When it comes to values, the coming generation of employees has made transparency, equality and sustainability paramount. In some respects, for the energy industry in particular, this is difficult since the role fossil fuels will play in the future is still unknown. How can we inspire ‘generation Z’ to still choose for this industry?
Experts are in agreement that we can’t yet say much about how this youngest generation will behave in the work environment. Firstly, because the group, born between 1992 and 2010, is diverse: one is a preschooler, while the other is in his or her early 20s. Moreover, generation Z is still developing and has not yet fully matured. However, there are still a few characteristics that are typical to this group.
Generation Z is made up of ‘digital natives’; people who have grown up with digital technology and the internet. The use of computers, smartphones and other related technology and devices is natural, and, these digital natives are always online. In fact, there is no difference between offline and online for them.
Hierarchy is hard for this group. Generation Z thrives in a flat organization. Authority is not automatically accepted and must be earned. Inspiration is, therefore, the keyword. This generation wants to be at the table with the boss, or, if possible, have no boss at all.
The employee that begins working in 2020 places no value on an office. He or she wants to be able to work anywhere and anytime. This also means that work and private life will intermingle more for this generation than is now the case, which is something that fits with their desire for independence and ‘being your own boss.’
The coming decades will be dominated by the entire globe and its concerns, especially for the more ‘global’ citizens who will govern our planet in the near future. Generation Z is highly concerned about the Earth’s welfare and its inhabitants. Sustainability is of utmost importance and this group is confident that it can make a difference.
Many companies wrestle with the entry of generation Z into the workplace. I also puzzle over this. On the one hand I see great potential since the youngest employees are all aware of the importance of digital technology. Automation, digitization and big data will be standard in the industry. I anticipate that the youthful influx of these digital natives can strengthen innovation because they know no barriers to the use of technology, something that older generations do have. And, in the oil and gas world we are currently experiencing shortages in skilled workers. Generation Z can jump in and fill the hole.
On the other hand, I’m also concerned. The current teenagers look at management, leadership, authority and hierarchy in an entirely different way than the leaders they will encounter. Those leaders were born between the 50s and the 80s and have different values they work by. In addition, the new group has no problem switching jobs. If they don’t like one place, they are on to the next. So, how do we prevent a generation clash?
Managers must be inspirational and open to dialogue with their employees. Communicate with them like they themselves are used to communicating: via smartphones, tablets and social media. Seek to maintain the same level. To forbid something like unlimited internet use, for example, would come across wrong. Giving these workers freedom, flexibility, and trust, will result in respect and acceptance of management. However, the generation Z’ers may be held accountable for their responsibilities. Every good turn deserves another. Targets and deliverables are even sacred to this group.
So far, achievable goals
Generation Z and the earth
The biggest bottleneck, specific to energy companies, seems to be the focus on sustainability and the impact of man on earth. Generation Z stands for sustainable solutions and prefers to work for companies that are concerned with MVO. For organizations that are busy with fossil fuels, this is a challenge. Fossil continues to prevail in the economy in the coming years. Proof then that you are doing the best for the world’s welfare if you continue to extract oil from the ground. I think this is the point that the industry must focus on in future. Only then do we remain attractive to the upcoming employees and are we ensured that the current youth will be walking around our (virtual) work floor.
How should we tackle it all? Start by giving more attention to businesses such as smart energy saving technologies, the continued development of sustainable fuels such as LNG and biodiesel, purification, recycling of industrial water and CO2-storage. This means also that the R&D-departments at the large oil producers and industrial services companies need to be operating at full capacity. Besides the sustainable economy, we have a 2020 goal: stimulate generation Z. You can’t motivate them, but you can inspire them.
Wouter Last, President of Hint
With thanks to René Boender, author of the book, ‘Generation Z’.