NAVIGATING THE GENERATIONAL SHIFT IN THE WORKPLACE
Imagine a generation that’s larger than the Baby Boomers, more influential than Millennials, and set to shake things up in a big way. That’s Gen Z for you! Born into a digital world, they are tech-savvy, socially conscious, and fiercely independent. We are not just filling jobs; we’re [apparently] here to turn the work world upside down.
Remember the eye-rolls about Millennials being ‘lazy’ or ‘entitled’? Now, it’s Gen Z’s turn to face the music. But here’s the twist: this generational clash isn’t just noise; it’s a wake-up call for change. Historically, every emerging generation has faced skepticism. Whether it was the Boomers, Gen X, or Millennials, newspapers and magazines have often echoed similar sentiments about each new generation. The generational gap, characterized by differences in opinions and outlooks, is a cycle that repeats itself. However, understanding these gaps is crucial to foster a harmonious workplace.
As the workplace continues to evolve, the arrival of Generation Z (Gen Z) marks a significant turning point. As an Experience Consultant that just so happens to be a part of this generation, I have spent time analyzing exactly how we all best work together, because understanding this shift is crucial. Whether we like it or not, Gen Z is set to reshape the future of work, bringing new behaviors, attitudes, and preferences. This generation, encompassing over a third of the global population, is not just about their numbers; it’s their potential to influence technology, careers, politics, and organizational culture.
GEN Z’s PROFESSIONAL AWAKENING
Unlike Millennials, who entered the workforce during the Great Recession, Gen Z was initially poised to inherit a strong economy with low unemployment. However, the COVID-19 pandemic altered their trajectory, creating an uncertain future. This reshaping of the socio-economic landscape has defined how Gen Z engages with work and does business.
Take my experience as an example. I graduated from American University in May 2020 with plans to move to NYC for a promising career. However, the pandemic changed everything, leading me to enroll back in school and pursue a master’s degree instead. And while it is normal (irrespective of generation) for our career journey to play out differently than what was once on our vision board, usually these deviations from what was planned didn’t happen overnight… literally. This is a common narrative among my peers, reflecting the adaptability and resilience of Gen Z.
Older generations, including Baby Boomers and many Generation X workers, were conditioned to view employment as a privilege, adhering to a “first one in, last one out” work ethic. This approach was seen as the path to success and promotions. In contrast, Generation Z, having entered the professional world during the COVID-19 pandemic, places a higher value on work/life balance and tends to have a “work to live” mentality. They believe in the importance of their mental and emotional states in contributing to their success and productivity at work. Unlike older generations, Gen Z and younger Millennials have the freedom to pursue careers aligned with their passions, a liberty that older employees feel they did not have (SHRM, n.d.).
PURPOSE OVER PAYCHECKS
For Gen Z, it’s not just about the money. We crave to be part of something bigger, something that resonates with our values and beliefs. Forget the corner office and the hefty paycheck; show us how we’re making a tangible difference. That’s our definition of success. Gen Z values authenticity and purpose more than future plans or monetary gains. This generation seeks fulfillment in their careers and desires to be empowered by employers to make a difference. The rise of phenomena like the ‘Great Resignation’ and ‘Quiet Quitting’ is not an indictment of employees but a reflection of employers’ failure to build a culture that aligns with these values. To some, this may sound cliche, but isn’t this refreshing? For years we have heard business owners complain that their employees are disconnected from their mission and treat work like a 9 to 5 rather than being invested in the impact they are making.
For a growing number of employees, the role of work extends beyond mere financial sustenance. These individuals are increasingly seeking roles that not only offer a paycheck but also provide a sense of meaning, fulfillment, and contribute to a greater cause. This shift in mindset has led employees to seek deeper alignment with their organization’s mission, aligning their personal aspirations with the company’s objectives. Organizations that succeed in creating this sense of connection among their employees often witness enhanced business growth and improved customer satisfaction compared to those that don’t.
Employees experience a heightened sense of meaning in their work when they recognize the positive influence their efforts have on the organization. Wharton Professor Adam Grant advocates for enhancing this sense of purpose by helping employees draw connections between their routine tasks and the overarching goals of the organization. Grant’s research reveals that even brief interactions with satisfied customers can significantly remind workers of their work’s broader significance, leading to improved performance by an impressive 500% surge in employee productivity. This increase occurs as employees cultivate a deeper conviction in the significance and worth of their contributions (Deloitte, 2021).
- In terms of growth and development, when surveyed, 46% of Millennials and 42% of Gen X gave it priority. Gen Z rated career development as the most important attribute of work in the Oyster survey (Brower, 2022).
- Engaged employees are 21% more productive, experience a 41% reduction in absenteeism, and 59% less turnover (Zippia, n.d.).
REWORKING CULTURE: THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE ACTION STATEMENT
Want to get Gen Z on board? Then speak their language of purpose and impact. Engaging Gen Z effectively requires a shift in organizational culture, emphasizing purpose and demonstrating how individual roles contribute to broader goals. This alignment of personal values with professional endeavors is critical for Gen Z. A potent tool in this endeavor is the Customer Experience Action Statement. Unlike traditional mission or purpose statements, this Action Statement is a pragmatic call to action for every employee. It serves as the organization’s guiding star, influencing behaviors and decisions at every level. The mission and vision statements are more like who you want to be when you grow up. It’s not something you do today but in the future. The purpose, on the other hand, is your company’s “why”. It’s inspirational as it should be.
The Customer Experience Action Statement, on the other hand, is a clear call to action of what each and every employee should intentionally achieve with every interaction. It’s a game-changer for your culture. From the CEO down to the warehouse staff to the newest employee that starts next week, it’s your company’s North Star. It’s what everyone has to do intentionally. The Customer Experience Action Statement serves as a universal rallying point across the entire organization about being the one thing that all employees have in common, regardless of their job title, or you know, their position in your company.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotels and Starbucks both recruit from the exact same labor pool as their competitors — same age range and demographic. They both pay their employees similarly to what their competition does. Yet, both the Ritz & Starbucks employees perform completely differently than their competitors’ employees. Why? Because Starbucks and The Ritz Carlton inspire employees to rally around a common goal. They do this through a CX action statement.
Consider Starbucks as an exemplary case. Their Customer Experience Action Statement, “We create inspired moments in each customer’s day”, transcends the mere act of serving coffee; it’s about meaningful engagement with people. This approach has not only revolutionized their customer service but also cultivated a dedicated employee and customer base. Unlike traditional mission or purpose statements, this Action Statement is a clear call to action for every employee.
The concept of a Customer Experience Action Statement is a fascinating and strategic approach within a business, primarily focused on internal operations rather than being customer-facing. Here’s why it is designed this way:
- Guiding Internal Behavior: The primary purpose of a Customer Experience Action Statement is to guide the behavior and actions of employees. It’s a directive meant to align their daily activities and decisions with the company’s overarching goals in customer service. By being internal, it serves as a constant reminder and a benchmark for employees to measure their actions against.
- Focus on Employee Engagement: The Action Statement is tailored to create a shared sense of purpose among employees. It’s a tool to engage and motivate the workforce from within. By focusing internally, the statement nurtures a culture that is customer-centric, without making it a direct marketing message to the customers.
- Operational Consistency: When an Action Statement is internal, it ensures that all levels of the organization understand and commit to a unified approach to customer experience. This consistency is crucial for delivering a seamless and high-quality customer experience, which, while not explicitly advertised, is profoundly felt by the customers.
- Training and Development: The Statement acts as a cornerstone for training and development programs. It helps inculcate the values and practices that lead to excellent customer experiences. This internal focus ensures that before any interaction with customers, employees are well-equipped and aligned with the company’s vision for customer service.
- Quality Control and Measurement: Being internal allows the Action Statement to be used as a tool for quality control and performance measurement. Managers and team leaders can use it to assess how well employees are aligning with the company’s ethos, allowing for more targeted and effective improvements.
- Building a Strong Corporate Culture: An internal Customer Experience Action Statement helps in building and reinforcing a strong corporate culture. It’s a part of the organization’s DNA – a blueprint that shapes and defines the workplace environment, influencing how employees interact with each other and with customers.
- Strategic Differentiation: While customer-facing statements like mission or vision statements articulate a company’s broader goals to the public, an internal Action Statement focuses on the specific behaviors and actions needed to achieve these goals. This helps in creating a distinct and strategic approach to customer experience that can set a company apart from its competitors.
In essence, a Customer Experience Action Statement is a powerful internal tool. It works behind the scenes to mold and direct the behaviors and mindset of employees, ultimately manifesting in exceptional service experiences for customers. While not directly visible to customers, its impact is undeniably reflected in every interaction they have with the company.
Innovation and change are integral to Gen Z’s ethos. Their preference for purpose over paycheck, their desire for meaningful engagement, and their quest for authenticity in the workplace are not just passing trends but are reshaping the future of work. As organizations, it’s imperative to recognize and adapt to these shifts.
The narrative of Gen Z is still being written, and it’s a story of resilience, adaptability, and purpose. By reworking culture, emphasizing purpose, and providing an environment that aligns with their values, companies can unlock the potential of this dynamic and influential generation. The most dangerous phrase in business might be, “Because that is how it’s always been done,” but with Gen Z at the helm, it’s time to embrace change and think differently.
Brower, T. (2022, August 28). What The Generations Want from Work: New Data Offers Surprises. Forbes.
Deloitte. (2021). The Value of Meaningful Work to Workers. Deloitte Insights.
SHRM. (n.d.). The Generational Divide Between Older and Younger Employees. Retrieved from SHRM.
Zippia. (n.d.). 20 Incredible Productivity Statistics : Average Employee Productivity in the U.S
In this episode of the Customer Service Revolution Podcast, John DiJulius interviews John DiJulius. No, John is not talking to himself. It is actually John R. DiJulius III interviewing John R. DiJulius IV (Johnni). Johnni DiJulius is a former elite athlete, entrepreneur, and social media influencer.
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