The end of 9 to 5? How Gen Z is changing the way we work

The 40-hour, 9-5 work model may become “outdated” as a new generation of creative, innovative, tech-savvy “digital natives” enters the workforce.

Bay of Plenty business experts say Gen Z could introduce a new era of businesses led by young innovators seeking to be their own bosses.

Those born between the mid-1990s and 2010 are seeking flexibility, diversity, equity, and opportunities to climb the company ladder when considering employment opportunities. They are set to make up about a third of the workforce by 2025.

Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said the 40-hour-week employer/employee model might be becoming outdated.

“Gen Z is a new generation and we might need a totally different model to accommodate them.”

Heard said typically, Gen Z workers did not relate to the 9-to-5 routine and working for a boss, but they were bright, intelligent and full of good and innovative ideas about creative new business opportunities.

Many also seemed keen to start their own businesses and were capable of doing so.

“They seem to work best when working to their own rhythm and will work long and hard to make their own ideas succeed.

“We might look forward to an era where … online dealing becomes the norm, with highly productive and innovative, high-tech-based young innovators leading the way.

“Self-employment will be the norm. We might just leave the old 40-hour week where it belongs – a relic of a bygone age.”

The chamber’s business start-up clinic manager, Tracey Goodall, said Gen Z were “digital natives”.

“The things they find easy and part of everyday life, such as using social media to connect, are key skills that many companies need in today’s businesses to stay relevant.”

Goodall said being pragmatic, they did not understand the need to work 9 to 5 in an office.

“With this in mind, it makes sense that a large amount of Gen Z want to be entrepreneurs. Why conform to an inefficient, archaic system when you can just run your own business?

“They want to be leaders, often without spending years working their way up the ladder.

“Giving project management roles to staff within the business allows people to develop leadership skills and feel satisfied they are learning and developing key skills.”

Goodall said workplaces would need to be adaptable as the percentage of Gen Z entering the workplace increased.

“It’s quite exciting what this new generation will not only bring to the workplace, but also how they will influence how everyone works going forward.”

Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said Gen Z would be important to businesses.

“Talent is in short supply across all sectors and businesses need to ensure they have the right skills – so developing a strategy to attract younger employees is essential.”

According to Stats NZ, New Zealand’s unemployment rate dropped to 4 per cent in the second quarter of 2021, down from 4.6 per cent the previous period and market expectations of 4.5 per cent.

The seasonally adjusted number of unemployed people fell by 17,000 in the June 2021 quarter to 117,000, the largest quarterly percentage fall since the series began in 1986.

The proportion of people aged 15–24 who were not in employment, education, or training fell to 10.8 per cent, down from 11.8 per cent the year prior.

Tutt did not expect things would swing back to a period where jobs were harder to come by, and employers will be back in the driver’s seat unless there were a lot more lockdowns.

“I am expecting the talent market to remain tight for several years yet and firmly in favour of employees – a combination of improving economic conditions, strong hiring intentions from local companies, demographic shifts and tighter immigration policies.”

Tutt said employers should try to reach out to Gen Z while they were at school by explaining the benefits of their industry and finding opportunities for students to get hands-on involvement.

“Generation Z needs to feel comfortable with the purpose and values of a business and need flexible, tech-friendly environments.

“They’re a little more self-minded than employers may be used to; being competitive, financially minded and keen for opportunities.

“Employers that can understand this and provide for it will be more successful in a competitive environment for talent.”

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said businesses that have a positive impact on the community, or at least have a higher purpose than just making money, would be more successful at attracting Gen Z talent.

“Employers and team leaders need to ensure they are authentic with their business values, and they follow through with what they say.”

Young people have moved beyond the concept of work-life balance and more towards a work-life “blend” where career and personal values needed to be aligned, he said.

“Companies who review their company culture, review their operational model, and build flexibility into their HR policies will have the best chances of attracting Gen Z workers.”

Cowley said Gen Z was generally highly conscientious, tech savvy, and creative.

“They can inject lots of passion and innovation into businesses that maybe haven’t moved with the times recently.”

Career consultant Miriam O’Connor said Gen Z sought fair pay, training opportunities, a supportive environment, mentoring, positive team culture, career prospects, acceptance of diversity, flexibility to also study, and a workplace that values employee wellbeing.

“Young people readily share information about workplaces so employers need to ensure that their staff become advocates for the business if they wish to attract and retain young people.”

O’Connor said research showed Gen Z would make up almost a third of the workforce by 2025, so they will become a big influence globally.

“Issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion are increasingly relevant in the world of work and these are important to Gen Z.

“They will have low tolerance for discrimination or bias based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, and they will be more likely to want to work at an organisation that displays diversity in their workplace.”

The Staffroom Ltd Tauranga director Jill Cachemaille said offering training and development was attractive to Gen Z.

“Flexible work hours and work-from-home options are also a big attraction, especially for those candidates that have a family.”

Gen Z brought fresh ideas and diversity to the workforce, she said.

“They have a greater understanding of world issues including sustainability and cultural responsibility.

“Giving examples in these areas could be attractive to prospective employers who are working towards including these areas into their workforce.”

Gen Z was also digital savvy, she said.

“They have a strong understanding of the power of social media and marketing to increase business performance.”

Talent ID director of recruitment and human resource specialist Kellie Hamlett said Gen Z was hard working.

“Many are very ambitious and have clear goals on what it is that they want and how they wish to achieve it with clear career paths that they are sticking to.”

Hamlett said many were looking for investment opportunities in the business or KPI-driven incentives rather than just a standard wage.

But, she said, they valued their work-life balance more.

“They have watched their parents work hard to try and get ahead with little downtime.”

“They also see their peers on social media gain sponsors, followers and views through short video content that looks, from the outside, as minimal work.

“It has created a confused outlook on the traditional roles and employment.”

Hamlett said employers would usually gain more productivity and loyalty from Gen Z when flexi-time was offered.

What Gen Z wants from the workforce

Yani du Plessis loves the rush of working in Rotorua’s bustling hospitality scene.

The 18-year-old enjoys meeting new people in her job.

“I like the liveliness of it all. You don’t get bored.”

The South African-born teen’s first job was at a Santa shop where she worked during the school holidays.

“That was my first experience in a workplace and it was very intense and ‘work hard, focus hard’ but fun as well because it was Christmas.

“I still like that. I like the rush, the intensity and focus.”

After leaving school du Plessis is now taking a gap year and has also taken on the odd babysitting and reception jobs to save before she starts studying to become a psychologist.

“That’s my dream job, working and interacting with people.”

She enjoys the friendly and fun environment of hospitality where she works now.

“I am very focused on people and meeting people. So face-to-face jobs are really nice for me, especially in restaurants because people are hyped and friendly and want to have a good time.”

Working in hospitality du Plessis said she enjoyed the flexible hours.

“I work late at night or early mornings and I really like that. One day I am not working at all, the next day I am working 13 hours straight.”

However, as she got older she would be seeking a more structured working week.

“But I don’t exactly like the strictness of a 9 to 5.”

What Liana Hulena says it is important to her she works for a responsible business where “people, profits and the environments are interconnected”.

The 25-year-old is “on the cusp” of a Gen Z and Millennial and says times have certainly changed in the job sector.

“It’s such a different world now.”

The communications executive at Priority One in Tauranga said the future of business was not about “taking, taking, taking from all of our resources”.

“I think there’s a lot of emphasis on if we’re taking, how are we giving back both to the environment and people.

“People have more options now and careers aren’t so fixed as what they once were.

“Before you’d be in a job for 20 years but now it’s a lot more fast-paced and people are moving around and if you don’t have that cutting edge as a business you may be left behind.”

Hulena said she hoped the power dynamic would shift in the future workforce and there would be more of an “authentic culture”.

“Traditionally, there has been this very hierarchical boss figure.

“I really hope that the future of work and Gen Z will adapt so there is more fairness and relaxed leadership style where you don’t feel like you can talk to the big boss equally on the same level as talking to someone in a lower level.”

The Auckland-born woman started her working life in the hospitality, events and customer service sectors after leaving school.

By age 20 she had saved a “decent chunk” of money she didn’t know what to do with, so she went travelling.

She bought a one-way ticket and ended up staying in Asia and Europe.

“I came back to New Zealand and I knew I was ready to study and I knew what I wanted to study.”

At 22, she enrolled in the University of Waikato’s Tauranga campus and had been studying a Bachelor of Business majoring in marketing and minoring in philosophy and strategic management there until June this year.

“That set me up with a nice baseline and I started working for Priority One while I was still studying.

“I came on as an intern initially and within one or two weeks they gave me a comms role. So I had two roles at the same time with Priority One.”

She said flexibility in a working week was important.

“I can start whenever I want and I can adjust my calendar and day-to-day workaround when I start, what I have to do.”

For example, when Hulena was studying and working at the same time she would start work at 6.30am and work until 10am, pop out for a lecture and I would come back and work through until about 4pm maybe 6pm.

“Gen Z is incredibly powerful because they have a collective mentality.

“Especially with the power that TikTok and social media where they have come together and decided something is not right and then collectively changed it.

“It’s really quite fascinating.”

Looking to the future, Hulena said she aspired to be a responsible leader and being part of a responsible business.

“There’s not going to be a place in the future for irresponsible and unsustainable businesses.”

Secondary students confident in looking for jobs

A little more than half of 300 Tauranga students aged 14-17 have a paid job and less than 50 per cent think the city is a good place to have a career.

Priority One’s latest labour market report revealed the results of a student survey at a recent Canvas Careers Expo that asked about their career aspirations in the Western Bay of Plenty.

The majority – 79 per cent – of the 300 students said they got careers advice from their parents and school, or online.

A total of 53 per cent had a paid job, 47 per cent thought Tauranga was a good place to have a career, 43 per cent were confident in approaching local businesses for work, and 50 per cent thought Tauranga had good further education and training options.

Miriam O’Connor, career consultant and owner of Successful Resumes Bay of Plenty, said given the age range referred to was young (14-17), the numbers looked good.

“The fact that over half of them are already working whilst they are still in school is great as this builds experience, knowledge and confidence.”

However, O’Connor said 67 per cent were not saying they were confident about approaching local businesses for work.

“I do think school leavers in general need to feel some confidence about applying for jobs. These numbers suggest this is an area for schools, careers advisers and parents to be working on.”

Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology primary industries trades and infrastructure faculty dean Brian Dillon said Gen Z will bring open minds to workplaces.

“They’re not constrained by tradition as much as the previous generation/s, and are very connected, although perhaps through more significant use of technology than some of us.”

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