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A few weeks ago, my boss walked up to my desk with a brand new gadget and gave me the task of figuring out how to use it, leading up to shooting Season 3 of  The Sit Down with Olwe2lesh. Being part of a tech-savvy generation, I immediately took on the task with excitement! This got me thinking about whether the world of work is ready for a new generation of Gen Z’s now entering the workplace.

Fast forward to recently, as we were discussing this topic during our brainstorming sessions, I realised that I, myself, sitting in that room was the subject matter, as a Gen Z.

Today on #CareersTuesday, I linked up with my peers Gerald Kirui and Takalani Muhanelwa and asked them to share their thoughts about whether organisations are well suited to accommodate Gen Z’s and share lessons they think organisations can learn from young people in order to effectively utilise their skills to advance the organisation further.

According to Forbes magazine, Generation Z (Gen Z) will make up 27% of the workforce by 2025. It has also been reported that this group of young people are the most technologically advanced educated group. With the skills, they bring to the table, and them being the generation that will be taking over organisations in a few years, surely the workplace must be transformed into an environment that accommodates them.

Entering The Workplace

”Working with colleagues who are senior to me has allowed me to learn the tricks of the trade, but it has also been a challenge to relate to them, given the age difference,” shared Gerald Kirui who is a Product Manager at a global ICT company. Gerald is 22 years old and he has realised that to effectively communicate with his older colleagues, he has to be forthright and concise.

Takalani Muhanelwa, 24, an Actuarial Analyst at a large insurance company believes that being the youngest in the organisation is a blessing because you get to soak as much information as you can. However, she says that she had to actively open up to new ways of interacting with her colleagues.

It is also likely that Gen Z’s fall into depression and experience anxiety in the workplace. According to a report published in the Harvard Business Review, 75% of Gen Z’s have left a job due to mental health reasons. ”While it is normal to feel a bit anxious upon entering the workforce as a young person, I believe that what predisposes Gen Z’s to anxiety in the workplace is two-fold: the inability to relate to senior employees, and a distorted picture of success that social media paints,” explains Kirui.

Muhanelwa expanded more on the same sentiments about Gen Z’s mental health in the workplace, ”I would say it’s because of instant gratification. Life is a process, so is learning. You need to be patient and not beat yourself up if you are not progressing the way you had planned.” Kirui also adds to this by emphasising that, the inability of Gen Z’s to relate to senior employees makes it hard to seek assistance as and when it is needed. “Social media puts pressure on young employees to have it all figured out as soon as they join the workforce, which is a tall order by any standard. The pressure, if not handled properly, may cause anxiety and depression”, she says.

Challenges that Gen Z’s Experience

My biggest challenge was being expected to think creatively at a standard that was already set. I am working with individuals who have been in the creative industry for years, and being put in a position that requires me to produce creative work that is higher than the level I had anticipated.

Both Kirui and Muhanelwa experienced challenges when they got employed. ”I was of the idea that developing technical skills would be structured by my superiors, similar to how courses are structured in varsity. However, I have come to realise that climbing up the corporate ladder is a personal initiative, more so than the responsibility of my superiors,” says Kirui.

The lingering commonality in challenges between Kirui and Muhanelwa is the lack of work experience, they only had theoretical knowledge which isn’t enough for survival in the workplace. ”Entering the workplace at that age, straight from University, I thought I had some knowledge, but I quickly realised that there is a lot of learning I still needed to do. The learning process is not pretty at all. My challenge was to remain patient. I now understand learning will never stop because you can never know everything,” Muhanelwa elaborates.

Muhanelwa and Kirui shared five aspects that organisations should implement to accommodate Gen Z’s

  1. Mentor-mentee relationships

Organisations should encourage this kind of relationship because young people need guidance from the people who have walked a similar journey.

2. Mental health support

Organisations should always have people trained to help their employees in this regard. A few organisations are starting to have hotlines that you can call whenever you need emotional support. This is a necessity for all organisations.

3. Flexible working hours

Authors of The Workplace Institute at Kronos Inc compiled the report, Meet Gen Z, based on a global survey of more than 3,000 members of Generation Z across 11 countries which indicated that nearly one-third of Gen Z’s consider themselves as the hardest working generation in the workplace and reject the concept of working 9 – 5 jobs as it doesn’t influence the desired productivity outcome.

4. Accommodating company culture

Gen Z’s want to feel free enough to communicate their ideas, feelings, and ask for assistance should they need to. Gen Z’s place culture fit above all else. They want to be a part of building a vision that aligns with their passions and personalities rather than to just be employed.

5. Camaraderie to foster social bonds

To encourage and strengthen employee relationships, camaraderie among young employees will foster social bonds that make the workplace more comfortable and will prove to be an invaluable asset to organizations.

Whenever a new group enters the workplace, there are always challenges because of the period they grew up in – which plays a pivotal role in building their character. However, in order for organisations to be successful and have happy productive employees, there must be collaboration.