Where Does Gen Z Fit in the Future of Work After Coronavirus?
The fears for what the future of work could look like post-coronavirus have triggered a devastating response from young people, particularly those preparing to finish high school or who aren’t backed by work experience.
For them, the post-pandemic workforce seems impenetrable, especially as the job market is flooded with experienced employees competing for a smaller number of job vacancies. It’s making a lot of young people question whether they’ll be able to get a job, and if they’ll need to give up on their goals.
These anxieties come as little surprise knowing that young people have been hardest hit by the impact of coronavirus-related unemployment.
It seems impossible to predict what’s to come while still under the shroud of COVID-19, but for Gen Z – a cohort raised as digital natives – a post-pandemic workforce could see their natural skills and tendencies outshine those of preceding generations.
A Whole New (Digital) World
Before the coronavirus pandemic, digital disruption and the automated workforce were already paving the way for digital natives to enter the professional landscape. Despite threatening job losses for those lacking digital literacy or whose jobs could be automated, it has opened up totally new avenues of work for tech-savvy people.
Now, predictions of a post-pandemic workforce are cementing – and in many cases, expanding – the role technology will play in all industries. COVID-19 has accelerated a shift away from offline business models in almost every way: from e-commerce to tele-health services.
Gen Z are predicted to bring “an unprecedented level of technology skills to the workforce” according to a Deloitte Insights article. This is how young people will make their biggest impact in future jobs. Antonia Hock, global Head of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Centre told CMO by Adobe: “Gen Z provides digital leaders yet another great opportunity to bring new work styles, creativity and fresh perspectives to the work in this arena.”
Adding to the digitalisation of the workforce is the anticipated rise of remote-working. A Gartner HR survey indicates “41% of employees are likely to work remotely at least some of the time” post-pandemic. Likely studying online for at least some of their schooling due to coronavirus physical distancing laws, Gen Z have already started developing proficiencies in time-management, prioritisation and self-motivation. A vital skillset for any remote worker.
Desirable Skillsets for Future Jobs
A McKinsey & Company report details how the post-pandemic workforce needs employees who have:
- critical digital and cognitive capabilities
- social and emotional skills
- adaptability and resilience.
While the importance of digital skills is clear, there’s an evident skew towards human-centric soft skills that can be transferred across future jobs and industries. Social and emotional skills have already started coming into play in recent years’ most desirable skillsets. A LinkedIn Learning report reveals the top five soft skills of 2020 remain the same as 2019, but with the new addition of emotional intelligence:
- emotional Intelligence.
Teamwork and collaboration skills will be in high demand – just as they always have – but in a whole new way. Remote-working and the “distance economy” has already shown the importance of being able to maintain human connection through technology, and Gen Z are leaders in this. They’re “fascinated with virtual, online, and offline convergent experiences”, Hock is quoted as saying.
Finance Editor for 7NEWS, Gemma Acton, says flexibility is going to be key for the new future of work. In a 7NEWS article, she explains: “In terms of us [employees], we need to start thinking about how we can make ourselves more flexible.” That means thinking of ways to adapt to different roles in a short amount of time, and committing to lifelong learning.
For Gen Z, lifelong learning begins now as they study, and their goals and passions will help stimulate a thirst for knowledge and new experiences.
Evolving Sense of Social Responsibility
Another way coronavirus is expected to change the workforce is through organisations taking a greater interest in societal wellbeing. It’s already being seen in the actions of ale brewers creating hand sanitiser, and fashion chains like Zara producing hospital scrubs.
This socially responsible mentality is expected to stick around, which is music to Gen Z’s ears having defined themselves as a socially conscious generation. With their natural sense of moral responsibility, Gen Z will likely find much greater job satisfaction working within organisations that reflect their own views.
On the other side of that coin, it’s likely organisations will take greater care of their employees in the future, both physically and mentally. Deloitte details how the “social contract” will change between employer and employee as “the emotional well-being of the workforce has become a greater and much more visible priority” due to the hardships of coronavirus.
Are you up for the challenge?
There’s little doubt that the post-pandemic workforce will challenge young people as they find their feet in a rapidly evolving professional world.
But keeping career goals in sight as they complete their final years of high school or university will give them a reason to be resilient, optimistic and courageous. These qualities will place them well as they embark on their journey towards future jobs.
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