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Generation z set for collision course with older bosses

Demands by younger workers for a digital workplace are causing tension with older bosses according to Ricoh

One of the hardest things about growing old is being labelled as being part of a generation that is seen as one that is rapidly growing out of touch and not able to understand and meet the demands of today’s youngsters.

With a sense of inevitability you can find yourself being labelled as generation X and told to make sure that the iPads, wifi and flash phones have been ordered to cater for the demands of generation Y and the millennials.

Adding to that list of bright young things is Generation Z, those who are now aged 19 or under, and for those firms that struggled to get their heads round the workplace culture demanded by the Millenials and Y’s this latest influx might be the straw that will break the camels back.

In an effort to find out more about how the generations demand different working conditions Ricoh has gone out and hired Coleman Parkes to study several thousand people across Europe to find out what is happening in offices across the UK and the continent.

The headline results made disturbing reading for those who hoped a latte machine and dress down Friday would cut it with the younger staff. Slightly more than half said that their employers were failing to meet their needs in the workplace.

The main desire was to be able to operate in a ‘digital workplace’ that gave those who have grown up immersed in technology the chance to do the same at work.

Although people seemed happy enough having a mixed range of ages in the office, with many firms viewing it as an asset to have a range of experience, there was less harmony around just what the different generations planned to do with technology.

Where the tension came from was around the use of new technology in the workplace. Older bosses are not against people bringing in the latest greatest gadgets but worry about the impact it will have on the corporate network. The printer manufacturer opted to use the phrase ‘collision course’ to describe just what was going to happen when the younger and older staff tried to get their demands met.

“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,” said David Mills, CEO of Ricoh Europe. 

“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,” he added.

But his view was a lot more positive about what the next wave of workers could do for companies, particularly SMEs.

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,” said Mills.

“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,” he added.

“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,” said Mills.

In fairness the channel has already started to react to the generational challenges and the theme of bringing in the new ideas and enthusiasm of the next wave of workers has been one of the main aims of the industry organisation CompTIA.

The group recently held an event in Birmingham where one of the key topics for discussion was around attracting in new staff and how to harness the benefits that they could bring to a business.

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