Millennials are just so 1995, but they are the ones who have driven the major recent changes to workplace culture, spearheading the so-called “Great Resignation” and demands for a different way of doing things post-pandemic.
Before we have even really adapted to this and internalized what it all means, along come Gen Z, who are determined to outshine the Z’s by bringing their personal values into their work. Gone is the “work persona” with the Z’s, who want to be themselves wherever they are. Already there is a brewing clash with top-down formal, hierarchical and high power-distance organizations.
With both these generations fully embedded in the workplace and Gen Alpha not too far behind, education institutions need to take action now to attract and retain them as workers and, of course, as potential students.
When Global analytics firm Gallup surveyed Millennials and Gen Z on what they look for most in a prospective employer, the top answer in both groups was not, as Gen X might think, more avocado lattes in the staff restaurant, and a 3-day working week.
That’s not far off, however, because what they do want is an organization that prioritizes its workers’ wellbeing. While the pandemic highlighted the importance of physical and mental health at work, wellbeing has in fact been a top-three priority for all generations (including Gen X and Baby Boomers) long before 2020. This is not a “personal” issue anymore, because the boundaries between work and personal life are rapidly blurring.
While many schools and universities already offered health-focused benefits such as employee wellbeing schemes or free gym memberships, the definition of what it means to be ‘well at work’ has expanded. Young employees are more likely to be in entry level positions and may be experiencing financial stresses or isolation not felt by their older, promoted colleagues. These are serious issues that a gym pass can’t quite fix.
The Millennial and Gen Z trend towards sobriety could encourage workplaces to rethink networking events, where alcohol has often traditionally been the way to grease the wheels of conversation. We never thought we’d see a world where the wine did not flow at education marketing conferences, but it is already changing.
Also, remember that whole WFH thing in the pandemic? Gen Z liked it, and they’re not giving it up. The greater flexibility offered by hybrid working or fully-remote offices is important to younger generations, who crave autonomy and the ability to customize their working week. With education M&R teams working more and more through project management tools and Teams meetings, this is most certainly possible.
Wellbeing is no longer just about having a bowl of free fruit in the staff room or offering a later start time on Mondays. For Millennials and Gen Z, businesses need to consider all aspects of workplace wellbeing and not just offer token solutions to wider issues.
Millennials and Gen Z want to work with and for organizations led with integrity and transparency, and Alphas are not going to buck that trend at all. This means going beyond buzzy job advertisements and company slogans and actually creating a workplace where their employees can make a difference - whether for themselves or for others.
Why do we work in education? We love working with people, but we also know that education is the vehicle to a better world, if we get it right. We all know it, from the campus operations team, estates staff, students, administrators, and even the college cat knows he is part of something meaningful.
Younger generations need that to be made more visible. What is your impact, your purpose and your cause? What are you doing to help prepare students for a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world? Where is the genuine action on sustainability? How are you broadening access to learning, and how are you sowing the seeds for transformative change? You see, Gen Z and Alpha have been handed a pretty broken world, and they need to know they’re not expected to fix it on their own. Oh, and they can smell greenwashing and hollow promises a mile away.
Showing the next generation that you can back up your words with action is crucial for employee retention and student recruitment; so any institution that can prove it stands by its values will look increasingly attractive.
We know that values-led organizations are most attractive to the younger generation. This doesn’t stop with the products and services on offer or the way they are marketed. Millennials and Gen Z wanted to know that the values of respect, equity, and inclusion are also part of the DNA of the workforce itself.
According to Michael Timmes, HR consultant with Insperity, organizations that actually demonstrate their commitment to creating a diverse and equitable culture are much more attractive to both prospective employees and students.
Younger workers want to feel respected and valued for the unique contributions they can bring to an organization, and students want to know how what they are learning will help them make a difference. This means having opportunities for coaching and training, as well as a manager or teacher who is meaningfully engaged and invested in their development and progression, as well as being willing to listen to their perspective, their ideas, and their concerns.
Education institutions have made huge adjustments over the last decade as a new generation moves through higher education and into the workplace. It’s an exciting time, but we know it’s not without its challenges. If you’re curious about what future changes are on the horizon and how your M&R team can engage with Gen Z, Gen Alpha and beyond, then we’d love to hear from you. Collaborating, asking questions and sharing our experiences is the best way to learn and grow, so get in touch and let’s talk.