Collision or collaboration as Gen Z joins workforce?

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Collision or collaboration as Gen Z joins workforce?

Businesses already struggling with Millennials face huge challenges if they fail to adopt new ways of working

Ricoh Europe, London, 07 September 2015 – More than half of workers (52 per cent) say their employers are failing to meet the needs of different generations in the workplace, according to new research commissioned by Ricoh Europe. The stark finding points to a corporate collision course, as for the first time in history a fourth generation – Generation Z – enters the working population. 

But what exactly does Generation Z (those currently aged 19 years and younger) want and expect? Do they deserve the crude label given by some as overly demanding screen-swipers in search of instant gratification? A survey of over 3,300 people from all four generations – spanning 22 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa – answers this with an emphatic ‘no’. 

Generation Zers are unique. They have been strongly shaped by their individualistic Generation X parents, heard stories from their Baby Boomer grandparents and witnessed the errors and successes of Millennials. Combining this with their appetite for all things digital means they have a solid grounding to achieve and educate others in an ever-evolving and demanding business world.

The good news is that the majority of workers (88 per cent) surveyed from all generations believe that having a workforce of different ages is an asset to a company. However, the survey unearthed a key challenge that managers must overcome. Over a third (35 per cent) of older employees expect workplace tensions to increase with the arrival of Generation Z into their companies. With the next wave of technology-led change sure to soon hit and disrupt the workplace further, the need to establish environments that enable and encourage truly harmonious and productive working across the generations is paramount. 

David Mills, CEO of Ricoh Europe, said: “Just like the possibilities afforded by digitalisation, the arrival of Gen Zers opens a catalogue of opportunities to all businesses. With only seven per cent of SMBs currently selling across EU borders , Gen Zers who move on to managerial roles will be perfectly placed to drive borderless working and ensure their business competes in a single regional market. Enterprise organisations stand to benefit, too. The experience and business know-how Gen Zers acquire into the future, coupled with their upbringing of ultra connectivity and collaboration, will see them play the role of agility enablers for bigger businesses. Meanwhile, Gen Z’s constant demand for workstyle innovation – where an ever-present stream of innovative new technologies, products and processes are the norm – will be a key enabler of vertical market players seeking globalisation.”

The survey found that 65 per cent of respondents agree there are fundamental differences in how employees from each generation work. The clearest contrasts emerged in their respective attitudes, expectations and styles of working. Face-to-face communication at work, while still the most preferred method across every group, is in generational decline. Preference for it drops from 77 per cent among Baby Boomers to 58 per cent among Generation Z. Meanwhile, 73 per cent of Generation Z respondents believe their future employer will cater to their needs, opposed to only 48 per cent of the other three generations.

Mills added: “There is no doubt that Gen Z is heading towards a reality crunch and businesses must adapt now. Trying to squeeze employees – particularly Gen Z – into the same traditional ways of working, and forcing them to use the same tools, simply will not work. People are often the biggest differentiator for an organisation and the most successful companies will be those who can empower and engage all generations in their workforce – from the most experienced through to the youngest rising star.”


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| About Ricoh |
Ricoh is a global technology company specializing in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services. Headquartered in Tokyo, Ricoh Group operates in about 200 countries and regions. In the financial year ending March 2015, Ricoh Group had worldwide sales of 2,231 billion yen (approx. 18.5 billion USD).

The majority of the company's revenue comes from products, solutions and services that improve the interaction between people and information. Ricoh also produces award-winning digital cameras and specialized industrial products. It is known for the quality of its technology, the exceptional standard of its customer service and sustainability initiatives.

Under its corporate tagline, imagine. change. Ricoh helps companies transform the way they work and harness the collective imagination of their employees.

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Jack Gibson
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