· News

Employers focusing too much on Gen Z

Employers acknowledge the risks but still see attracting Gen Z workers as their biggest business challenge

Businesses are at risk of alienating older employees by putting too much emphasis on recruiting younger generations, new research suggests.

Capita Resourcing’s Gen-Neutral Workforce whitepaper found that a third (32%) of workers over the age of 50 feel they have been sidelined, as employers make a concerted effort to attract Generation Z employees to the workplace.

Gen Z are typically born from the mid-'90s to the mid -noughties, and are seen to be more comfortable with technology and social media then previous generations, having grown up with the internet.

The research found that employers acknowledge the risks of focusing too much on one generation, with 70% believing it alienates others, and 63% expecting tensions between different generations to increase as more Gen Zs enter the workplace. But despite this, businesses continue to put significant emphasis on attracting Gen Z, with 83% of HR professionals citing this as their biggest business challenge.

Erika Bannerman, CEO of Capita’s workplace services division, said: “It’s vital that businesses succeed in bringing younger people, and the digital skills they offer, into the workplace quickly and smoothly.

“However, Gen Z alone is not the silver bullet for bridging the skills gap, and employers should be focusing on building and engaging multigenerational workforces. That means recognising the differences between age groups, but managing those differences rather than dwelling on them.”

The report advocates the need for a generationally-neutral response towards employment and retention. It questioned the commercial sense in expending so much energy on targeting Gen Z given the fact that 68% of employers believe this generation are generally under-prepared for the demands of working life when they first start, and that the average Gen Z worker expects to stay with their first employer less than 18 months.

Katrina Pritchard, associate professor in the school of management at Swansea University, welcomed the report’s call for an intergenerational approach. “Companies have recognised Millennials as a strong brand and are rushing to do the same with Generation Z, but the idea of a generation is not a useful categorisation or a helpful way of identifying particular attributes in the workplace,” she told HR magazine.

“It’s a huge oversight to say that older people won’t understand new technology. If that’s what employers are looking for in new employees then they need to be very clear that they are interested in digital skills, rather than fixating on Generation Z.”

Two separate research studies informed Capita's report. The first surveyed 106 HR leaders and 1,015 16-20-year-olds. The second focused on older workers and surveyed 100 HR decision-makers and 1,002 workers aged 55-plus.