As another school year begins, the graduating class of 2023 is settling into their post college lives. So far, the transition has not been smooth.
A recent report from Intelligent found that four in 10 business leaders say recent grads are unprepared for the workforce, citing work ethic and communication skills as the top reasons why they’re not ready.
But are they unprepared, or are they trying to bridge both a generational and technological gap?
“This generation spent some of their most formative education years remote. They’ve missed some of the in-person social interaction that typically would have happened for a lot of us,” said Christine Cruzvergara, chief education strategy officer at Handshake, an online career platform, told HR Dive. At the same time, these digital natives are more likely to be comfortable with technology that can improve a workplace overall, which could benefit older workers if these differences are embraced before being scored or even mocked.
HR Dive spoke to two HR experts about what is going on with the Generation Z work transition and what HR managers can do to make their path smooth.
Understanding how new workers think
In some cases, the problem isn’t workers not being ready but that they are from a different generation and have different expectations than their millennial, Generation X or baby boomer co-workers.
For example, since recent college graduates most likely did some of their coursework online during the pandemic, remote work and schedule flexibility is the norm, said Susan Hanson, chief people officer at Rainfocus, an event management company. “Their desire to work is more about traveling or getting to do new things and enjoying life versus working to live, maybe like it used to be,” she said.
These workers also face different economic realities than previous generations did. Student loan debts, inflation and rising housing costs might mean that new workers are living at home after graduating and for longer than previous generations did. “This generation is okay with that, which is fine. It’s just a difference,” Hanson said.
New workers also grew up online, which is a strength they can bring into a company — and use to help older workers. They may already be comfortable using an AI technology like ChatGPT that might make workers from other generations uncomfortable. “There are advantages to having a younger generation coming into the workforce and having a different perceptive and pushing the envelope,” Hanson added.
A pandemic pause in workforce development
New workers coming into the office for the first time will most likely need to be caught up to speed not just in office life but what a particular company’s office culture is like.
Onboarding can help, Cruzvergara said, especially an onboarding program that outlines exactly what is expected from workers there. Does this person’s manager want everyone to speak up no matter their seniority or for new employees to observe for the first few months? Does everyone sit at a table, or do newer employees sit around the edge of the room? Do people bring laptops or pen and paper to meetings? Or nothing at all? What about meeting minutes and status reports? What’s expected here?
By making these things very clear, new workers won’t flounder by trying to figure out these things out on their own. Instead, clear, defined onboarding “sets them up for success,” she said.
Employers may also consider the stressors that these new employees are facing outside of their work lives when designing benefits packages. For example, younger workers may worry that, due to the size of their student loans and housing prices, that they’ll never own a home, said Cruzvergara. Student loan forgiveness as part of a benefits package can help Gen Z workers — and older workers who are still paying loans down.
Young employees can also be caught up through professional development and mentorship programs. Mentorship can have a double benefit of helping older generations learn about their younger co-workers and technologies they’ve already embraced, while also providing them guidance in their new professional lives.
“Building relationships is the best way to overcome this gap,” Hanson said. Gen Z workers are “very talented but probably have some different viewpoints. We shouldn’t make fun of that. We should welcome and brace it,” she said.
The original article can be found at: HR Dive