Businesses adapt as Gen Z shapes workplace dynamics

By Le Tuyet   June 10, 2024 | 03:12 pm PT
As Gen Z enters the workforce bringing along its unconventional working styles, businesses are shifting their strategies to better engage and retain this demographic.

At Schneider Electric Vietnam, Gen Z employees account for less than 2% of the workforce, but a resignation rate of over 20% among them has made the company change its strategy to avoid a crisis.

The French company operates in the fields of digital energy management and automation.

Cap Thi Minh Trang, its human resources director, says manufacturing and engineering are "somewhat selective fields" that young people are not actively seeking.

Gen Z, or people born between 1997 and 2012, would quit for reasons like "not enjoying the work," she said.

"While the older generation sees young people as lacking the patience and commitment for the long haul, Gen Z believes that working at a place for more than two years is too long.

"Their penchant for quitting casually causes older generations to lack trust in them."

Similarly, Tran Thi Ngoc Bau, human resources director at Wipro Consumer Care Vietnam, believes that Gen Z is uneasy in traditional corporate settings with strict procedures and systems.

People of this age expect a flexible work environment where they can freely express their ideas and personal values through contributions to projects.

She says conflicts may arise when they want change and innovation but their values and views do not completely align with those of previous generations.

Generational conflict is a common issue many companies face, a survey by Anphabe, a leading business in labor market surveys and research, found.

Last year its survey of 64,000 workers at 750 companies found a market trend of an increasingly younger workforce, with Gen Z making up about 30% and seemingly set to rise rapidly from 2025 onwards.

This generation is characterized by great potential, creativity and the ability to rapidly adapt and respond to changes in the digital landscape..

But the trend of having more and more Gen Z staff is posing challenges to businesses, with 75% of employees admitting to facing "generational conflicts" at work.

Meanwhile, the average tenure of a Gen Z employee at a company is only 2.2 years.

Previous generations consider Gen Z as the "next disruptive factor" that could either destroy businesses or create breakthroughs for them.

"Whether it's destruction or breakthrough is up to the leaders," Thanh Nguyen, CEO of Anphabe, says.

Quoting a 2023 survey by XYZ@Work, one of the world's leading companies in developing multi-generational work environments, Thanh believes the biggest commonality among generations is the desire to create a social impact.

Surveys have shown that up to 91% of Gen Z express a need to "create social value" when seeking a new job.

This generation wants to work for companies that contribute to addressing social issues such as inequality, education, sustainable development, hunger, and climate change.

From these results, she believes that businesses with similar orientations and goals are likely to attract young people.

Besides, leaders need to connect the company's mission with individual jobs so that each employee feels their personal value.

Trang of Schneider has been running several programs to attract and retain Gen Z, and adopted a number of specific policies: Each department must have supervisors under 35 years old, and there are intern and management trainee programs to help the company reach out to Gen Z and find young talent.


Cap Thi Minh Trang, human resources director of Schneider Electric Vietnam, speaks with Gen Z staff at the company. Photo by VnExpress/Le Tuyet

Schneider has also launched various programs to gratify the needs of Gen Z and bridge the generation gap.

It was a pioneer in allowing flexible work hours, starting even before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Employees were allowed to arrange their schedules and workspace plans.

Those who had been with the company for over two years were allowed "recharge" breaks and time off for important personal tasks.

"All policies are aimed at flexibility and suitable for young people," Trang says.

There is a flexible welfare program that employees can avail for personal needs such as insuring their spouse or children, sports, healthcare, travel, online courses, and recreational activities.

Interestingly, Schneider has a reverse mentoring program with Gen Z mentoring its senior executives in subjects young people are interested and most proficient in.

The leadership team will take tests on youth trends, social media, technology, and others to assess the older generation’s understanding and interests.

The HR department analyzes the results and selects mentoring pairs that fit the program's needs and criteria.

"On the positive side, Gen Z has promoted a two-way culture at businesses where both sides listen to each other more," Trang says.

Similarly, Wipro, in addition to creating a flexible work environment and career development opportunities for young people, also has activities to narrow the gap between generations.

In April every year its offices nationwide have Happy Sharing activities, with participants sharing stories and the challenges they face at work, thereby understanding and supporting each other.

Management experiences "a day as Gen Z" by participating in activities like dressing in Gen Z style, making TikTok videos, drinking bubble tea, and attending workshops to listen to Gen Z's thoughts on an ideal work environment...

HR head Bau says these efforts by businesses do not only improve employees' work capabilities but also create a positive work environment and encourage personal development.

Nguyen of Anphabe describes Gen Z as creative, daring and emotional Gen Y as careful, meticulous and formulaic.

While they appear to be opposites, a manager who knows the strengths and weaknesses of each can assign tasks appropriately.

She says in every era there are generation gaps, and it is important for leaders to find common ground to develop strategies to narrow or eliminate them, creating the best work environment for all employees.

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