The Gen Z Worker
I’ve been hiring people for certain roles over the last few years and I must say that things have really changed. At least from my perspective. Back in the day, the people I hired were very loyal and committed to the job and even though there were a few misfits here and there, in general, the people that needed the job got it and were very committed to learning. That made working with them a great experience. They valued the experience far above the salary.
There’s nothing like teaching someone that is eager to learn new things. They naturally draw out so much from you that you will also learn something from what you are teaching. But in today’s age, things are quite different. I might be wrong so if you are an entrepreneur who has hired people recently I would love to hear from you in the comments.
I would say the only thing that hasn’t changed much in my opinion the proportion of female to male applicants for the position, which consistently hovers around 3:7. I like working with women a lot because they are very dedicated and I must say that my overall best employee so far was a woman.
You know, it’s funny how sometimes I come across women and men who make me scratch my head. I mean, their calibre and what they say can leave me totally dumbfounded. There was this one guy who dropped a bombshell of a comment that knocked me off my feet for a good couple of weeks. I won’t spill the beans just yet, but trust me, I’ll definitely get to it as I let off some steam. Let me break down what I’ve noticed, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one who’s noticed this.
When the cat’s away, the mice will play
I believe this scenario will help drive my point. So I’m sitting in front of a luxury jewellery shop at the Accra Mall waiting for a client. Within the shop are 3 ladies. One of them is an Indian lady and the others who looked like Ghanaians were assisting her in the shop. I could immediately identify the Indian lady as the owner because she carried a level of seriousness and attention to detail. Suddenly, a customer walks in and the Indian woman beacons to one of the ladies to welcome him.
He’s strolling around the shop with the lady tailing him, while he bombards her with questions about the jewellery. She’s doing her best to answer, but you can see the struggle on her face. After looking around for a while, the man leaves without buying anything. I then see something that further ascertains the fact that the Indian lady is the owner. She calls the other lady, gives her a talk and then instructs her to stand in front of the shop to draw in customers. Entrepreneurs are all about making sales. But after a while, the Indian lady picks up her bag and car keys and leaves the two ladies in the shop. Now here is where it gets interesting.
Minutes after she leaves, the lady who was stationed at the front door leaves her post at the entrance and gets into the store. They are joined by another girl from a nearby shop. You think they would be meeting to discuss strategies on how they can make more sales but instead, they took out their iPhone something (I really can’t tell which version it is even from up close let alone a distance) and started taking selfies and pictures. I spoke about hiring your enemies in a previous post, well this was a clear example of hiring people that are directly or indirectly affecting sales negatively within your organization.
This animated picture-taking, laughing and chatting goes on for over 30 mins (my client was over an hour late, but that’s for another article). Now let me ask you a question, If you entered a luxury shop and find attendants behaving like that, what would your first impression be?
So there I was, sitting and observing through those giant shop windows that stretched from floor to ceiling. It was weird, though. Not a single soul even tried to enter the shop while I observed. I guess everyone was just having a grand old time inside, totally oblivious to the outside world.
I feel the ladies were really losing out on an opportunity to learn from an experienced business person who is basically paying them to learn since they bring very little to the table in terms of making sales. I’m sure if she could replace her workers with an effective AI she would do it in a heartbeat.
It’s not that business folks are unwilling to give young people a shot. The thing is, most youngsters these days are completely under the control of their phones and cultural influences. There’s a general disinterest in hard work that I’ve noticed within the Gen Z generation. They just want to do the least requirement, work from home and be paid millions with no skill or results to their name. Is it because the Gen Z generation is the only generation that didn’t know a world without the internet? Various theories have emerged, suggesting that Gen Zs lack challenging life experiences or have become too accustomed to the comforts brought about by the internet and technology.
If you know me then you will know that I’m totally for the work smart movement but you need to be ‘smart’ in order to do that. Smartness that comes from reading good books, watching informative videos, and interacting with people that are smarter than you and have gone ahead. But instead, most Gen Zs are prone to excessive engagement with platforms like Netflix, TikTok, Instagram, and others, where they spend significant amounts of time watching shows and funny videos that contributes little to personal growth or meaningful experiences.
My wife and I once hired a computer science graduate who didn’t seem to know the basics. After more trials, we found out to our shock that the guy didn’t know that Ctrl+Z was an undo shortcut. I lost it. It took me about 2 weeks to recover from that shock. I can even feel the shock coming back as I’m writing this. Despite being a computer science student at a prestigious university in Ghana, I found myself having to teach him the basic concept of undoing an action using the Ctrl+Z command and many other basics which I would expect a computer science student to know. It’s safe to assume which generation he belongs to.
There are still individuals who hold the belief that obtaining a degree guarantees employment. While having a degree may help secure an interview and, in some fortunate cases, bypass initial HR screening, ultimately, one’s lack of skills and abilities will become evident and could hinder long-term success in the job.
Instead of trying to place blame, it’s more beneficial to consider the roles of both the school and the students in this situation. The purpose of school extends beyond simply imparting all-encompassing knowledge; it aims to teach students how to learn and cultivate confidence. It’s important to note that many individuals come to realize this after they’ve completed their formal education, as they may have been solely focused on chasing top grades during their time in school.
Speaking of student behaviour, it is true that some individuals appear attentive when a lecturer is present but resort to leisure activities like playing FIFA, browsing social media or watching movies when unsupervised. This behaviour suggests a reliance on external authority rather than taking personal responsibility for making sensible decisions. It’s possible that this mindset carries over into their professional lives.
What’s crucial is recognizing that everyone undergoes their own unique journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Rather than assigning blame solely to the school or the students, it’s more productive to foster a culture of personal accountability and self-motivation within educational institutions and among individuals. By encouraging students to develop independent thinking and a strong work ethic, we can help shape graduates who are better prepared to thrive in their careers.
Don’t work for money
I remember working for a guy right after my WASSCE, there was no pay. In fact, I had to use most of my money on transport and printing. He made me write, print and deliver proposal letters to top companies in Ghana. I complained at the beginning but I later said I will make sure that I do my job no matter the difficulty. After visiting dozens of offices, not only did I learn that government agencies never got back to me, but I also learnt valuable skills like letter writing and how to get past the security guy and front desk person to talk to the people that really matter. I learnt how to get to the point and to get the attention of the decision-makers to give me feedback. I don’t know which classroom would have thought me this but it comes in handy all the time.
All I’m saying is that today’s working generation is losing out on learning valuable skills while on the job. It’s all about the salary to the majority. But a wise man by the name of Dr. Myles Munroe once said that ” You don’t work for money, you work for purpose.” It might take a while for these words to sink in especially if you were educated through the formal education system that is programmed to create “factory workers”.
If you have gone through the education system, you might be thinking that you’re working only for a salary. Think about it, we have been conditioned to choose a career path based on salary expectations and not on purpose. In fact, over 80% of the population can’t answer the question of what their purpose is. I believe that finding purpose should be one of the first things children are taught at home before they venture out into a confused and money-driven world. That is one of the reasons why I’m homeschooling my kids, especially at the early stages. I owe it to them to teach them the fundamentals of life and not to just pursue money.
The purpose of a thing can only be found in the maker of that thing and it’s the same with humans. Our true purpose can only be found in God, the creator. If you are interested in finding your purpose then I would recommend the Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren to you. It’s a journey into discovering yourself through the eyes of your Maker and by the time you are through with the book you will have some answers.
So What Now?
So back to the topic of working with this new workforce known as Gen Z. Well, to be fair, there are some people within this category that are exceptional but they are rare and hard to find. I’m sure they will so stand out from their generation and bring great new and innovative tools and systems that will improve livelihoods.
I run a number of businesses that require people with a specific skillset that isn’t normally acquired through a conventional school. So I offer to train them. Training takes time so I made courses to help me filter through the people that have an interest in this and those that may just waste my time.
If you are hiring anyone within the digital marketing space, SEO, writing, etc then you should let them take this course. I’m sure it will help reorient them to fit into this ever-changing world of ours. With AI growing in almost every sector, we can expect to have machines and systems that will be more competent than humans. It’s inevitable so make sure you keep learning and always remember that every expert was once a beginner.