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If generation z wants change they better start voting for it

Generation z has expressed high expectations about what they want from the workplace but Billy MacInnes argues that those ambitions should inspire more action

I was a little bemused by the story on the MicroScope web site concerning research by Ricoh, which found Generation Z (people under 19) has very high expectations of the workplace. According to the MicroScope story, the youngsters want “more flexible working and the chance to feel that they are making a difference in the world”.

David Mills, CEO of Ricoh Europe said Generation Z “has high expectations from their employers – and so they should. Why shouldn’t flexible and remote working truly become the norm? As history dictates, these preferences only grow as the world of work continues to evolve at a rapid rate”.

That’s the easy part. Or it should be. It’s only technology, after all.

Mills claimed that “adopting new ways of working is a must, not least as a measure to ensure competitive edge and attract the best talent”.

According to the MicroScope story, Generation Z youngsters felt they could contribute some good ideas and new ways of thinking to help the business they choose to work for move forward. Which makes them pretty similar to other generations before them to my mind.

Anyway, I love “the business they choose to work for”. It brings to mind ranks of youngsters looking up potential employers on Google or Facebook to see whether the companies are deserving of receiving their CV. Then they just kick back and wait for the company fortunate enough to have been chosen to contact them with a job offer.

And I can just see management at those companies waiting with ears open and mouths shut to hear the good ideas and new ways of thinking from a bunch of kids who have never worked in the business before. Because there’s nothing people like better than hearing someone new to the company tell them “you’ve been doing it all wrong all these years”.

As if that wasn’t enough, Phil Keoghan, CEO at Ricoh UK & Ireland, added that “their desire for constant innovation, instant communication and open collaboration, [means] Gen Z will pose a big challenge for businesses”.

I remain sceptical.

We live in a time where youngsters with university degrees are working in menial jobs because many of them can’t get graduate level jobs anymore. It’s an era where some people in the US are starting to openly question whether it makes sense to spend vast quantities on a college degree when the job at the end could be one they would have got straight from leaving school (except for the fact they might be competing with a college graduate for it).

A book, entitled Will College Pay Off? by Wharton School Professor Peter Capelli, looks in detail at the value of a US university education compared to its cost. On the issue of whether college graduates earn more than their high school peers, he writes: “It is certainly possible that college grads will earn more than they would have if they had not gone to college, and still not earn enough to pay off the costs of attending college.”

We are at a point where, for the first time in a century, the next generation of adults in the UK could be worse off than their parents and where only one fifth of US parents believe their children will be better off than them.

The fact is that for Generation Z, just as for Generation X and Y before them, the only significant way they can ensure anything will change for them (and the only way they can make a difference in the world) is if they vote. The political apathy of youngsters merely guarantees that when politicians need to choose which policies to follow and where to devote their resources, they always skew their decisions in favour of those generations that vote at the expense of youngsters that can but don’t.

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