiently personalised experience.

Gen Z has grown up in a world that has not always made them feel financially secure, and they’ve taken that on board in their plans for their future careers. While the millennial generation were encouraged to dream big and aim to find fulfilment and wealth in creative and exciting careers, Gen Z is more realistic.

They dream of becoming entrepreneurs, building up their own businesses and never needing to answer to a boss. With all the resources of the internet at their disposal, they know that running your own business can be very hard work, but they’re ready for it because they see it as a route to the financial security that they prioritise. And their goals are optimistic, but not impossible: they don’t plan on becoming billionaires before they’re 30, but they do dream of inventing an app that lets them graduate without debt.

What do Gen Z and millennials expect from the workplace? They expect:

• Career progression and mobility

• Employers that care for them and are part of a wellness ecosystem

• Gen Z are looking for positive values, relaxed and productive atmosphere, commitment to excellence, open and honest communication, cooperation, support, and empowerment, sense of humour, compassion, respect, and understanding and flexibility.

Brands and businesses need to move fast to be ready to serve Gen Z when this group reaches consumer dominance in the early 2020s. But employers also need to take the time to understand this group: they have an ultra-short attention span, but are hungry for authentic experiences and content; they are sceptical of financial institutions, yet want to save and be financially independent; they are immersed in social media, but also want to have a positive impact in the real world.

The question remains, how do you attract millennials to your business, especially as employers or as a brand? Here are nine ways from ACCA’s 2017 research into Generation Next to do just this:

1. Revisit career paths

2. Redesign learning and career support paradigms

3. Engage the older generation in knowledge share

4. Allow new ways of working with technology

5. Rethink succession planning

6. Harness Generation Next’s digital savvy

7. Think divers in global talent pools

8. Manage expectations, have career conversations

9. Rethink engagement

Alongside these, to attract Gen Z, companies must emphasise corporate social responsibility (CSR). This tends to mean a shift in priorities in terms of developing and promoting a CSR strategy. Recognising that this is very important, companies such as IBM, Google, Johnson & Johnson, and Netflix have already focused proactively on their CSR programmes. Google, for example, allows its workers to devote up to 20 hours of work time to volunteer efforts each year and awards $50 grants to non-profit organisations for every five hours that a Googler spends volunteering for a particular organisation.

So how do you keep these generations engaged?

• Keep them in the loop. Bring them in on the larger business goals and plans.

• Ask for their unique input.

• Involve them in the decision-making process

• Coach, don't manage

• Provide feedback

• Create regular training programmes.

• Assure them that there is room for growth.

• Be transparent.

Again, this list is not exhaustive and we need to flex these appropriately.

There are indeed several possibilities involved in engaging with a new, young workforce who might think very differently from older generations. But these are the people who are already the consumers of today, with aspirations to be the leaders of the future, with hopes to shape tomorrow’s economies.

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