Are Gen Z the generation that have never had it so bad?

ZWhat is happening in our workplaces? Are the social differences between generations really creating haves and have-nots? BBC Radio 4 show last night about the #neverhadit generation – the group of under 25s who have entered the job market since the recession started in 2008.

A whopping 1.09 million Gen Z (people under 25) are NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training) – that’s one in six.  There’s intense competition with more experienced workers for jobs – with many on part time or zero hours contracts. This generation are becoming more seriously in debt if they choose to ‘invest’ in university education. If they have a chance to buy a first home, it’s likely they’ll be doing that around their 38th birthday. This is a wildly different experience to their predecessors, Generation Y, who entered the workplace during an enviable period of economic growth – employers were almost falling over themselves to attract Gen Y – so there was plenty of career choices for the talented ones.   Although Gen Y are also facing cost of living pressures, many have banked some great work experience to start a healthy career and get on top of the education debts they incurred.

There is an emerging debate is media circles around the impact of the long term economic cycles on the wealth of generations.  See the BBC articles on Generation Z andGeneration X being worse off than their parents.  Some comment on Gen Y as a boomerang generation that still haven’t left the parental home in their late 20s.

Yet, there is surprisingly little debate in business, management and HR circles about Generation Z.  Focus is still on supporting Generation Y – with some HR debates focusing on managing the expectations of Gen Y now that times are more difficult.  The initial signs from Talent Glue’s own ongoing research around Gen Z are that they are less engaged with the traditional workplace and place more emphasis on the social value of organisations than the generation before them.  The first five years of people’s work experience are the formative years for how they approach their working lives, so it will be interesting to see how these values manifest themselves over time and through economic cycles.

During the coming months, we will be looking into these issues as part of our research programme around engaging different generations in the workforce.