Generation Z

The coming generation of employees has made transparency, equality, and sustainability paramount for values. 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 agree that we can’t yet say much about how this youngest generation will behave in the work environment. However, there are still a few characteristics typical to this group. Firstly, the group, born between 1992 and 2010, is diverse: one is a preschooler, while the other is in their early 20s. Moreover, generation Z is still developing and has not yet fully matured.

Generation Z is made up of ‘digital natives,’ who have grown up with digital technology and the internet. The use of computers, smartphones, and other related technology and devices are natural, and these digital natives are always online. There is no difference between offline and online for them.

Hierarchy is complex for this group. Generation Z thrives in a flat organization, and 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, and they want to be able to work anywhere and anytime. This also means work and private life will intermingle more for this generation than now, which fits their desire for independence and ‘being your 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 shortly. 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.

Generation Clash

Many companies wrestle with the entry of Generation Z into the workplace, and 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 using technology, something that older generations do have. And in the oil and gas world, we are currently experiencing shortages of skilled workers, and 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 entirely differently from the leaders they encounter. Those leaders were born between the 50s and the 80s and had different values they worked by. In addition, the new group has no problem switching jobs, and if they don’t like one place, they are 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 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 focus on sustainability and man’s impact on Earth. Generation Z stands for sustainable solutions and prefers to work for companies 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 the future. Only then do we remain attractive to the upcoming employees, and are we ensured that the current youth would be walking around our (virtual) work floor.

How should we tackle it all? Start by giving more attention to businesses such as intelligent energy-saving technologies, the continued development of sustainable fuels such as LNG and biodiesel, purification, recycling of industrial water, and CO2 storage. This also means that the R&D departments at the large oil producers and industrial services companies need to be operating at total 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

Thanks to René Boender, author of the book, ‘Generation Z.’