Focus on Gen Z damaging employee engagement and performance

New report highlights risks of focusing workforce strategy on a single group as cross-generational tensions rise.

Businesses in the UK are putting their performance and profitability at risk by focusing too heavily on bringing younger people into their workforce. A new report shows that efforts to attract Gen Z workers have left other sections of the workforce, particularly older workers over the age of 50, feeling alienated and overlooked.

The research, from Capita Resourcing presented in its Gen Neutral Workforce white paper, finds a third (32 per cent) of workers over the age of 50 get sidelined in their workplace and the same proportion say that they have personally experienced bias against them due to their age.

Employers acknowledge the risks of focusing too much on one generation, with 70 per cent believing it alienates other generations and 63 per cent expecting tensions between different generations to increase in the coming years as more Gen Zs enters the workplace.

However, despite this, businesses continue to put huge emphasis on attracting Gen Z workers into their organisations, with 83 per cent of HR professionals stating that it is their biggest business challenge, ahead of innovation and hitting financial targets. Meanwhile, only 33 per cent of businesses are proactively targeting workers aged 55 and over.

The report also questions the commercial sense of weighting employee attraction strategies towards Gen Zs, given the value that they are likely to bring to their first employer. The report finds that the average Gen Z worker expects to stay with their first employer for only 500 days, less than 18 months. Given the 
fact that 68 per cent of employers believe that Gen Z workers are generally under-prepared for the demands of working life when they first start, this need for immediate upskilling further shortens the amount of time that these younger workers can be truly productive for their first employer.

The report calls for businesses to take a generation-neutral approach to their employee attraction and retention strategies, developing a proposition which works across all sections of their workforce, irrespective of age and generation.

Erika Bannerman, CEO of Capita’s Workplace Services Division, says, ‘Of course, it’s vital that businesses succeed in bringing younger people, and the digital skills they offer, into their workforces quickly and smoothly.

‘However, Gen Z alone is not the silver bullet to bridging the skills gap, and employers should be focusing on building and engaging multi-generational workforces. That means recognising differences between age groups, but managing those differences, rather than dwelling on them. Building an effective, harmonious multi-generational workforce is certainly a challenge, but businesses should also appreciate the immense benefits that it can bring.’

The report highlights the fact that older and younger workers have a lot more in common than many businesses believe. Almost two thirds (60 per cent) of employers see Gen Z as having significantly different characteristics to millennials and previous generations. However, the research finds that, far from approaching the world of work from polar extremes, Gen Zs and baby boomers share many of the same values.

Bannerman concludes, ‘If employers can effectively implement a collaborative 
culture, where each generation can learn from each other, through coaching and mentoring, and align this with a flexible, attractive Employee Value Proposition, they stand to gain huge competitive advantage over the next five years.

‘Whilst other companies are struggling to adapt to these new dynamics within the workforce, those organisations that take a proactive and positive approach now will benefit from having the most engaged, motivated and high performing staff, leading to growth and greater profitability.’

Further reading on Gen Z

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the