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Generation Z – Is the juice (job) worth the squeeze (effort)?

A recent article from the BBC suggests that the ‘Gen Zers’ (Generation Z people) have watched and learnt from the older generations in terms of burnout, time poverty and economic insecurity.

The suggestion is that they, want it all - bigger pay cheques, more time off, the flexibility to work remotely and greater social and environmental responsibility. In return they’re allegedly prepared to work hard for the right employer – see the article here.

Now this raises a couple of questions in my mind. Gen Zers are recognised as being born between 1997 and 2012. So, at best, with a university education (not that that is a pre-requisite), that’s a maximum work experience of around four years – not much time to develop a proven track record. This would be the concern for me as an employer – it’s like my 14-year-old daughter (yes she is a late Gen Zer) saying to me ‘Give me an ice cream from the freezer and I’ll promise to tidy up my room’. Now my interpretation of ‘tidy’ and hers are very different. There’s also no mention of time – once she’s got the ‘goodies’, she will drag her feet on the completion of the task.

Putting this into a work context, substitute ‘tidy up’ with ‘work hard’ – and you'll see there is a delicious vagueness which surrounds both these terms. Whilst I know that tight job descriptions and probationary periods are designed to assess planned-versus-actual performance - it can get much more difficult to deal with if levels drop off after that time. This could prove costly, especially if we’ve been accommodating to the notion of ‘wanting it all’.

This brings me on to my second point, whilst they may well ‘want it all’ more often than not, people don’t get it all.– the ability to convert this is dependant upon the power that the employer and the candidate have respectively. Issues such as skill level required, criticality of the role, number of suitable candidates, alternative employment options etc will tip the balance one way or another.

In my experience of coaching and consulting with people who want to negotiate a better deal (including job candidates), most of us are pretty good at telling people what they want – although sometimes more clarity and specificity is needed in the proposals that are made. The problem normally arises when they encounter pushback – you can have 100% of the salary, 100% of the holiday, but only 50% remote working. Oh dear. Or you can have 100% of the holiday, 100% remote working, but only 75% of the salary. Again, oh dear. You get the idea.

It's really important to understand the relative priority of the goals that you want to achieve and to be clear about the minimum you’re prepared to accept against each one. In other words, the point at which you’d turn the job down the job offer in favour of another option.

In short, my advice to Gen Zers is this - unless you have a unique skill set which everybody wants, I suggest that you try and learn at least the basics of negotiating before you interview, it might also impress the employer that you have yet another useful skillset that they might benefit from!

Sam Macbeth, 17th June 2022

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