It may be tempting to dismiss younger generations for their lack of experience, but their innovation, affordability, and ability to grow more than make up for time and resources spent on training them. As more and more Gen Zers enter the workforce, here are some compelling reasons why you should listen to what they have to say.
The most immediate advantage is that young people are very affordable, especially for nascent companies who are looking to grow. Apprentices in particular are a godsend. Not only are they affordable, they tend to have a high level of education as well as the huge advantage of being digital natives. This means that they are used to learning environments, open to training, and have an intuitive sense for the technological skills needed in many contemporary jobs. Chances are in some scenarios young people will have knowledge to impart to you as well as the other way around!
Of course, it would be wrong to frame them as pliable drones; just because they’re affordable doesn’t mean you can afford to take advantage of them, and in fact they are very likely to leave if they feel they are not getting the most out of a job. Business Insider reports that Gen Zers spend less time in a job than any other previous generation, prioritising benefits, work-life balance, as well as a healthy and inclusive work culture above all else. "Gen Z job hunters are forward-thinking, highly educated, and super tech-savvy," said Sara Skirboll, VP of communications at CareerBuilder. "They also want to see companies adopt substantive diversity, equality, and inclusion efforts, offer great employee benefits, and provide a supportive workplace culture. If they think a business is lagging behind the times, they're more likely to leave it."
In a way, this is a positive quality; if businesses want to benefit from younger workers’ skills, they need to listen to the fresh ideas and perspectives young people bring to the table. Without them, it will be more difficult for a business to innovate.
Our own in-house apprentice Rebecca Clark echoed these sentiments about work-life balance: ‘I chose an apprenticeship because I wanted to study within the workplace. I wanted to get a qualification while at work earning a wage, rather than just going to college for plenty of years just to do the thing I wanted to do in the apprenticeship.’ She continued: ‘Some people have part-time jobs with college or weekend jobs, and I just didn’t want to have most of the week at college and then also work at the weekends and have no time for anything else.’
She also valued the amount of support she’s getting, and which she felt she could reciprocate in turn for her newer team members: ‘Having support in a work environment is a big thing which I do get. Having feedback regularly I think is really good as well, whether it’s good feedback or feedback I need work on. Any feedback is a good thing because it allows me to get better. Being able to know that I can go to my boss whenever with any questions or anything is also really good. I think a big thing about enjoying your job is obviously enjoying what you’re doing within the job but also liking who you’re working with and having support off people you’re working with and you can support them.’
Like many Gen Zers, she highlighted the importance of having good relationships in the workplace: ‘Having a good workplace and work environment makes you enjoy the job a lot more as well, liking your boss and your colleagues and all that makes work feel a lot better.’ More than any other previous generation, young people are striving for healthy work environments, and are unwilling to put up with toxic cultures.
That said, it would be a mistake to say that Gen Zers are ‘lazy’ or unwilling to try new things. Rebecca noted for instance how her apprenticeship pushed her out of her comfort zone and made her try things she hadn’t considered doing before: ‘It’s made my confidence a lot better, because obviously I’ve done lots of events with Heather so I’ve been able to come out my comfort zone a wee bit and get used to it and actually enjoy it. Never before did I think I’d enjoy going to events and speaking with customers.’ Gen Zers’ keenness to learn also manifests as hard work in their studies, which Rebecca has been able to do alongside her work: ‘I’ve gained a lot of skills throughout the coursework as well. Obviously I’ve gained a qualification from it and I’ve met a lot more people. Just lots of experiences that I wouldn’t have experienced going to college.’
That said, students are also fantastic to work with for similar reasons to apprentices. Certainly for One4Growth, our own experience working with a group of amazing young women from Caledonian University has been mutually beneficial. Their project involves taking on their own social while we help them learn the best strategy and process, as well as building their skills and confidence. Our very own director Heather Offord explained why working with young people is so beneficial: ‘For me, working with young people is a great way to get people into work, to encourage good work ethics; for young businesses, it’s an affordable way of growing.’ Young people benefit from the skills and confidence they build while companies gain an energetic and enthusiastic team keen to learn and prove themselves.
Whatever reputation Gen Zers have, it’s important to put aside prejudices when it comes to employment. Our experiences of working with young people at One4Growth have been overwhelmingly positive, and have helped us cultivate a supportive environment where we celebrate rather than punish the room someone has to grow. We especially recommend apprentices and student collaboration for young businesses looking for growth, as young people’s skills, knowledge, and affordability make them an invaluable asset.